Making The Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation (Hardcover)

Making The Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation By Alison Macor Cover Image
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2023 Wall Award Finalist, Theatre Library Association

How a Hollywood gem transformed the national discourse on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Released in 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives became an immediate success. Life magazine called it “the first big, good movie of the post-war era” to tackle the “veterans problem.” Today we call that problem PTSD, but in the initial aftermath of World War II, the modern language of war trauma did not exist. The film earned the producer Samuel Goldwyn his only Best Picture Academy Award. It offered the injured director, William Wyler, a triumphant postwar return to Hollywood. And for Harold Russell, a double amputee who costarred with Fredric March and Dana Andrews, the film provided a surprising second act.

Award-winning author Alison Macor illuminates the film’s journey from script to screen and describes how this authentic motion picture moved audiences worldwide. General Omar Bradley believed The Best Years of Our Lives would help “the American people to build an even better democracy” following the war, and the movie inspired broad reflection on reintegrating the walking wounded. But the film’s nuanced critique of American ideals also made it a target, and the picture and its creators were swept up in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the late 1940s. In this authoritative history, Macor chronicles the making and meaning of a film that changed America.

About the Author

Alison Macor is a freelance writer and former film critic for the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman. She has a PhD in Radio-Television-Film from UT Austin. She is the author of Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas and Rewrite Man: The Life and Career of Screenwriter Warren Skaaren.

Praise For…

Detailed and often rewarding...Anyone who loves 'The Best Years of Our Lives' will appreciate [Macor's] efforts.
— Wall Street Journal

Macor succeeds in delivering a thoughtful and well-researched portrayal of the complicated influence of The Best Years of Our Lives and the film’s overall impact. Fans of the wartime film will no doubt enjoy this close examination of the film.
— Hometowns to Hollywood

Macor’s fascinating book details many factors that converged to make one of Hollywood’s greatest films about war and its aftermath.
— Shepherd Express

[A] comprehensively researched book…Though the book is full of juicy Hollywood details, this is ultimately the triumphant story of how [director William] Wyler and [lead actor Harold] Russell channeled their trauma into a project that brought personal and professional satisfaction to them and a greater awareness of veterans’ issues to the American public...An eloquent testimony to the power of film.
— Library Journal

[Macor] traces [The Best Years of Our Lives'] journey from script to screen, focusing on the film’s production history, its personal connection with its director, and lasting resonance more than 75 years later.
— The Alcalde

An illuminating account of the film’s journey to the screen and its impact on the nation.
— The Film Stage

Macor has done scrupulous research in putting the pieces together on how The Best Years of Our Lives came to be. From its beginning as an idea to its casting, everything you ever wanted to know about the making of this beloved classic in Macor's book.
— Classic Movie Man

The scars of World War II were sometimes physical but just as often mental, and before war movies became adept at discussing – and even naming – post-traumatic stress disorder, characters suffering from shell shock were either cowards or came to their heroic senses after a good slap. In her new book, Alison Macor...salutes William Wyler's 1947 Oscar-winning smash that gave that pain a space on the silver screen, even as the filmmakers were targeted in the Red Scare.
— Austin Chronicle

Macor gives the certified masterpiece from studio-system Hollywood…the treatment it deserves—intelligent, sensitive, and respectful…she smoothly incorporates and generously acknowledges the research and insights of previous critics, culls the money-minded trade press with ready expertise, and applies her own sharp eye for illuminating interpretations. Her study is a welcome addition to a growing body of single-film biographies...Macor is such a rich encyclopedia of all things Best Years.
— Cineaste

Product Details
ISBN: 9781477318911
ISBN-10: 1477318917
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication Date: June 7th, 2022
Pages: 208
Language: English