The Americanization of Emily (1964) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
As the U.S. Navy competed for funding with the other
services, a deranged Admiral conceived of a way in which the navy
could promote its case visibly - to have a swabbie be the first man to
the beach on D-Day, and to have a film crew recording it for
posterity, hoping to produce a memorable image like the famous Iwo
Jima photograph. The man might ultimately be memorialized in something
like the "tomb
of the unknown sailor."
Jim Garner plays his typical role as the world's biggest coward, but he is somehow chosen to lead the project with a camera on his shoulder, and fate strikes the final blow against him when an explosion near a landing craft hurtles him through the air, vaulting him ahead of the waders, and making him the very first American on Omaha Beach. He then becomes the very first dead American in the invasion, strengthens the navy's credibility, and lands himself on the cover of Life Magazine and 200 newspapers. The Navy's publicist (James Coburn) fails to mention that Garner was running in the wrong direction at the time - back out to sea - and that Garner's first wound was inflicted by Coburn's gun. Hey, it was the only way to get the guy back on the beach.
Garner later turns out to have been wounded, not killed, and this turns out to be a crisis for the Navy. Will Garner tell the truth about the incident, or will be pretend to be a hero for the good of ... ??
The Americanization of Emily is an odd footnote in the history of films. Although this is arguably the greatest script ever written by a three-time Oscar winner (Paddy Cheyefsky), and is probably the greatest film ever directed by film veteran Arthur Hiller, it has passed into obscurity.
Why? Well, timing is everything.
The only real objective weakness of the film is the same weakness you will find in every one of Chayefsky's plays and screenplays - his characters make long, unrealistic, cock-sure speeches; or engage in dialogue too witty and clever to be anything but the contrived words of a playwright. It's usually witty material, often brilliant and original, but obviously phony. That always lends Chayefsky's work an artificial quality, as if the characters were stand-up comics waiting to deliver polished monologues, or comedy teams waiting to deliver some rehearsed and flawlessly timed nightclub rapport. It's my belief that the staginess of the dialogue isn't as oppressive in this film as in some of Chayefsky's projects. More rhetorical actors like George C. Scott, Faye Dunaway, and Peter Finch have had problems with Chayefsky's words in various other films, often sounding like participants in high school oratory contests, but Jim Garner has a kind of down-to-earth familiarity that breathes some life into the dialogue and makes it seem more like extemporaneous human speech.
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