Arts & EventsThe Best American Film of My Life

The Best American Film of My Life

The Best American Film of My Life

It used to be Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront.

That had been my favorite American film for the last 15 years until last night.

Why only 15 years? On the Waterfront was first released in 1954.

I became a Canadian resident about 15 years ago.

On the Waterfront and the battles of Terry Malloy had, in a very real way, been a reflection of my own struggle until I was driven out of my homeland by the size of “backs turned.”

My nemesis, Attorney General Janet Reno, became On the Waterfront’s Johnny Friendly. She represented the Democrat Mob which – to thicken the plot – had been my own political party at that time. Bill Clinton and company not only owned the White House, but the entire Eastern seaboard and Hollywood as well.

Now “Johnny Friendly et al” owns the world.

This quintessentially American nightmare has culminated with The Obama Nation and its ability to raise campaign funds in Europe, Red China and the United States. It’s pure, executive lawlessness and reminds me of my role of Hull Barrett and his struggles with the corrupt sheriff in the Clint Eastwood western Pale Rider.

It might prove enlightening to compare my old favorite, On the Waterfront, with my new one, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). The two carry some similarities… but their differences are what made me decide this one was my favorite.

What defines American heroism?

Both films are indeed portraits of American men who, if only briefly, actually turn their backs on themselves.

Without the depth of such inner nightmares in both films, I doubt if I’d have the patience to watch any film in its entirety. Even my favorite comedies, such as Some Like It Hot, carry the inner struggle of men dealing with their own erratic levels of cowardice and bravery. Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners is nothing but an unending, inner tango between Ralph’s dreams and delusions.

Why is The Best Years of Our Lives now my favorite American film?

One great, quintessentially American film marriage

Well, for one, it has held its place in the Top Five of My Heart for over 65 years.

At 71 and beginning my eighth decade, The Best Years of Our Lives defines the essence of what American courage is versus the disastrous proposals and delusions that brought the entire human race into the Second World War. The film also portrays the essence of an American goodness which, now more than ever, is like no other in the world. The particulars of that American Grace, so to speak, had been part of our national religion of individual freedom and responsibility until, of course, the Progressives and their Progressively Marxist New World Order began to enter the United States in the guise of Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations, FDR’s New Deal, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative and now the Obama Nation’s “fundamental transformation of the United States of America.”

Goodbye to the America I knew and loved.

What I respect most in The Best Years of Our Lives is the love it shows and the distinctly American way the film overflows with an intensely realistic love.

And what do all these different and frequently battling Americans love most?

Life itself.

They all, in the end, honor that love of life which occasionally destroys their own hopes and dreams. They honor that right to life in others regardless of the fact that this right to life in others may destroy their own illusions of happiness.

The center of my own life – which is my Alcoholics Anonymous, faith in God and His wishes, not my own – arrives quite subtly at the end of the film in a simple marriage ceremony.

I’m not even sure if the words “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” are even spoken in the ceremony.

They don’t have to be.

What is spoken is the courage of faith.

Faith that, indeed, a leap of courage, such as the one taken by the veteran with no hands left?


His faith in a love he thought himself incapable or unworthy of? It returns and why?

His own courage.

His own love of life.

Such happens to all three principal characters.

The three veterans …

… and the women who love them.

After having helped save the human race from the homicidal and suicidal delusions of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan? After returning to a country that is not aware of the sacrifices that have been made with “the best years of these men’s lives”? After we, the audience, live with these three men and their families for all too brief a span of time?

We Americans are looking at ourselves in not only our best moments but our worst.

The worst however, the greed and defensive attitudes of a Capitalist Banking Community or the racism of incorrigibly American cowardice? They actually drive the individualism of these three American servicemen into an even deeper and more profoundly important honesty with themselves, their families and their own futures.

Their lives are on their own shoulders and no one else’s.

Their individual courage and responsibility are what inspire the love that grows around them. A love that asks to be let in to their courage, their freedom and their individual responsibility.

On the Waterfront is basically one man’s story of American individual courage and responsibility.

The Best Years of Our Lives is a trinity of inner pilgrimages that collect the essence of what specifically defines American manhood versus lives and national points of view in any other nation.

If authentically American and not, God forbid, “Progressively” obsessed with plans to enact the diabolically unnecessary, “fundamental transformation” of an American character of individual freedom and individual responsibility?

If not filled with the present Obama Nation’s commitment to sweep America into an increasingly Marxist New World Order?

If, like the three main leading men of The Best Years of Our Lives, we take our time on this earth into our own grateful hands and firmly believe that our individual freedom is a God-given right? As profound a home for our souls as is the individual responsibility that goes with it?

We can’t help but do the right thing for ourselves, for our loved ones and for our fellow man.

With such a lesson resonating in my memories of The Best Years of Our Lives, over the seven decades I have known and lived with that film, how could there be any other choice for my favorite movie than William Wyler’s haunting, disturbing, enchanting and inspiring miracle of story-telling: The Best Years of Our Lives?


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