WHEN I first saw The Americanisation of Emily ("X", Empire) I found it enjoyable but baffling. At second sight it is still surprising but unmistakably enjoyable and excellent.
The first person who alerted me to the movie was one of its stars, James Garner. He told me both that it was wholly original and surprising; also that it gave Julie Andrews quite new and surprising scope. Indeed this is the first time my appreciation of Julie Andrews has been entirely positive, Hitherto I . have thought her perfectly cast in "My Fair Lady" on the stage because of a certain heavily lined refinement which made the very most of such items as "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain", suitable again as a governess both in The Sound of Music and in Mary Poppins, for which she won an Oscar in that curious spirit of compensation which sometimes seems to govern the attribution of Motion Picture Awards.
But as a star personality she had always struck me as extremely circumscribed until her wholly surprising performance as a F.A.N.Y. in The Americanisation of Emily. A number of aspects I found baffling about Emily at first sight. It is an American picture debunking numerous American sacred cows like father-figures and staff officers and the whole image of the brave hero. There can seldom be a more determinedly unheroic anti-hero than James Garner's naval commander.
As "dogsbody" to an Admiral (Melvyn Douglas) he is impeccable, a model of efficiency on shore or in keeping his boss comfortable. But his war has been fought on a determined policy of keeping out of every possible danger.
Even when everybody including the admiral is getting wound up to a high pitch before D-Day, Charles sticks to his principles. But he happens upon a girl as determinedly anti-heroic as himself. Emily has lost father, brother and husband in the war. She therefore regards Charles' survival chances as a slightly better risk.
The surprise is that the writing of the screenplay is so excellent (by Paddy Chaevsky) that although at first sight the picture seems almost ribald and so mercurial in its changes of mood that it seems impossible to keep up with, it is really as Mr. Garner first told me—an intensely serious anti-war comment
Another surprise and one of the picture's assets, is the cast of Joyce Grenfell as Emily's slightly potty widowed mother who begins by pretending her husband is still alive. The two actresses pair and set each other off better than most of us would have thought possible.
The unexpected partnership of Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida is together again in Strange Bedfellows ("A", Odeon, Leicester Square). Not their warmest admirer of "Come September", I found this divorce farce (of course culminating in reconciliation) funnier than expected and both stars slightly more able actors than I remembered.
Of course, there is a Lady Godiva interlude, one of the most catastrophic in our national mythology, But until Miss Lollobrigida's white horse takes the bit, so to speak, between his teeth the fun is not bad in a rudimentary way.
Basil Dearden and Michael Ralph have achieved an eminently respectable image, sometimes even a little dull among British film-makers. So the extravagances and absurdities of their entry in the current international agent contest, Masquerade ("U" Leicester Square Theatre) is hardly credible.
Jack Hawkins curiously heads the very mixed-up gang, including British ex-Government agents and a Spanish travelling circus,
I've Gotta Horse ("U", Warner) is one of those cheerful, naif British musicals for teenagers. The animal-loving star is pop-singer Billy Fury, greatly helped by the bright little comedy singer, Amanda Barrie. DURING moments of disillusion with the standards of television which even the most devout telly acolyte feels occasionally, it is sometimes said by way of criticism that the only successful creative work goes into the commercials.
There is unfortunately some truth in this. The object of the commercial is of course to sell the goods, but the technical standards in say the gas or oil advertisements are often very high indeed.
And this is made possible by the rather alarming position that the amount of money made available by a big advertiser to produce a 30-second commercial is often much bigger than the money allocated by the BBC or an ITV company for the production of a one-hour play.
The rewards for the people involved in the production of commercials is also done to an odd scale. A good actor of repute engaged to work on a play for the BBC or ITV might be paid about £200 for his performance involving him in around three weeks' work.
Very, very, few actors could hope to be in rehearsal and acting for more than half the year so that his total annual income if he worked in no other medium would come to about £1,600.
If the same actor were to be a good deal less industrious and made one commercial involving him in say one morning's work in which he had to stand in front of the camera and cry: "Bonzo's dog biscuits arc best" he might earn several thousand pounds from that one commercial due to the royalties he receives every time it was repeated on any station in the ITV network.
There is of course no blame to be attached to the actor, the advertiser or his agency for this state of affairs. The pay and conditions are matters settled in negotiations with the trade unions,
But it is rather a pity that the advertisers find while to put more money into the production vision advertisements than the BBC or ITV production of their programmes. it worth their of their teleput into the I WAS SORRY that no one attempted a programme for Good Friday on television this year. Rediffusion and ATV have in the past produced some outstanding work for this day.
On my ITV channel a repeat of a three-year-old Good Friday meditation at 3 p.m. and a service at 10.30 a.m. were the only programmes designed for the day. The BBC did of course have an outside broadcast on The Way of the Cross planned for the afternoon but again the only special programme in peak viewing hours was the episode of Man Born to be King on the Home Service. Nothing on television.
Even if one accepts the argument that peak hour viewing must basically be entertainment—and not everyone agrees— it is surely not too much to ask that in a nominally Christian country there might perhaps be just one half hour programme during peak hours devoted to the meaning of Good Friday.
PROGRAMMES FOR NEXT WEEK
SATURDAY: 11.25 p.m. (Third)—Talk on the ORTHODOX EASTER, which comes a week later than the Western Easter, 11.45 p.m. (Third)ORTHODOX EASTER VIGIL from the Russian Church of All Saints, Kensington. SUNDAY: 10.30 a.m. (Radio Eireann}-HIGH MASS from the Carmelite House of Studies, Duns!, urn. 6.15 p.m. (ATV)--WoNDERWORLD: Ctsildreses comments on the Twelve Apostles. 6.15 p.m. (BBC-l)--MEETING POINT: Talks with Anglican and Methodist clergy about Christian social service. 6.35 p.m. (ATV)—THE SUNDAY BREAK; Relevance of Christianity to modern life discussed by the Rev. Donald Soper, Methodist, and Mr. David Tribe, president of the National Secular Society. 7.45 pm. (Homo—NEW L1F10 Meditation on the Resurrection by Fr. Gerard Meath, Dominican Provincial for Great Britain.
5.30 p.m. (Light!—SUNDAY HALF HOUR; Community hymn singing from St. Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle,
MONDAY: 5.30 p.m. 0-Iome)—INQUIRY AT LISIEUX: Dramatic account of beatification of St. Therese in 1911.