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William Bradford Huie: Hartselle author
William Bradford Huie
Hartselle author

Lecture explores author's relevance through film

By Andrea Brunty · 340-2448

In 1964, William Bradford Huie rented Princess Theatre in Decatur for a gala screening of "The Americanization of Emily," a movie based on his novel of the same name.

Monday, "Bill Huie and Hollywood," a Princess lecture, brings an encore showing of the film at the theater at 7 p.m.

Before the 93-minute film begins, Carol Puckett of Decatur will briefly discuss Huie and some of the seven of his 23 books that were made into movies. Afterward, she will be available for a question-and-answer session.

Puckett, who is writing a biography on the famous author, chose to show the war-time movie because she thought it best represented who the Hartselle man was. The subject matter of soldiers at war remains relevant in today's world, she said.

"I want people in Decatur and Morgan County to just get to know the incredibly prolific author ... who was one of them," Puckett said.

Huie, a sixth-generation Morgan Countian, spent most of his career as a freelance writer for major magazines published in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, she said.

The investigative journalist pursued such history-making events as the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi, the execution of Ernie Slovik for cowardice during World War II, and the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.

His fiction novels became a reflection of stories he previously researched for nonfiction work, she said.

The first time Puckett saw the film she didn't realize it was adapted from Huie's book. The "highly entertaining" movie, which stars James Garner and Julie Andrews, inspired her to search out his other novels.

"It had a profound impact on me," she said. "In this work, as in all of his works, (Huie) showed that nothing is ever black and white."

Usually, Huie tackled serious topics, and "he always displayed more irony than humor" in his writing, Puckett said.

Paddy Chayefsky chose to develop a comedic, satirical tone with his screenplay of "The Americanization of Emily," which was directed by Arthur Hiller.

Garner plays a WWII naval officer who is a self-described coward. He falls in love with Andrews, an English war widow, but she dislikes his U.S.-bred egotism. Meanwhile, Garner's admiral decides the first man to die on D-Day must be a sailor, and Garner becomes a hero in spite of himself.

Though the screenwriter took "interesting liberties" with the novel, Huie always said he liked the movie, Puckett said. Both Garner and Andrews have said their roles in the film were career favorites.

The core of the novel remains a semi-autobiographical account of Huie's war experiences in the Navy in the months leading to the D-Day invasion.

Huie thought "war was a human foible and war was the last worst answer," she said.

Though he had a "great love of country and a great sense of duty, he did not always think that our leaders made the right decisions," Puckett said.

The writer actively searched for hopeful things, she said, though he was infuriated by hypocrisy in the world.

"Bill Huie was very aware that when you think in absolutes, that's a dangerous way to think," she said.

“He certainly is able to always realize that we all live in the gray area — whether we want to admit it or not.”

Carol Puckett is distantly related by marriage to Huie’s late wife, Ruth Puckett. Her husband’s father is the son of G.W. Puckett, who is Ruth’s cousin. Ruth was the childhood sweetheart of Huie and they married in 1935.

When Puckett wanted to learn more about Huie, she couldn’t find a biography, so she decided to write one herself. Puckett is in the research stages of the process.

What people might be surprised to learn about Huie is that he remained the person who was forged in Morgan County, she said.

“Everything he did from the time he started writing was just almost a straight line in sight into his character,” she said.

The author held onto his Southern roots, and when his wife decided she wanted to move back home, “he was happy to be in Hartselle where everything was familiar,” she said.

Toward the end of his career, Huie explored his reflective side and woke up every morning to write. He did this until he died at age 76 in 1986.

“He always realized that he was a loner, and that he had taken a very solitary occupation,” she said.

The Princess lecture series is a partnership with Calhoun Community College and Bank Independent. Tickets are $10 or $5 for students and teachers.

Call 340-1778 or visit

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