Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Best Years Of Our Lives

The 1946 classic "The Best Years Of Our Lives" was on TV the other day. TigerBlog has seen it a billion times and considers it one of his favorite movies ever, dating back to the first time he saw it, in an American History class in college.

For those who don't know, the movie follows the story of three men who return from World War II and try to re-adjust to civilian life in a presumably Midwestern city called Booone City. The three are a sailor named Homer who lost both hands in the war and now uses hooks, a former bombardier named Fred who has no skills that translate to the post-war world and an infantry sergeant named Al who is a vice president at the bank with a wife and two kids, including a daughter named Peggy.

The three didn't meet before or during the war, and they are simply thrown together on a military plane for the ride back to Boone City. As they fly, they get to know each other, and they stay close once they get home.

As the movie goes along, we see that Fred got married just before the war to Marie, who loves having fun more than she loves Fred and isn't exactly thrilled that Fred is back. In the meantime, Peggy and Fred fall in love, which strains things between Fred and Al.

Homer, meanwhile, has learned to use his hooks so well that he hardly misses his hands, but he is self-conscious about it and begins to reject those close to him because he thinks that they're pitying him. The best scene in the movie by far - and one of the best ever filmed in any movie - comes when Homer tries to convince his lifelong girlfriend Wilma (who lives next door) that she shouldn't love him anymore because of how hard it would be to live with someone who doesn't have hands, but all he does is convince her that she really does love him unconditionally.

This being 1946, all the storylines tie up nicely and happily in the end, but not without some real emotional drama and not before the movie goes in directions that weren't too common for movies of the time.

Homer is played by Harold Russell, a non-actor who really did lose both of his hands in World War II and really did learn to use hooks. To this day, 64 years later, Russell remains the only actor ever to win two Academy Awards for the same role in the same movie - a special Oscar for inspiration and then a win for Best Supporting Actor.

Trivia question - who are the only two actors ever to win Best Actor for playing the same character? Answer in a few paragraphs.

"The Best Years Of Our Lives," which won seven Academy Awards in all, features a Who's Who of great American actors of the time, including Frederic March as Al, Myrna Loy as Al's wife, Teresa Wright as Peggy, Dana Andrews as Fred and Virginia Mayo as Marie. If you've never seen in, check out Turner Classic Movies, since it turns up there every few weeks.

Trivia answer - Robert DeNiro and Marlon Brando both won Best Actor Oscars for playing Vito Corleone, The Godfather and then The Godfather Part II.

As movies go, it doesn't get too much better than "The Best Years Of Our Lives."

As Princeton Athletics go, could this end up being the best year of our lives?

Well, statistically it's still possible.

Princeton teams have won 11 Ivy League championships to date. The record for one academic year is 14, set three times.

Princeton did it in back-to-back years, first in 1999-2000 and then again a year later in 2000-01, and Harvard did it in the 2004-05 season.

Princeton and Harvard are the only schools to reach double figures, something Princeton had done 19 times and Harvard has done five times.

Only nine times has one of those schools won more than 11 league championships, and only five times have they gotten past 12.

There are still five Ivy League titles to be decided, in men's and women's track and field and then men's heavyweight and lightweight rowing and women's open rowing.

To break the record, Princeton would obviously have to get four of the five championships. It will be very difficult to do so, because so many things have to go right. Still, to reach the beginning of May and still have a chance to break the record is amazing by itself.

Whether or not Princeton wins another Ivy title, this year has been remarkable for another reason. To date, the league has crowned 26 champions, of which 11 (42.3%) have been won by Princeton. Beyond that, in the 26 league races that have been completed (men's lacrosse is technically not completed, but Princeton can't finish lower than at least a tie for first), Princeton teams have finished first, second or third in 21 of them.

Princeton won't finish in the top three in the league in baseball or softball, but the door is wide open in the other five sports.

This Ivy success has led to all-but-clinching the unofficial all-sports points championship for the 24th year.

And none of this even gets into postseason performance, in which Princeton is way up on the rest of the league in the Learfield Directors' Cup standings.

Still, TB doesn't consider this to be the best year of our Princeton athletic lives. The idea that it doesn't is pretty wild as well, given how great a year it's been around here.

Now, if the magic number of 15 is reached, TB may have to change his mind.

No comments: