About James Jones’ “From Here to Eternity”

By | Feb 15, 2015

The novel takes place in months prior to Japan’s bombing of Hawaii. It’s based loosely of Jones’ experiences at Schofield Barracks. It tells the story of the struggles between Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a self-described “thirty-year man”, and his superiors, First Sgt. Milt Warden and Captain Holmes.

The novel’s title comes from a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Gentleman Rankers:”
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha’ mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

This is the first novel in James Jones’ WWII trilogy. Even though the names are altered they are essentially the same characters. From Here to Eternity features Warden and Prewitt, who become Welsh and Witt in The Thin Red Line and Mart Winch and Bobby Prell in Whistle. Similarly, Corporal Fife in The Thin Red Line reappears as Marion Landers in Whistle, as does the cook, Storm, who becomes Johnny “Mother” Strange.

The 1953 movie adaptation stared Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Deborah Kerr. It was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning 8 including Best Picture, Frank Sinatra for Best Supporting Actor and Donna Reed for Best Supporting Actress. In 2002 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

In 1979 the novel was made into a 6-hour mini-series. It had William Devane as Sgt Warden, Natalie Wood as the wife of the Company commander and Steve Railsback as Prewitt.

The mini-series was so popular that a series was made based on the characters created by Jones as well as a new character Jefferson Davis Prewitt, the brother of Robert E. Lee Prewitt. The series lasted 13 episodes.


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