The Americanization of Emily ★★★★½

1964: Everyone remembers Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, but later that year came another satirical take on war, heroism and the stupidity of it all. The Americanization of Emily is largely forgotten, but it's got something Kubrick's adaptation of Peter George's book lacked; it's got Paddy Chayefsky doing his own adaptation of a novel, William Bradford Huie's.

Chayefsky is largely remembered for Network. His intelligent scripts works some sparkling dialogues, but it's probably still the monologues that win you over in the end. The same goes for this one, and having James Garner's lead character Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison going on about war, heroism and cowardice to the mother of leading female character Emily (Julie Andrews), is nothing short of art. In other prominent roles we have Melwyn Douglas as the Admiral loosing his footing in a nervous breakdown, and James Coburn as Madison's best friend, Lt. Cmdr. Paul 'Bus' Cummings.

William Bradford Huie wrote his novel with inside information from his own time as a Vice Admiral's aide during WWII, and sprinkled with Chayefsky's touches we get a wonderful story told with warmth, heart, insight and wonderful satirical touches. Sure, Dr. Strangelove got Kubrick directing, while this one only got a simpler Arthur Hiller--and that's the biggest objection against this movie. Up until this point in his career, Hiller had spent most of his time directing TV-episodes. His lack of experience and vision makes this a blander and less impressive movie than it so easily could have been. Still. It's the script that stars here, and Garner, Andrews, Coburn and Douglas delivers all the way.

What I wouldn't give to have someone of Sidney Lumet's caliber directing this movie (Lumet directed Chayefsky's Network, for the few of you that didn't remember). Still. I'm willing to consider The Americanization of Emily as quite possibly better than both Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Network, and that's saying something. Hiller's faithfulness to the material might as easily also be the salvation of the movie.

A forgotten gem. Highly recommended.

Rewatch-probability: 5/5
(Yeah, I'll definitely need another round or three with this material.)

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