From Here to Eternity (1953) is the powerful, realistic story (and fierce indictment) of the lives of American military men (and their women) stationed in peacetime Hawaii (near Honolulu) in the summer and fall before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941 and the US entrance into WW II. The successful film, both critically and financially, soon became the second biggest hit of the year, behind The Robe (1953) (the first CinemaScope film) and ahead of Shane (1953).
In gritty, documentary-style black and white, director Fred Zinnemann (who had directed the acclaimed western High Noon (1952) a year earlier) accurately captured the isolation and boredom of the military personnel in a close-knit Army barracks on the island of Oahu, combining social/military history with the drama of the personal lives of its main characters – an enlisted man and a neglected officer’s wife, and a prostitute and a military outcast. The major male characters wage their own ‘battle’ against corruption high up in the military ranks, each in their own ways.
Three of the film’s stars were cast against type and their wholesome images: Donna Reed as ‘hostess’ bar-girl (hooker) Lorene and dignified British actress Deborah Kerr (instead of Joan Crawford who was announced for the part, but allegedly detested the costuming) as an unfaithful and adulterous sexpot wife. Montgomery Clift was also cast as a bugler, former boxer and stubborn, insubordinate soldier, although he was inexperienced in those areas and needed coaching. Burt Lancaster fit his role perfectly as a rugged sergeant. [Note: If casting decisions had gone differently, Aldo Ray, Edmond O’Brien, Joan Crawford, Julie Harris, and Eli Wallach would have played the roles given to Clift, Lancaster, Kerr, Reed, and Sinatra, respectively.]