From Here to Eternity

From Here To Eternity

In 1953, Oscar decided to make up for the embarrassment of 1952′s Best Picture THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (though a guilty pleasure) by awarding its top prize to the stellar FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. The film was only the second film since GONE WITH THE WIND to receive 13 nominations, yet fell just short the record set in 1950 by ALL ABOUT EVE with 14. So there was no doubt which film was going to emerge triumphant at the awards.

fromheretoeternityposter From Here To EternityFred Zinnemann (himself an Oscar winner) directs the taut story based on James Jones’s bestseller about life in an Army infantry unit in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor. And the cast couldn’t be better–Montgomery Clift as Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt, Burt Lancaster as a sergeant who is romancing the captain’s wife (Deborah Kerr), and Oscar winners Frank Sinatra as Prew’s best friend and Donna Reed as a hostess at a local social club who falls in love with Prew.

Head of the Columbia Music Department Morris Stoloff musical directs with his usual sensitivity as well as contributing top-notch big-band source music for the social club and the local Army bar.  There is plenty of steel guitar and ukelele to give the proper Hawaiian feel as well as the inclusion of several Hawaiian dance pieces. But it is George Duning’s background music that underscores the emotional lives of the characters. In the hands of a lesser composer, the score could have been overly sentimental, but Duning never succumbs to that level.

The orchestral underscore is used sparingly. Duning’s biggest moments occur during the scenes between Lancaster and Kerr, especially during their famous, once-scandalous, and now much-parodied love scene on the beach with its lush, yearning theme in the violins.  The theme for Prew and Loreen (Reed) is the melody for a title song (later recorded by Sinatra) written by Fred Karger and Robert Wells that was never actually used in the film. Another song by Karger and Wells (with additional lyrics by Jones), “Re-Enlistment Blues,” serves as the theme for the soldiers. It is first heard instrumentally during the opening credits accompanied by snare drum, and later sung by members of the outfit.

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Click Track: From Here to Eternity Suite

Snippets from the score have appeared here and there over the years and there was a 10″ LP of the Hawaiian music released. The 7-minute suite above comes from an LP that sounds like it was taken from scratchy acetates.

With very little overt dramatic underscoring in the film, Duning’s nomination (shared with Stoloff) is all that much more impressive when more obvious choices like Victor Young’s SHANE and Alfred Newman’s THE ROBE were on the short list.  Yet no matter the power behind the movie, the score couldn’t compete with the lilting loveliness of Bronislau Kaper’s LILI. Still, it’s a fine nomination for an underrated composer and Duning adds just the right amount of emotion to the film. Here’s hoping we see a proper release of the score someday. More Duning is always welcome.

About Jim Lochner

Jim has been writing about film music for over a decade. He holds a Bachelor of Music from The University of Texas at Arlington and a Master of Music from The University of Texas (Austin), both in Clarinet Performance. He has written soundtrack CD liner notes for Varèse Sarabande Records, Film Score Monthly, La-La Land Records, Intrada and Disques Cinemusique. Jim has been a bimonthly guest on BBC-Kent’s Drive Home at the Movies radio program and has been interviewed by a number of online and print outlets, including The Toronto Globe and Mail and the Los Angeles Times. Jim currently serves as the managing editor of Film Score Monthly Online (FSMOnlineMag.com). For more information, visit JimLochner.com.

11 comments

  1. George Duning is one of my favorite composers. Sadly, he never won an Oscar. I sure hope we see more of his work show up on CD. I think a lot of his material is relegated to old Columbia acetates, but even re-recordings would make me happy, especially on shorter works like ETERNITY. I would particularly like to have the music he wrote for STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET – a beautiful theme.

  2. I would love to know the name of the song that was being performed in the scene where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr meet in the local bar, and then the Captain came in with some friends and they had to sneak out.. If anyone knows the answer, or where I can find out, I would appreciate it very much.
    Thank you
    Larry

    • Dolores Shamblin
      Reply

      Hi Larry – The song from “From Here to Eternity” you are seeking (the scene with Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster, when they must sneak out of the outdoor club) is titled “Nohea” and has been released by a number of Hawaiian artists. Do a “song title” search at: http://www.mele.com

  3. Bill Edmondson
    Reply

    Larry,

    I’m not sure, but it was probably either “Haunani” or “Aloha Oe.” I’m trying to google around to get a listen.
    There was a haunting bit of music in there too from 1937′s “The Hurricane.”

    Incidentally, the restaurant was “all the way across the island,” and it wasn’t the captain coming in, just two officers and their wives who might have recognized the lovers.

    I’ll keep looking. This is one of my very favorite “comfort” films. I watch it again and again.

    Cheers,

    Bill

  4. albert clarkson
    Reply

    Mr. Lochner,

    Many thanks for archiving Duning’s FHTE music. The theme for the Karen Holmes-First Sergeant Milton Warden scenes is, I believe, among the most moving in the movies. This movie is one of the greats, and it’s good to be able to hear the score.

    Albert Clarkson

  5. Jim,
    Thanks so much for presenting the suite of George Duning’s music for “From Here to Eternity.” So underrated – and well worth listening to here, even if from scratchy acetates – the mind filters that into the most soul satisfying high-fidelity!
    Thanks also for identifying the Hawaiian love song used in the scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr having their [interrupted] tryst.
    What a classy film that was – including the effective use of music, whether source or original.
    I discovered your most valuable site while trying to research whose [big band] recording of “There Goes That Song Again” was used as source music in one of the bar sequences in FHTE. No joy! Any guidance would be most appreciated.
    Cheers, and thanks again for your column.
    Steve Ember

    • Hi Steve, not sure whose recording that is. Perhaps someone here will chime in. You can also check the various film music message boards. Someone is bound to know this one.

  6. This post is directed at Dolores Shamblin..You’re right about Nohea..I just checked it out on that website you provided…That definitely is the song in that scene, played at a slower pace, but a very haunting melody..Thanks for the info..BTW, I searched for this back in Sept of ’12, but couldn’t find it…Thanks again
    Larry

  7. Looked all over for the “From Here to Eternity” album, hoping it was somewhere, but your 7-minute suite was good enough to bring tears to my eyes.

    Thank you for your great review and contribution.

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