Fan Of The Best Years Of Our Lives? Then You Should Know These 7 Rare Facts On This Classic Movie
Everyone nowadays is either familiar or should be familiar with the difficulty that servicemen and servicewomen have with re-integrating back into society back home. Starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, and Harold Russell, the 1946 film was directed by former Air Force bomber pilot William Wyler.
Fans of classic movies and service members with an interest in history may be happy to find out these surprising facts about the classic wartime movie:
1. It Rivaled Gone with the Wind
At the time of its release, the epic historical romance known as Gone with the Wind (1939) made a respectable run at the box office, production more than doubling their profits for what they spent.
When The Best Days of Our Lives was released, it had inadvertently become the highest-grossing movie and sold at least 55 million tickets, making it one of the most attended movies at the time. After being released in the United Kingdom and the United States, the film grossed a total of $23,650,000.
2. The Producer and Director had Problems with Each Other
When it comes to filmmaking, it should come as no surprise that a fight or verbal disagreement will happen on-set at some point. But it might be even harder for the rest of the crew when it’s the producer and director having it out.
Samuel Goldwyn, the producer for The Best Years of Our Lives, thought that Harold Russell could use a little acting training and sent him off for a few classes.
When the director, William Wyler, found out what Goldwyn had Russell do, he was nothing short of pissed. Wyler believed it was Russell’s untrained nature that made him the perfect actor for the role he was playing.
3. Harold Russell Did What He Could To Die Down the Tension
While Harold Russell was a genuine war veteran, he had also suffered the loss of his hands during his time in service to his country. After losing his hands, medical professionals outfitted him with prosthetic hooks.
Russell, being the strong person he was, was able to fast accept his odd new limbs. Cast members on set were a little more nervous, though. To ease that tension, Russell would reach out first and offer his hooks to shake.
4. Russell Was Discovered by William Wyler
Some movie crews may have a tough time finding the right actor for the role they want to fill. But every so often the writer or director spots the right person at the right moment, cementing that person’s place in history. That is exactly what happened when Wyler saw Russell in an army training video that spoke of rehabbing wounded veterans.
5. The Character Russell Played Was Not the One First Written
Every movie is subject to its share of rewrites on its journey to the silver screen. The same can be said for The Best Days of Our Lives. Originally, writers portrayed Homer Parrish as a veteran who was suffering from combat trauma (now known as PTS). After Russell joined the cast, of course, it was changed to a veteran who suffered a disability.
Unexpected rewrites like that can sometimes be the main selling point of a movie, drawing in people you didn’t think you would.
6. Wyler Was Looking For Authenticity, Not Glamor
When it comes to movies dealing with World War II, we often see men and women dressed in the fanciest of clothing, selling the illusion that the soldier’s family is of a ‘higher tax bracket.’ That’s not what Wyler was looking for, though.
All costumes used in the film were simply bought off the rack, each of which the actors had to wear before filming the scenes that would require those particular outfits.
7. Parts of the Movie Were Inspired by Wyler’s Life
People often see scenes in movies that make them wonder if it happened to an individual in real life. One such scene at the moment that character Fred Derry punches a person giving him a little too much lip.
It was actually inspired by a time when Wyler, upset that a doorman referred to someone with an anti-Semitic slur, proceeded to punch the man for what he felt was deserving of such a reaction.
Because he was still in service to the military at the time, Wyler received a formal reprimand for his actions.