“I’ve had it with heroes. Every man I’ve loved has died in this war.”
During World War II, a military adjutant (James Garner) tasked with keeping a Navy admiral (Melvyn Douglas) happy on the home front falls in love with a widowed chauffeur (Julie Andrews) who has mixed feelings about Garner’s access to rationed goods and his cynical insistence on keeping himself out of harm’s way. When Douglas has a nervous breakdown and insists that a film be made of the first Naval officer to die during D-Day, Garner is pressured by his buddy (James Coburn) to take part; but will Garner follow orders or save his own skin — and how will Andrews feel about his choice?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- James Coburn Films
- James Garner Films
- Julie Andrews Films
- Keenan Wynn Films
- Melvyn Douglas Films
- Mental Breakdown
- Widows and Widowers
- World War II
Paddy Chayefsky wrote the ultra-cynical script for this film in which, as DVD Savant writes, “War may be Hell, but… its glorification is a worse obscenity.” Garner plays a self-professed proud coward whose primary goal is to stay alive while the machinery of war works its lethal way around him. Andrews — in her second movie role, just after Mary Poppins (1964) and before The Sound of Music (1965) — is appropriately wary of Garner at first, but soon decides she’d rather enjoy a fling than continue to mourn the string of heroes she’s lost in her life (including not just her husband, but her father and brother as well). Unfortunately, the presentation of “dog-robbing” in the military is so blatantly womanizing that it’s hard to stomach, as women are literally objectified and treated as “procurement” for officers (complete with happy willingness to dye their hair and offer sex in exchange for chocolates, drink, and dresses); a running gag has Garner walking in on Coburn as he’s bedding various beautiful women, all positioned as brainless and vapid. Level-headed Andrews is presumably meant to be the counter-balance to this portrayal, but Chayefsky ultimately has her give in and agree she “shouldn’t be a prig”. Meanwhile, hearing dialogue like, “Do the Russians still like their girls short, fat, and reactionary?” becomes not only tiresome but radically unfunny. With that said, the rest of the narrative does eventually pay off, to an extent; but the road to get there — while expertly filmed, especially during the D-Day sequences — isn’t worth it.
Note: Another minor irritant, as pointed out by DVD Savant, is “the women’s hairstyles: Andrews, [Liz] Fraser and all of Garner’s good-time motor pool girls have poofy 1964 big-hair hairdos … there’s little or no period feeling.”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Philip Lathrop’s cinematography
No, though film fanatics may want to check out beautiful Andrews in one of her earliest roles.