One of my Overlooked Masterworks plays on TCM on October 25th. Set in England just before the D-Day invasion, The Americanization of Emily (1964) is a biting satire and one of the great anti-war movies. James Garner plays an admiral’s staff officer charged with locating luxury goods and willing English women for the brass. Julie Andrews plays an English driver who has lost her husband and other male family members in the War. She resists emotional entanglements with other servicemen whose lives may be put at risk, but falls for Garner’s “practicing coward”, a man who is under no illusions about the glory of war and is determined to stay as far from combat as possible.
Unfortunately, Garner’s boss (Melvyn Douglas) has fits of derangement and becomes obsessed with the hope that the first American killed on the beach at D-Day be from the Navy. Accordingly, he orders Garner to lead a suicide mission to land ahead of the D-Day landing, ostensibly to film it. Fellow officer James Coburn must guarantee Garner’s martyrdom.
It’s a brilliant screenplay from Paddy Chayefsky, who won screenwriting Oscars for Marty, The Hospital and Network.
Today, Americanization holds up as least as well as its contemporary Dr. Strangelove and much better than Failsafe.
Reportedly, both Andrews and Garner have tagged this as their favorite film.
One of the “Three Nameless Broads” bedded by the Coburn character is played by Judy Carne, later of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.