You know the scene: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around the beach as the surf crashes around them and the foamy tide washes around their clenched bodies. It’s a cliché now, but it’s as primal as erotic scenes got in the production code days, and it helped transform From Here to Eternity (1954), Fred Zinneman’s classy adaptation of James Jones’ novel of soldiers in Hawaii in the days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, into an American screen classic.
Lancaster stars as a tough Sergeant Warden who begins an affair with a Captain’s wife (Kerr) and Montgomery Clift made his own splash as the troubled, sensitive bugler terrorized by his commanding officer when he refuses to box for the unit’s team. He earned his third Oscar nomination, but acting awards for this film went to supporting performers Donna Reed (as his “dance hall” girlfriend) and Frank Sinatra (a scrappy soldier caught in a feud with sadistic stockade officer Ernest Borgnine). It won eight Academy Awards in all, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography for Burnett Guffey’s crisp B&W photography.