Matchup of the Day: The Americanization of Emily VS Paths of Glory
The Americanization of Emily stars James Garner as Lieutenant Commander Charles E. Madison of the United States Navy. His role is that of a “dog robber,” or aide to the admiral who is exceptionally good at acquiring scarce goods. At one time during his military career he served in the Marines, but transferred upon discovering that he was a coward. Madison is not ashamed of being a coward, but rather, in his words, “As long as valor remains a virtue, we shall have soldiers. So, I preach cowardice. Through cowardice, we shall all be saved.” In Paths of Glory, Kirk Douglas plays the idealistic Colonel Dax of the French Army during WWI. As a former attorney, he possesses a strong sense of justice. He is often at odds with his superiors, yet he does his best to go along with their questionable decisions. Dax is most assuredly not a coward.
In both films, Dax and Madison end up in an unfavorable situation due to misguided orders from their superiors. A general commands Dax to capture a German fortification, which is considered impregnable. Madison is given the order to film the Navy Demolition Team landing in Normandy. In Dax’s case, the general in charge of the division seeks a promotion and shows little regard for the lives of his subordinates. When the soldiers fail to even come close to achieving their goal, the general orders three men to be executed for cowardice. Dax is stuck between defending his men, who are innocent, and answering to his superiors. The admiral that Madison works for suffers temporary insanity and comes up with the idea that the first person to die on the beaches of Normandy should be a sailor. Believing that it will be good PR for the Navy, he tells Madison to lead a film crew to document the casualty.
Naturally, being a coward, Madison does everything he can to escape his duty. Still, he ends up in Normandy. He attempts to flee into the ocean when the troop transport reaches the beach, but his gung-ho friend forces him back at gunpoint. A photo is taken of Madison just before gets knocked cold by an explosion. He is presumed dead, though considered a hero for supposedly being the first to storm the beach. The soldiers under Dax, however, are ruled to be cowards in a kangaroo court. They are sentenced to death by firing squad despite exhibiting bravery on the battlefield.
The moral center of The Americanization of Emily is Emily Barham, played by Julie Andrews. She is the antithesis of Madison, whom she deems unprincipled. Emily is drawn to him, nonetheless, because, as she puts it, “Oh,I’ve had it with heroes! Every man I’ve loved has died in this war. You’ll never get caught in the shooting – that’s one thing I’m sure of. You can’t imagine how attractive that makes you to me.” When Madison returns home from Europe, clearly not dead, Emily is relieved. Still, Madison is angered about his hero status and wants to come clean about being a coward. Emily convinces him not to, explaining that war itself is not virtuous, but the bravery and self-sacrifice of those in battle. That contrast exposes the real evil of war.
Paths of Glory
- Global ranking: 58
- Wins 52% of matchups
- 20 users have it at #1
- 401 users have it in their top 20
The Americanization of Emily
- Global ranking: 4427
- Wins 50% of matchups
- 0 users have it at #1
- 2 users have it in their top 20