The Americanization of Emily (1964) and my wife’s thing for Melvyn Douglas

4 Jun

I admit I’m pretty thrilled that within the entertaining and nostalgic but a trifle jingoistic historical document that is TCM around the Memorial Day/D-Day corridor sits The Americanization of Emily, on June 6 at 11:30 a.m.

americanizationI don’t do synopses, but this is a comedy of the shiny dark anti-war satire variety. The Paddy Chayefsky screenplay gets a little chatty at times, but, as previously noted, it’s a Paddy Chayefsky screenplay, so it’s some of the best chat ever chatted. It also, for an intellectual anti-war satire, has a lot of charm and heart and humanity (which is how Chayefsky even managed to get by with as much as he did creatively over the years, I suspect). Whether or not boy gets girl is technically just a coat hanger for the ideas, but it’s never treated as such.

A lot of the credit for that goes to director Arthur Hiller and co-stars James Garner and Julie Andrews. They’re why you’ll watch (that and a love of the tone and origins of M*A*S*H), and you should. But then you have the bonus of a terrific broken, addled and confused performance by Melvyn Douglas.

douglas-smokes-37My wife has a thing for Melvyn Douglas. Usually she expresses it more when we’re watching, say, Theodora Goes Wild or Third Finger, Left Hand or Ninotchka than when we’re watching Being There or this. Regardless, I take a moment here to note that this falls under the heading of

Approved Old Movie Crush

…by which I mean: no husband can compete with a Gene Kelly or a Cary Grant or a god forbid Gregory Peck. One can strongly admire their artistry but be a little glad they’re dead for this reason. Even in their latter days, they daunt. Douglas is still an appealing and attractive guy, still a romantic lead in his youth, but aged more comfortably into Character Man in a way that doesn’t, you know, make a husband grumble retroactively through his wife’s excessive enjoyment of She Married Her Boss or Annie Oakley. We’ll put him on the William Powell shelf in this regard. I’m pretty sure they also share a moustache hall of fame shelf.

(Full Disclosure: I have been known on occasion to refer to her – my wife, not Annie Oakley – as She Who Must Be Obeyed, but this is based more in Rumpole of the Bailey than Helen Gahagan. Still. Clearly the universe has an order.)

And while we’re objectifying talented people instead of talking about their abilities: gentlemen, if harassed by cries of “Julie Andrews? Mary Poppins?” I recommend this film as an explanatory measure.

andrews emily

I mean, come on.

3 Responses to “The Americanization of Emily (1964) and my wife’s thing for Melvyn Douglas”


  1. Irene Dunne | I Humbly Suggest... - June 29, 2013

    […] makes the two halves of the movie play out in such a satisfying way. And Dunne’s chemistry with Melvyn Douglas is splendid, though in fairness she’s got a lot of solid character folks to work with. This is […]

  2. Looking Forward: And So They Were Married (1936) | I Humbly Suggest... - July 3, 2013

    […] somehow, but it’s on TCM tonight (July 3) at 11:15 p.m. An Elliott Nugent screwball starring Melvyn Douglas and Mary Astor. Which begs the question, “Why am I seeing this for the first […]

  3. Looking Forward: Two-Faced Woman (1941) | I Humbly Suggest... - July 24, 2013

    […] July 25 at 9:30 a.m. as part of a daylong block of “twin” movies), despite its Garbo and Melvyn Douglas pedigree. It always gets such lukewarm reviews when compared with the incomparable Ninotchka that […]

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