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The Americanization of Emily

The Americanization of Emily
Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by Arthur Hiller
Produced by Martin Ransohoff
Screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky
Based on The Americanization of Emily 
by William Bradford Huie
Music by Johnny Mandel
Cinematography Philip H. Lathrop
Edited by Tom McAdoo
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • October 27, 1964 (1964-10-27) (US)
  • April 15, 1965 (1965-04-15) (UK[1])
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.7 million[2]
Box office $4,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[3]

The Americanization of Emily (1964) is an American comedy-drama war film written by Paddy Chayefsky, directed by Arthur Hiller, starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas and James Coburn, and loosely adapted from the novel of the same name by William Bradford Huie, who had been a SeaBee officer on D-Day.[4] Both Garner[5][6] and Andrews[6][7] consider it their personal favorite of their films.

Set in London in 1944 during World War II, in the weeks leading up to D-Day, the black-and-white film also features Joyce Grenfell, Keenan Wynn and William Windom.


  • Plot 1
  • Main cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Casting 3.1
    • Soundtrack 3.2
  • Comparison with the novel 4
  • Reception 5
    • Award nominations 5.1
  • DVD 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Lieutenant Commander Charlie Madison (James Garner), United States Naval Reserve, is a cynical and highly efficient adjutant to Rear Admiral William Jessup (Melvyn Douglas) in 1944 London. Madison's job as a dog robber is to keep his boss and other high-ranking officers supplied with luxury goods and amiable Englishwomen. He falls in love with a driver from the motor pool, Emily Barham (Julie Andrews), who has lost her husband, brother, and father in the war. Madison's pleasure-seeking "American" lifestyle amid wartime rationing both fascinates and disgusts Emily, but she does not want to lose another loved one to war and finds the "practicing coward" Madison irresistible.

Profoundly despondent since the death of his wife, Jessup obsesses over the US Army and its Air Corps overshadowing the Navy in the forthcoming D-Day invasion. The mentally unstable admiral decides that "The first dead man on Omaha Beach must be a sailor." A film will document the death, and the casualty will be buried in a "Tomb of the Unknown Sailor."

Despite his best efforts to avoid the duty, Madison and his gung-ho friend, Lieutenant Commander "Bus" Cummings (James Coburn), find themselves and a film crew with the combat engineers who will be the first on shore. When Madison tries to retreat to safety, Cummings forces him forward with a pistol. A German shell lands near Madison, making him the first American to die on Omaha Beach. Hundreds of newspaper and magazine covers reprint a photograph of Madison on the shore, making him a hero. Jessup, having recovered from his breakdown, regrets his part in Madison's death but plans to use it in support of the Navy when testifying before a Senate committee in Washington. Losing another man she loves to the war devastates Emily.

Then comes unexpected news: Madison is not dead, but alive and well in an English hospital. A relieved Jessup now plans to show him during the Senate testimony as the heroic "first man on Omaha Beach." Madison, angry about his senseless near-death, uncharacteristically plans to act nobly by telling the world the truth of what happened on the beach, even if it means being imprisoned for cowardice. Emily persuades him to choose, instead, happiness with her by keeping quiet and accepting his heroic role.

Main cast



According to James Garner, William Holden was originally meant to play the lead role of "Charlie" Madison. Garner was originally selected to play the character "Bus" Cummings. When Holden backed out of the project, Garner took the lead role, and James Coburn was brought in to play "Bus".[8] The resulting movie was one of Garner's favourites.[9]


The film introduced the song "Emily" which was composed by Johnny Mandel with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra with Nelson Riddle arranging and conducting on October 3, 1964 and included in the Reprise LP, Softly, as I Leave You. It was later recorded by Barbra Streisand for The Movie Album (2003).

Comparison with the novel

Cover of the novel

The Americanization of Emily is based on The Wheeler Dealers, also starring James Garner. In 1964 a Broadway musical with music written by John Barry was announced.[14] Chayefsky's adaptation, while retaining the title, characters, situation, background and many specific plot incidents, nevertheless told a very different story. "I found the book, which is serious in tone, essentially a funny satire, and that's how I'm treating it."[13]

The screenplay's theme of cowardice as a virtue has no parallel in the novel; in fact, the novel does not mention cowardice at all.

