Contrary to popular myth propagated by The Godfather, mogul Harry Cohn’s wife and Ava Gardner had more to do with getting Frank Sinatra his comeback shot in this 1953 prestige picture than the Mafia did. (As history has it, the washed-up Sinatra won out over favored Eli Wallach because Ol’ Blue Eyes looked more skinny and vulnerable — no horse’s head required.) However he got it, he pulled off one of the most dramatic career rebounds of the century in Fred Zinnemann’s blockbuster adaptation of the James Jones novel, set at an Army base in Hawaii during the lead-up to Pearl Harbor.
Sinatra won the Oscar — perhaps deserved even more by Montgomery Clift’s reluctant boxer — but the image that’s gone down in pop iconography is the steamy beachfront clinch between forbidden lovers Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr (the target of one of Airplane’s funniest gags). A juicy, terrifically acted, engrossing piece of old-school mainstream storytelling — the kind of movie that’s fallen from favor but is damned hard to pull off, especially these days — it wraps up The Belcourt’s smash series of screen romances, an idea worth repeating.
Arrive at 5:30 p.m. for food provided by Whole Foods and a sampling of wines from Village Wines. The evening is part of the countdown for next weekend's Oscar Night America, the theater's biggest fundraiser of the year.