Saturday, January 2, 2010

James Garner can act!

One of the movies that proves that James Garner was a reasonably capable actor is The Americanization of Emily, which TCM is airing at 10:00 AM ET tomorrow. Garner plays a procurement officer to an admiral (Melvyn Douglas) stationed in London in the run-up to the D-Day invasion. It's a cushy job, and one that Garner is glad to have, as it keeps him out of combat. His duties bring him into contact with Emily (Julie Andrews), a British woman who's part of the support staff. She's not too fond of Garner at first, in part because she doesn't really like the Americans (during World War II, one of the British saying about the American military was "Overpaid, oversexed, over here"), and because she's already lost one man in the war. Still, you know that the two are going to fall in love, which they do in due course.

Their relationship is about to take a sharp turn, however. Garner's admiral is going mad, and has the crazy idea that there should be a "Tomb of the Unknown Sailor" to match the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington. That sailor, he decides, ought to be the first navy man who dies during the upcoming D-Day invasion. And, he wants his adjutant to get footage of the first sailor dying in order to grease the political wheels back in Washington, making the politicians more likely to support Douglas' idea. Garner is naturally aghast at the idea, not simply because it's daft on the face of it, but because of his inveterate cynicism about combat. That having been said, though, his cynicism also places him at odds with Emily, who considers him a coward and is willing to break off the relationship over this.

The Americanization of Emily is a movie with a lot of anti-war views, albeit one that puts those views forward with a good deal of black humor. That's in large part down to the screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, the same man who gave us Network. Chayefsky's screenplay is one of the things that makes thsi a good movie, but you also need good actors delivering the lines, and everybody here does a good job at that, including Garner, who is traditionally thought of as having done "lighter" fare. In addition to Garner, Andrews and the always underrated Douglas, there's also a young James Coburn playing one of Garner's fellow procurement officers, one who seems to be in it to get as much sex as possible.

The Americanization of Emily has been released to DVD.

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