Archive Talks: The Best Years of Our Lives

Sun 1/28/2024 • 7PM PST

Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum

In-person: author Alison Macor, "The Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation."

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Your seat will be assigned to you when you pick up your ticket at the box office. Seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis. The box office opens one hour before the event.

The Best Years of Our Lives
U.S., 1946

In the years following World War II, Americans quickly realized that the promised return to “normalcy” would be anything but. The uncertainty of the moment might have favored bland, escapist entertainments — especially as Hollywood itself struggled to find its footing in the new economic and political landscape — but one of the period’s biggest commercial and critical hits turned out to be the one film that took the turbulent times head on. Almost everyone who worked in front of and behind the camera on The Best Years of Our Lives had served during the war and, as film scholar Alison Macor argues in her new book on its production, “Their experiences infused the film with an authenticity unlike anything on the screen at that time.” Independent producer Samuel Goldwyn, director William Wyler and their outstanding ensemble cast of big-name stars (Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews) and non-professionals (Harold Russell) set out to dramatize the issues facing returning veterans but ended up with a portrait of America writ large that set a new standard for responsive, prestige filmmaking.

Macor will be on hand to share her insights into the production and its reception of their groundbreaking work which garnered seven Academy Award wins including Best Picture, Director and Screenplay.

DCP, b&w, 171 min. Director: William Wyler. Screenwriter: Robert E. Sherwood. With: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews.

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