"Making The Best Years of Our Lives:
The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation"
Austin author Alison Macor’s new book “Making The Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation” chronicles the behind-the-scenes efforts by director William Wyler and producer Samuel Goldwyn to explore in their 1946 Best Picture Oscar winner the veteran trauma that former U.S. servicemen faced upon their return to a post-World War II America. The recipient of nine Academy Awards, including two honorary Oscars, The Best Years of Our Lives starred Dana Andrews, Best Actor winner Frederic March, and Best Supporting Actor winner Harold Russell as three World War II veterans dealing with their trauma while struggling to reconnect with their families and to reintegrate into society. The ensemble cast also included Myrna Loy as March’s supportive wife, Cathy O’Donnell as Russell’s sympathetic girlfriend, Virginia Mayo as Andrews’ increasingly frustrated wife, and Teresa Wright as March and Loy’s daughter, who unexpectedly falls for Andrews. Macor’s book details how Wyler’s experiences as a U.S. Army Air Forces documentary filmmaker, as well as the hearing loss he sustained during his service, informed The Best of Our Lives’ relevancy and authenticity; recounts the casting of non-actor and former Army instructor Russell, a double amputee who lost his hands during a U.S. military base accident; examines the friction between Wyler and Goldwyn before, during, and after filming; and recalls Goldwyn’s endeavor to market a long, challenging, and uncompromising drama to an America seeking to move on from World War II. Macor also asks why The Best Years of Our Lives remains an overlooked classic despite its Oscar wins, box office success, and inclusion on the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. “Making The Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation” will be published on June 7 by UT Press. Alison Macor will attend screenings of The Best Years of Our Lives on May 30 and June 4 at the AFS Cinema. Alison Macor previously wrote 2017’s “Rewrite Man: The Life and Career of Screenwriter Warren Skaaren” and 2010’s “Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas. Holding a PhD in film history from UT, Macor wrote for The Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman and has taught film courses at UT and Texas State University.
Aired: May 26, 2022.