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The Best Years of Our Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives(1946)

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FULL SYNOPSIS

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At the end of World War II, three demobilized servicemen meet on a flight to Boone City, their mid-Western hometown. The men, Air Force Captain Fred Derry, sailor Homer Parrish, and Army Sergeant Al Stephenson, quickly develop a bond, even though they come from different backgrounds. Al is a prominent banker with a wife and two children; Fred is a former soda jerk from the wrong side of the tracks, and Homer, who has lost both hands in the war, comes from a close-knit, middle-class family. As they share a taxi from the airport and happily reminisce about familiar locations, including a tavern run by Homer's uncle, Butch Engle, each expresses trepidation about the future and how they will adapt to civilian life. Homer is welcomed joyfully by his parents and girl friend, Wilma Cameron, but his mother cannot hide her heartbreak over seeing his prosthetic hooks. Al is dropped off next at his swank apartment, where he is lovingly greeted by his wife Milly and two children, Peggy and Rob, who have grown up during their father's absence. Finally, Fred goes to see his good-hearted, alcoholic father Pat and his stepmother Hortense in the shanty in which they live and learns that his wife Marie has moved into her own apartment. At Al's apartment, the realization that things have changed during his absence makes Al feel awkward and he suggests that Milly and Peggy join him for a night out on the town. Homer is equally uncomfortable talking with Wilma's parents and decides to go to Butch's place, where he finds Fred brooding over not locating Marie. They are soon joined by a very intoxicated Al, who arrives with the indulgent Milly and Peggy. While playing the piano, Butch listens sympathetically as Homer talks about his family's self-consciousness, then plays "Among My Souveniers" for Al, who dances lovingly with Milly. When the bar closes, Peggy drives the group to Marie's apartment building, but when Fred passes out on the front steps, they decide to take him home to their place. In the middle of the night, Fred has a nightmare about a friend burning in his crashing plane, and his screams awaken Peggy, who gently comforts the sobbing Fred back to sleep. The next morning, a very apologetic Fred is driven home to Marie by Peggy and confesses that he doesn't know what he will do, but will never go back to soda jerking. Meanwhile, Al awakens with a hangover, throws his army boots out the window and compares himself unfavorably to his pre-war photograph. After showering and shaving, he and Milly nervously embrace for their first time since he went into the Army. Later, Al is irritated that Mr. Milton, his former boss, wants him to return right away to the bank and saddened by the thought of all the men who did not come back. Meanwhile, Fred goes to see his old boss, Mr. Bullard, and discovers that the drugstore is now part of a large chain. Bullard recommends Fred to the new manager, but Fred bristles at the idea of taking a low-paying job which would still involve working at the lunch counter. When Al goes to the bank that afternoon, Milton offers him a large raise and a promotion to head the small loans department, but pressures him to start working as soon as possible. That night, when Marie insists that Fred wear his uniform to impress her friends, he agrees, but begins to worry that their hasty wartime marriage was a mistake. At Homer's house, Wilma tries to make him realize that she still loves him as much as ever, but runs home crying after Homer angrily pushes his hooks through a window after seeing his little sister Luella and her friends staring at him. Some weeks later, Fred's money is gone, and he has been unable to get a job. Marie, who likes to go to clubs every night, argues with Fred over money, prompting him to take the job at the drugstore. One day, Peggy stops by, and he asks her to have lunch with him. During lunch he tells her about his "cockeyed" dreams overseas of having a family and a little home, then later kisses her. That same afternoon, Al takes a chance on granting a loan to fellow veteran Novak, a hard-working sharecropper, whose only collateral is his abilities. Although dismayed, Milton does not override Al's decision, but advises him to be more cautious and not gamble with the depositors' money. That night, as Al and Milly prepare to go out to a banquet in his honor thrown by Milton, Milly says that she has a hunch that Peggy is "crazy" about Fred. Peggy, who has invited Fred and Marie out to dinner, admits that she is in love with Fred, but does not want to be, and thinks that seeing Fred with his wife will have a therapeutic effect on her. At the banquet, an inebriated Al gives a rambling speech, but ends by saying that he loves the bank so much, he plans to gamble with the depositors' money and on the future of the country. Although Milton is somewhat annoyed at Al's remarks, Milly feels very proud. At the end of the evening, Peggy returns home and tells her parents that she is going to break up Fred's loveless marriage. Al and Milly try to convince her that an outsider cannot know the true state of someone else's marriage. The next day, Al meets Fred at Butch's and asks him if he is in love with Peggy. When Fred admits that he is, Al suggests that he reconsider things, prompting Fred to call Peggy and lie that he has merely been flirting with her. Some time later, Homer visits Fred at the drugstore and gets into a conversation at the lunch counter with a man who suggests that the war was unnecessary and that the United States was pushed into it by "the Limies" and "the Reds." Fred asks him to leave and Homer, who is incensed by the man's self-proclaimed "old-fashioned Americanism," goes after him. Fred then slugs the man and is fired. On the way home, Fred asks about Wilma and advises Homer to tell her how much he loves her and marry her right away. Late that night, Wilma comes to see Homer, saying that her parents want her to go away because it is obvious that Homer no longer loves her. He argues that she does not know what it would be like living with him, but because she wants to try, he decides to let her see the worst. In his room, Homer gets out of his robe, is able to drop the harness that holds his prosthetics and put on his pajama top without help, but after that, he is completely vulnerable. Rather than being repulsed, Wilma says that she will never leave him and lovingly tucks him into bed. Some time later, Fred, who has been unable to get another job, argues with Marie, who wants to go out with an old boyfriend. Bitterly telling him that she gave up the best years of her life for him, she demands a divorce. Fred then goes back to his father's house and decides to leave Boone City for good. After saying goodbye to his father and Hortense, and leaving his military decorations with them, Fred goes to the airport and waits for the next flight out. Walking onto a part of the field filled with surplus military planes now destined for scrap, Fred climbs into the tail of one of the planes and begins to think of the horrors he witnessed during the war. When he is startled by Karney, the man who owns the salvage company, Fred asks him if he has any jobs. The gruff Karney, who is also a veteran, explains that he is using the scrap for prefabricated houses and hires Fred on the spot. Some weeks later, at Homer and Wilma's wedding, Fred, who is Homer's best man, is nervous to see Peggy and her parents again. At first, Fred and Peggy merely exchange pleasantries, but when Homer kisses Wilma at the end of the ceremony, Fred goes to Peggy and they kiss, happy to face an uncertain future together.

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  • usn (2007-06-01)

    Source: I just watched the movie!

    "Fred climbs into the tail of one of the planes and begins to think of the horrors he witnessed during the war." Dana Andrews (Fred) climbed into the nose of on of the planes, not the tail. His position was in the front of the plane.