The screenplay implies, but never explicitly explains what is meant by the term "Americanization." The novel uses "Americanized" to refer to a woman who accepts, as a normal condition of wartime, the exchange of her sexual favors for gifts of rare wartime commodities. Thus, in reply to the question "has Pat been Americanized", a character answers:

Thoroughly. She carries a diaphragm in her kitbag. She has seen the ceilings of half the rooms in the Dorchester [hotel]. She asks that it be after dinner: she doesn't like it on an empty stomach. She admits she's better after steak than after fish. She requires that it be in a bed, and that the bed be in Claridge's, the Savoy, or the Dorchester.[10]

This theme runs throughout the novel. Another character says, "We operate just like a whorehouse ... except we don't sell it for cash. We swap it for Camels and nylons and steak and eggs and lipstick ... this dress ... came from Saks Fifth Avenue in the diplomatic pouch." Emily asks Jimmy, "Am I behaving like a whore?" Jimmy replies, "Whoring is a peacetime activity."[10]

The screenplay uses Hershey bars to symbolize the luxuries enjoyed by Americans and their "Americanized" companions; the novel uses strawberries rather than chocolate bars, in a parallel way. In his first dinner with Emily, he orders the waiter to bring strawberries. "She protested that they were too forbidden, too expensive." Jimmy convinces her to accept them by arguing, "If you don't eat them, they'll be eaten by one of these expense-account correspondents." Later, she asks Jimmy, "If I fall in love with you, how can I know whether I love you for yourself or for the strawberries?"[10]

The novel briefly mentions that Emily's mother, Mrs. Barham, has been mentally affected by wartime stress, but she is not a major character. There is no mention of her self-deception or pretense that her husband and son are still alive. The film contains a long scene between Charlie and Mrs. Barham, full of eloquent antiwar rhetoric, in which Charlie breaks down Mrs. Barham's denial and reduces her to tears while nevertheless insisting that he has performed an act of kindness. The novel has no parallel to this scene.

In the film, Charlie is comically unprepared to make the documentary film demanded by Admiral Jessup, and is assisted only by a bumbling and drunken serviceman played by Keenan Wynn. In the book, Charlie has, in fact, been a PR professional in civilian life, takes the assignment seriously, and leads a team of competent cinematographers.


Award nominations

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1965, for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography,[15] and in 1966 Julie Andrews' portrayal of Emily earned her a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best British Actress.[16]


The Americanization of Emily was released as a Region 1 Blu-ray DVD by Warner Home Video on March 11, 2014 via Warner Archive.

See also


  1. ^ The Times, 15 April 1965, page 17: Film review of The Americanization of Emily - found via The Times Digital Archive
  2. ^ Haber, J. (1968, Jan 14). 'Baggy pants' ransohoff changes suits, image. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. ^ This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6
  4. ^ SeaBees - They Build the Roads to VictoryLife Magazine, 9 October 1944, article by Huie: Linked 2013-08-09
  5. ^ Boedeke, Hal (July 29, 2001). "Easygoing Garner Gets Nice Salute: Turner Classic Movies Honors the Star with a Review of His Career and by Showing 18 of His Movies.". The Orlando Sentinel. 
  6. ^ a b James Garner of Charlie Rose, ~6' from beginning
  7. ^ Blank, Ed. Andrews as Maria a result of 'happy circumstances' . Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 17 November 2005.
  8. ^ Garner, James & Winokur, Jon The Garner Files: A Memoir Simon & Schuster; First Edition (November 1, 2011)
  9. ^ "James Garner: You Ought to be in Pictures".  
  10. ^ a b c d Huie, William Bradford. The Americanization of Emily. E. F. Dutton & Co., Inc. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 59-5060.  "'Has Pat been Americanized?' ... 'She carries a diaphragm in her kit-bag'", p. 23; Strawberries "too forbidden, too expensive," p. 31; "this dress... came from Saks Fifth Avenue in the diplomatic pouch," p. 54; "Whoring is a peacetime activity," p. 102; "how can I know whether I love you for yourself or for the strawberries?" p. 104.
  11. ^ "Books—Authors," The New York Times, July 14, 1959, p. 27: "'The Americanization of Emily, William Bradford Huie's new novel, will be published Aug. 12 by Dutton.... It gives a picture of the war in London in 1944 as carried on from hotel suites with the help of good food, good liquor, expensive presents, and expensive-looking women."
  12. ^ Online search of NYT archives for "huie" and "emily"
  13. ^ a b Weiler, A. H. "Movie Panorama from a Local Vantage Point, The New York Times, April 7, 1963, p. X15
  14. ^ Plays and Players, volume 16, page 10 Linked 2013-08-09
  15. ^ "NY Times: The Americanization of Emily". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25. 
  16. ^ Awards for The Americanization of EmilyIMDb: Linked 2013-08-09

External links

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