LOOKING AT WAR: 1964, THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY

This speech has stuck in my mind for 57 years, since I first saw this movie at a theater on Long Island, NY. It has stuck in my mind because it’s a point of view we don’t look at, maybe because it’s so unsettling.

Do we exalt war by exalting its fighters? I don’t have a clear answer and I have thought about this for many years. I agree, to a point. I don’t 100% agree, but the point is very real, that the exaltation of generals and soldiers turns them into near-godlike imaged. I don’t think that is what they want and I don’t think that is what we intend. I think we don’t entirely know how to think about war and those who fight them. Honoring them, but not idolizing them.

I suppose Armistice Day does that to me. I get to thinking about how we have been forever at war and we always have good reasons for the wars we fight, yet we inevitably claim we never intended war. Except obviously, we did want war or why would we have sent men to fight, generals to lead, and spent billions of dollars to support a war and warriors?

I find this thinking complicated. There are many “right” points of view. On some level every point of view is right — and similarly, also wrong. For me, why we fight and why we talk about war so much is a question for which I’ve never found an answer.

I remember being in history classes and realizing that “history” as we present it to kids is memorizing which wars we fought, when, and why. It’s easy to get the first two, but the “why” eludes me. Why do we allow our best and brightest to die — and then rewrite the story because everyone knows the war failed. In my very humble opinion, wars always fail, even if we fight because we have no choice. Every war is a setup for the next.

If you have not seen this movie:

The Americanization of Emily
Unrated • 1964 • Comedy CC
English audio

You absolutely should see this movie. It’s witty, sometimes hilarious, the acting is superb as is the direction. The script — by Paddy Chayefsky who may have been the best scriptwriter to ever grace Hollywood was truly at his peak when he wrote this one. And this was Julie Andrews first serious (non-singing) role.

How do we banish war if we can’t let it go? If we can’t stop looking for reasons to fight rather than seeking ways to find peace?



Categories: Anecdote, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, War and battles

Tags: , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. I have never seen it. Sounds interesting (besides the clips I just read the Wikipedia article). I remember in the mid-1980s in Isaac Asimov’s magazine of the time him arguing with people about “heroism” (Isaac was very anti-glorifying -war).

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    • This one with that great Chayefsky script, is something special. It has never been a popular movie but it’s really good. Killer dialogue that’s as relevant now as it was when it was made. There are some great back-stories that go with the movie, too. All the actors in it knew they would probably never get a job with a script that good again. They all made little videos about that, but I couldn’t find them this time.

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      • I did read that the two leads thought it was the best movie they made, and when you consider some of the movies they made, particularly Julie Andrews! This is one I’ll have to see some time…

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  2. Adding it to my list!

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  3. I think if you boil down all the excuses, it’s usually about the money.
    But, what do I know.

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  4. I can’t possibly have an opinion to your post but I often discuss war in general with HH and to us it always seems that every war somehow is connected to religion…. As a deeply religious person I don’t say this lightly but there you go.

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    • I think we use “god” to “prove” we are right. Since I’ve never heard God log in on this subject, I think God is the excuse we use for wanting land, power, money, and not in that order, either. We all claim God is on our side, no matter how many sides are fighting. God seems to be on everyone’s side, but God didn’t say “hey guys, let’s have a war!” We do that, then we call on God because we believe OUR war is better than THEIR war.

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  5. I swear I saw The Americanization of Emily in 1964 when I overnighted in New Jersey the night before I got on a boat I’d spend the next four months on for World Campus Afloat. Is it possible that it would still have been playing there? At an rate, I did see it, even if it was earlier, and it had a profound effect.

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    • It had the effect on almost everyone who saw it. We bought a DVD of it a couple of years back because it’s not a movie they show much on TV. GREAT movie and it sticks with you.

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