I have only one complaint: *the film should be offered as a DVD* with commentary, if possible, by Julie and James. I don't think Arthur Hiller or Paddy Chayefsky are still alive, but it would have been wonderful to listen to their comments too.
Paddy Chayefsky's script gives the film its solid foundation with three dimensional characters who speak articulate yet believable dialogue. The mixture of satire, sex and sentiment is just right. The British are fond of saying that Americans have no sense of irony. They have obviously never seen this film.
Holding everything together and making the audience genuinely care is James Garner in the most impressive performance of his career. He plays a "dog robber" - personal aide to an important admiral, an officer dedicated to making the war as comfortable as possible, and a devout coward. Stationed in London during the buildup to D-Day, Garner is having a very pleasant war indeed. He is a man who is very sure of himself and what he believes in. At least, until he meets Julie Andrews - English war widow and military driver. These two people have absolutely nothing in common. So it is inevitable, yet somehow oddly logical, that they fall in love.
But a little thing called World War Two keeps getting in the way. Garner's mentally unhinged admiral decides that the first dead man on Omaha Beach should be a sailor and wants Garner to photograph the event - if not have the honour of being dead himself. Cue the best exploration of heroism and cowardice (also known as common sense) ever put on screen.
Although the film is undoubtedly Garner's brightest moment, the rest of the cast make solid and memorable contributions. Melvyn Douglas, in one of his last roles, as the admiral and James Coburn, in one of his early roles, as a gung-ho junior officer both ably demonstrate that the phrase "military intelligence" is a contradiction in terms. The wonderful English actress Joyce Grenfell is both batty and touching as Julie Andrews' mother. And what about Julie Andrews? People who only know her from the oversweet Mary Poppins or Sound of Music will be amazed by her utterly convincing performance as a woman who refuses to let reality destroy her romanticism. She and Garner spark and complement each other beautifully and their chemistry, more than anything else, makes this film so memorable.
You might think that a black and white film made in the Sixties and set during World War Two would seem dated. But The Americanization of Emily is as fresh and engaging as ever because, above all, it is about people and the human condition. And they, for better or worse, never change.