Tells the story of the D-Day invasion of Normandy in WWII. There are dozens of characters, some seen only briefly, who together weave the story of five separate invasion points that made up the operation. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
The American paratroopers are incorrectly shown jumping with a jumpmaster standing in the plane and commanding them to "Go!" "Go!" one at a time. On D-Day, as on all combat jumps, the jumpmaster was always first out the door, with the rest of the paratroopers following immediately behind him, exiting the plane as fast as they could in order to land as close together as possible. See more »
Simply put if things had gone differently on June 6, 1944 we would be living in a very different and very much uglier world than we have now. The Longest Day is Darryl F. Zanuck's tribute to all who were involved in Allied invasion at Normandy.
Even viewing it now as opposed to the theaters back then back then I am staggered at Zanuck's incredible eye and grasp for the detail of the Normandy invasion. He did the smart thing and not only bought Cornelius Ryan's standard account of D-Day, but got Ryan to write a very coherent screenplay. Even one who has absolutely no grasp of military history will be able to follow exactly what was going on.
Several of the people who are portrayed in the film also served as technical advisers of it. When you Peter Lawford as Lord Lovat or Robert Ryan as General James Gavin and many others these people aided in recreating the project.
Zanuck may have had the largest movie set in history to work with, at least up to that time. You are seeing the film photographed in the places it actually happened. The beaches, the towns of St. Mere Eglise and Ouisterham, even the embarkation areas in the UK. I doubt you could do The Longest Day today because of the changes in all these places now. Lots of cooperation from the British and French governments was necessary.
You also couldn't do it because the budget would be the size of the U.S. national debt today. This was the last days of the all powerful studio system and even with a lot of the stars free-lancing at that point, Darryl F. Zanuck was still a most powerful man in Hollywood with a lot of favors owed. One example was Richard Burton who was shooting Cleopatra at the time The Longest Day was also shooting. For his two brief, but memorable scenes as an RAF pilot, they shot around him on Cleopatra also a 20th Century Fox production while he filmed his part for Zanuck.
Even the Germans came in for a portrait of them as human beings. Curt Jurgens as General Blumentritt, who was also a technical adviser, put it philosophically best about how after he can't convince Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl to wake up Hitler to move the Panzer Divisions, breaks open a bottle of cognac and decides to drink it before the Allies arrive.
I have several favorites in The Longest Day. Richard Todd who actually was at D-Day and was a decorated hero himself, plays commando leader, Major John Howard who is asked to paratroop into France and capture and hold a key bridge intact. Todd is channeling his own as well as Howard's war experience into the film and gives a performance of unusual depth.
Norman Rossington and a pre-James Bond Sean Connery who was just making his debut as Bond in Dr. No, give some good comic relief as a cockney and Irish soldier landing on Sword Beach. So does Kenneth More as a British beachmaster with his bulldog Winston.
The French are well represented by Arletty, Bourvil, Christian Marquand and by Irina Demich. Being that three of these play civilian roles they get the only two women's parts of any substance in The Longest Day. I do like the scene where some Germans checking Irina out in a low cut dress, fail to properly search her. Irina also demonstrates how much the women were equal partners in the Resistance. Marquand as a captain of a Free French company is involved in a particularly bloody battle for a coastal town.
Of course the American cinema is well represented. Charlton Heston was to originally play the part that John Wayne does, but he couldn't get free of some commitments of his own and when Wayne became available, Zanuck grabbed him. Heston was later quoted as saying Wayne did a better job than he would have in any event. Wayne's best scene was when he saw some American bodies dangling from roofs in St. Mere Eglise. As I've said many times, John Wayne had one of the best faces for movie closeups ever. One look at the horror expressed in his face tells you all you need to know.
Henry Fonda plays General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. who would within a month after the invasion die on Normandy Beach. Had he lived, Roosevelt might have picked up the pieces of a stalled political career. But that was not to be the case. Roosevelt was found dead of a heart attack in his tent after the invasion when the Allies were trying to break out of the beach.
The heaviest casualties on D-Day were on Omaha Beach where Robert Mitchum plays General Norman Cota a division commander. Mitchum is involved at the climax of the film where American GIS after being hung up for hours, break through and insure the invasion's success.
The Longest Day is not only great drama and a great war film, but it is as accurate a film as you will ever get depicting the Normandy invasion, good history as well.
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