Director William Wyler had seen war service himself, so who better to take on this downbeat 1946 study of the plight of the returning war veteran?
A prototype Born On The Fourth Of July, The Best Years Of Our Lives blessedly renounces bombast and slick sentimental uplift as it traces the progress of three men returning to a middle-American town. Fredric March (never better) finds his old banking job cramped and soulless. Dana Andrews faces a crumbling marriage. And a young sailor, played by genuine amputee Harold Russell, must cope with having lost both of his arms.
Wyler also lines up a crack female supporting cast - - Myrna Loy, Theresa Wright, Virginia Mayo - - and benefits from having the great Gregg Toland as cameraman, providing pin-sharp, deep-focus photography. Winner of seven Oscars, this is intelligent, liberal-minded Hollywood moviemaking at its most crafted - - if a tad overlong at just under three hours.