The Americanization of Emily

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The Americanization of Emily
Americanization of Emily poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
by Reynold Brown
Directed byArthur Hiller
Produced byMartin Ransohoff
Screenplay byPaddy Chayefsky
Based onThe Americanization of Emily
by William Bradford Huie
Music byJohnny Mandel
CinematographyPhilip H. Lathrop
Edited byTom McAdoo
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 27, 1964 (1964-10-27) (US)
  • April 15, 1965 (1965-04-15) (UK[1])
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.7 million[2]
Box office$4,000,000 (rentals)[3]

The Americanization of Emily is a 1964 British-American black-and-white romantic dark comedy-drama war film written by Paddy Chayefsky, produced by Martin Ransohoff, directed by Arthur Hiller and starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas and James Coburn. The film also features Joyce Grenfell, Keenan Wynn and William Windom. Chayefsky's screenplay was loosely adapted from the 1959 novel of the same name by William Bradford Huie, who had been a SeaBee officer during the Normandy Invasion. The film is set in London during World War II in the weeks leading up to D-Day in 1944.[4]

Controversial for its stance during the dawn of the Vietnam War, the film has since been praised as a "vanguard anti-war film."[5] Both James Garner[6][7] and Julie Andrews[7][8] have considered the film their personal favorite of those in which they acted. The studio changed the title in the middle of its release, calling it Emily...she's super! to avoid a seven-syllable word in the title.


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 London in 1944. Charlie'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. Charlie'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 "practising coward" Charlie irresistible.

Profoundly despondent since the death of his wife, Jessup obsesses over the US Army and its Air Force 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 combat film will document the death, and the casualty will be buried in a "Tomb of the Unknown Sailor". He orders Charlie to get the film made.

Despite his best efforts to avoid the duty, Charlie and his now gung-ho friend, Commander "Bus" Cummings (James Coburn), find themselves and a film crew with the combat engineers, who will be the first sailors ashore. When Charlie tries to retreat from the beach, the manic Cummings shoots him in the leg with a Colt .45 pistol. A German artillery shell lands near the limping-running Charlie, making him the first American casualty on Omaha Beach. Hundreds of newspaper and magazine covers reprint the photograph of Charlie running ashore, alone (in reality trying to escape from Cummings), making him a war hero. Jessup, having recovered from his breakdown, is horrified by his part in Charlie's death. He plans to use the heroic death in support of the Navy when testifying before a Senate committee in Washington, D.C. Losing another man she loves to the war devastates Emily.

Then comes unexpected news: Charlie is not dead, but alive at the Allied 6th relocation center in Southampton, England. A relieved Jessup plans to show him off during his Senate testimony as the "first man on Omaha Beach", a sailor. Charlie, limping from his injury and angry about his senseless near-death, uncharacteristically plans to act nobly by telling the world the truth about what happened, even if it means being imprisoned for cowardice. By recounting what he had told her previously, Emily persuades Charlie to choose happiness with her, instead, and to keep quiet and accept his role as a hero.

Main cast[edit]



According to James Garner, William Holden was originally meant to play the lead role of Charlie Madison, with Garner to play Bus Cummings. When Holden backed out of the project, Garner took the lead role and James Coburn was brought in to play Bus.[9]


The film introduced the song "Emily," composed by Johnny Mandel with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. It was recorded by Frank Sinatra with Nelson Riddle arranging and conducting on October 3, 1964 and was included on the Reprise LP Softly, as I Leave You. It was later recorded by Andy Williams for Dear Heart (1965) and by Barbra Streisand for The Movie Album (2003).


