ON THIS DAY in 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, resulting in the United States entry into World War II. This event was depicted in the 1953 film, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, with Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed.
A WESTERN set in the 1800s would seem to have little or nothing in common with a Christmas movie set in the 1940s. One is about a dangerous outlaw seeking revenge on the sheriff who sent him to jail. And the other is about an angel getting his wings. So I would have thought up until last Monday night. That’s when I saw–for only the second time in my life–HIGH NOON, the 1951 Fred Zinnemann classic, and began comparing the two films (as well as realizing I was surely not the first moviegoer to do so).
Maybe it was the appearance of character actor Thomas Mitchell (playing a trusted friend in both films) early on that made me think of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Or maybe it was seeing a happy couple having their wedding day abruptly interrupted. In NOON’s case, the imminent run-in with a dangerous outlaw; in LIFE’s case, a dangerous run on George Bailey’s father’s bank. A curious coincidence. But then there are other similarities–some more obvious than others–between the two.
The hero is an American everyman. A man with ideals, character, and dreams–dreams of romance with a lovely, wholesome woman (Grace Kelly–a Quaker; and Donna Reed), unhappy with his life in the small town.