[Revised: 21 July, 2014]
I read this morning that the American actor James Garner died yesterday from a stroke at the age of 86. I liked his laid back sardonic characters like the western gambler Bret Maverick and the ex-con private investigator Jim Rockford who preferred to use the barbs of humour rather than violence to overcome his opponents. I remember in one episode of “The Rockford Files” he was driving his car and his passenger pulled out a pistol. Rockford was so affronted by the weapon that he threw it out the window because he refused to use one in his investigations!
In the obits I have been reading the majority do not mention his role as Lieutenant Commander Charlie Madison in Arthur Hiller’s anti-war film “The Americanization of Emily” (1964), or if they do it is only a brief one sentence mention. [See note below about the NYT obit.] Garner said it was his favourite film [Quote: “We knocked war pretty good, and rightly so”]. I used to show a clip of it in my IHS lectures. You can find it here <http://davidmhart.com/liberty/VideoClips/AmericanEmily/AmEmily.html> and other clips here <http://davidmhart.com/liberty/VideoClips/index.html>. The money quote is when Garner/Charlie describes the true nature of war and why it is perpetuated by grieving mothers:
Charlie: I don’t trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It’s always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it’s always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades … we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It’s the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows’ weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices. My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud.
Mrs. Barham: You’re very hard on your mother. It seems a harmless enough pretense to me.
Charlie: No, Mrs. Barham. No, you see, now my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave.
Very few of the obits in the mainstream media mention the film at all let alone this damning passage. I think it is too hot for them or their readers to handle. Garner may well have known what war really was like as he served in Korea, for which he belatedly received a Purple Heart in 1983 for wounds he received in April 1951.
James Garner, Star of ‘Rockford Files,’ ‘Maverick,’ Dies at 86 By Laurence Arnold, Bloomberg News, July 20, 2014. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-20/james-garner-star-of-rockford-files-maverick-dies-at-86.html>
James Garner Dead At 86: Actor Was Star Of Long-Running TV Shows ‘The Rockford Files’ And ‘Maverick’ By LYNN ELBER Posted: 07/20/2014 5:17 am EDT. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/20/james-garner-dead_n_5602956.html>
“The Great Anti-War Films The Americanization of Emily” By Rick Gee, November 14, 2001. Lew Rockwell <http://www.lewrockwell.com/2001/11/rick-gee/the-great-anti-war-films-the-americanization-of-emily/>
Note from 21 July: The NYT obit was two pages long and had this reference to “Emily”:
In 1964 he starred with Julie Andrews in “The Americanization of Emily,” which he called his favorite of all his films. He played the personal attendant of a Navy admiral, a fish out of water and the voice of the movie’s pacifist point of view.
Written by Paddy Chayefsky, it included perhaps the longest and most impassioned speech of his career: “I don’t trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham,” he said, in part. “It’s always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a hell it is. And it’s always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades.”
“James Garner, Witty, Handsome Leading Man, Dies at 86,” By BRUCE WEBER, JULY 20, 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/21/movies/james-garner-actor-dies-at-86.html?hpw&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpHedThumbWell&module=well-region®ion=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0