tokyo fish story
music friday: bob dylan, blood on the tracks

by request: the americanization of emily (arthur hiller, 1964)

It takes a while for me to get to requests ... this one was made in October of 2014. But I get there.

The context is interesting. I wrote about The Sound of Music, which got the amazing (for this blog) total of 16 comments. The first comment offered Emily as an “antidote” to Julie Andrews' performance in Sound of Music. I responded that I remembered seeing that movie back in the 60s but not since, and that my memories were positive. James Garner has said this was his favorite of his many movies. Julie Andrews appeared here between Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, and she was reportedly happy to have a more “adult” role to show she had breadth.

The director was Arthur Hiller, whose career might be called “non-descript”. He directed 33 films, including the very popular Love Story. David Thomson referred to “a dozen consistently impersonal and unexciting movies”, calling Hiller “the kind of director who gets pictures done on time, on budget, without troubling or threatening anyone.” Thomson does praise The Hospital, which coincidentally shared a screenwriter (Paddy Chayefsky) with Emily. In fact, I suspect Chayefsky is responsible for what is best about The Americanization of Emily (I have not read the William Bradford Huie novel on which the film is based). The Hospital and Love Story are the only movies for which Hiller won a prominent award (his only Oscar nomination was for Love Story ... he lost to Franklin J. Schaffner for Patton). Hiller did win various lifetime achievement awards, and served as president of both the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He made his mark, but his films rarely caught fire.

I said Chayefsky is the reason Emily is good, but that’s only part of the story. Most notably, Garner and Andrews are very good in their starring roles. But what makes the script so good (again, I lack knowledge of the novel) is also what occasionally brings the movie down. My friend who recommended the film, quoting Sweet Smell of Success, said “it’s a cookie full of arsenic”, and that’s right on target. But there are too many speeches that, while full of arsenic, sound too much like soap-box lecturing. (Several of the "memorable quotes" listed on the IMDB are quite lengthy.)

Still, there is something to be said for a war movie that comes out in favor of cowardice. In some ways, Garner’s character here isn’t much different from Bret Maverick. I can see why I liked it when I was a teenager in the 60s. 7/10.

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