We just watched Paddy Chayefsky’s The Americanization of Emily for the second time. Wow! What a brilliant movie that should be mandatory viewing. As I have been reflecting lately on the cost of human lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the many other wars in the past 20 years, I have been saddened by the inability to justify any of these wars. Granted, I am a pacifist and navigate the world in ways that hold me to my principals of what a pacifist means.
Chayefsky (writer of Network) does a brilliant job addressing the hypocrisy, greed, profiteering, and complexities of wars. I don’t want to give a way too much of the movie, because I am hoping many of you will rent the movie or get it on the Hulu or however people rent movies today. I will say that Chayefsky pushes the audience hard to think and reflect upon our core values, our core beliefs and ask us to look at how easily humans are manipulated.
Julie Andrews and James Garner give nothing less than stellar and complex performances and it is easy to see why their chemistry garnered another film, Victor/Victoria nearly 20 years later. Candidly, I was also amazed they were willing to make such a film that would question the American government and push back against sexism and misogyny in such a forthright manner. I’m not wholly convinced we have actors with such talent and moral fiber who would take these roles today. The movie is a clear indictment of the United States and of other countries that profit from warring and pillaging. It is also telling that both actors consider this their favorite personal work given the rich depth of experience they both have.
With that being said, I could imagine recasting this if an updated version were to be created — just for the record, I usually think it is a mistake to remake movies of this caliber. However, I could see George Clooney in the James Garner role and Kate Winslet in the Jule Andrews role. The movie also contains a homoerotic relationship between Charlie Madison (James Garner) and his superior, Adm. William Jessup, played by the late Melvyn Douglas. This relationship would be interesting to explore in further detail. Charlie Madison is a “Dog Robber,” so perhaps the homoerotic tension is an indication of the how accommodating a “Dog Robber” has to be. I could easily see Robert DeNiro playing Adm. William Jessup.
I strongly encourage people to watch this movie and examine the word cowardice. What does it mean in the movie what does it mean personally in a time of war as opposed to the word hero. How many wars are defensible? Feel free to share your thoughts.