The women's hairstyles, dress fashions, makeup and shoes are all strictly 1964 not 1944.[10]


  • The party scene was filmed on the same day as President John F. Kennedy's assassination.[11]

Comparison with the novel[edit]

Cover of the novel

The Americanization of Emily is based on William Bradford Huie's 1959 novel of the same name.[12] The New York Times ran a brief news item mentioning Huie's novel prior to its publication,[13] but never reviewed the novel,[14] although in 1963 Paddy Chayefsky's development of the novel into a screenplay was found worthy of note.[15] A first draft of the screenplay for the film was written by George Goodman, who previously had a success at MGM with The Wheeler Dealers (1963), also with James Garner in the male lead and with the same director and producer. In 1964 a Broadway musical with music written by John Barry was announced.[16] Chayefsky's adaptation, while retaining the title, characters, situation, background and many specific plot incidents, told a very different story. He said, "I found the book, which is serious in tone, essentially a funny satire, and that's how I'm treating it."[15]

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.[citation needed]

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.[12]

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."[12]

The screenplay uses Hershey bars to symbolize the luxuries enjoyed by Americans and their "Americanized" companions, but the novel uses strawberries.[12]

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 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 bumbling drunken serviceman played by Keenan Wynn and Steve Franken. But in the novel, Charlie has been a PR professional in civilian life, takes the assignment seriously and leads a team of competent cinematographers.



In a contemporary review for The New York Times, critic Bosley Crowther praised Chayefsky's screenplay as including "some remarkably good writing with some slashing irreverence."[17]

The Americanization of Emily has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on fourteen reviews, with an average score of 7.39/10.[18] In Slant magazine, Nick Schager wrote, "Though a bit overstuffed with long-winded speeches, Chayefsky's scabrously funny script brims with snappy, crackling dialogue."[19] In A Journey Through American Literature, academic Kevin J. Hayes praised Chayefsky's speeches for Garner as "stirring."[20]


The film was nominated for Academy Awards in 1965 for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography,[21] and in 1966 Julie Andrews' portrayal of Emily earned her a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best British Actress.[22]

The Americanization of Emily was among the films selected for The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.[23]

Home media[edit]

The Americanization of Emily was released on Blu-ray by Warner Home Video on March 11, 2014 via Warner Archive.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Times, 15 April 1965, page 17: Film review of The Americanization of Emily – found via The Times Digital Archive
  2. ^ Haber, J. (Jan 14, 1968). "'Baggy pants' ransohoff changes suits, image". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 155791666.
  3. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966, pg 6.
  4. ^ Life Magazine, 9 October 1944, article by Huie: SeaBees – They Build the Roads to Victory Linked 2013-08-09
  5. ^ Feaster, Felicia. "The Americanization of Emily". Turner Classic Movies, Inc. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b James Garner of Charlie Rose, ~6' from beginning
  8. ^ Blank, Ed. Andrews as Maria a result of 'happy circumstances' . Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 17 November 2005.
  9. ^ Garner, James & Winokur, Jon The Garner Files: A Memoir Simon & Schuster; First Edition (November 1, 2011)
  10. ^ The Americanization of Emily (1964) - IMDb, retrieved 2021-05-24
  11. ^ "The Americanization of Emily (1964) - IMDb". Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "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".
  14. ^ Online search of NYT archives for "huie" and "emily"
  15. ^ a b Weiler, A. H. "Movie Panorama from a Local Vantage Point, The New York Times, April 7, 1963, p. X15
  16. ^ Plays and Players, volume 16, page 10 Linked 2013-08-09
  17. ^ Crowther, Bosley (October 28, 1964). "'The Americanization of Emily' Arrives". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  18. ^ "The Americanization of Emily (1964)". Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  19. ^ Schager, Nick (May 24, 2005). "The Americanization of Emily". Slant. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  20. ^ Hayes, Kevin J. (2011). A Journey Through American Literature. Oxford University Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0199862085.
  21. ^ "The Americanization of Emily". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  22. ^ IMDb: Awards for The Americanization of Emily Linked 2013-08-09
  23. ^ Nichols, Peter M.; Scott, A. O. Scott, eds. (2004). The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. Macmillan. p. 40. ISBN 0312326114.

External links[edit]