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This is perhaps one of the most ambitious, epic WW2 films to have been made;
certainly it is the last of the classic B&W films made about the subject.
Featuring an all-star cast (John Wayne, Richard Burton, Kurt Jurgens... even
a cameo by Sean Connery!), it comprehensively details the build-up and
execution of the Normandy landings in 1944, taking care to show how the
event was perceived by Allied and Axis soldiers and commanders, as well as
the Free French resistance. This is a film that takes great care in
documenting the events of the day, without lapsing into sickly
sentimentalism or getting distracted with fictional characters' personal
lives (a failing of many WW2 movies since about 1970), or over-emphasising
any one nation's importance in the operation (although, admittedly,
Canadians may feel a little short-changed).
Classic moments abound, notably the landing at St.Mere-Eglise and the soldier who gets caught in the church steeple, the frustrations of the front-line German commanders and fighters, and the numerous cameos for film nerds to keep track of.
If you want a wartime romance, or an appearance by Matt Damon or Ben Affleck, or long, loving shots of the Stars & Stripes in slo-mo, or a gritty blood'n'guts fest, you'll be disappointed. This film has broader concerns, and was made with much more thoroughness. There is no agenda at work here, pro-war or anti-. It is solely concerned with documenting Operation "Overlord" for the film-going public, and succeeds brilliantly; a shame then, that it has not made the top 50 war films list.
A must-see for any fan of war films.
I'm old enough to have seen this epic when it was first released and,
even as a nine year old, I was impressed. It was the great Daryl
Zanuck's last hurrah and a fitting one (not his last film - just his
last worthwhile film).
This is a great film. It's not perfect but its faults are few and minor. For me the most glaring fault is the amateurish delivery by the actor (a near ringer) portraying Ike. Also, the very beautiful actress portraying the French resistance fighter is wearing a very 1960s hairdo (a common problem with Hollywood films).
I see this film every memorial day. It helps me to remember my father, a Navy gunner's mate in the Pacific theater and my maternal grandfather, an island-hopping Sgt. in the Marine Corps. Personally, as a veteran, I find this movie as realistic as I think it was possible to be in 1961.
Is it the best American war film? No. I would place it in the top 10 alongside the following:
1. All Quiet On the Western Front (1930) 2. Platoon (1986) 3. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) 4. In Which We Serve (British - 1943) 5. Patton (1970) 6. They Were Expendable (1945) 7. Twelve O'Clock High (1949) 8. Paths of Glory (1957) 9. Grand Illusion (1940?) 10.The Longest Day (1962)
The Longest Day is one of the greatest war films ever. Bar none. The acting, the cinematography, the storline and the acuraccy are great. if any of you fans watch AMC watch the Backstory behind this movie. It's amazing that it was even made. This is Zanuck's greatest work. The perspective from the different combatants regardless of their rank is great. Like somebody else said it did not portray the Germans as cartoonish evil doers. It gave a good honest portrayal that I wish more war movies would have. As a history buff I love to see movies from other countries soldier perspectives. This captures it better than every other war movie. The only one that comes close is Tora, Tora, Tora. There is one drawback however and that is the rangers at Pointe De Hoc. They did find the big guns but,they were further inland and later destroyed before they could be used. Zanuck used this to show the futility and waste of war. Other than that is a classic with very few flaws. The comparison between SPR and TLD are well like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, SPR has gritty realism that stuns you, but like another reviewer said, this was 1962 and the movie was about the entire scope of the battle. It was not meant to be up close and personal like SPR. Many of us appreciate movies from different perspctives. This is not a movie you should not rent. You should own it as part of your video collection. This movie may appear to be pro-war and patriotic, but Zanuck himself said he wanted to make an anti-war film. I think he did so magnificantly. He captured the essence of the book where Cornelius Ryan said he wrote about the men,not the battles. That is why Zanucks film is so successful. He captured the men and their feelings, whether they were American, British,German's or French and what they were feeling going into one WW2's most decisive battle. This is a Four Star Classic!!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The Longest Day' is June 6, 1944, the day the Allied assault on
Hitler's Fortress Europe... And when it came everything went much
according to plan... But fighting through the tough country of Normandy
took much longer than had been expected...
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the four-star Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, made up the force of some two million men massed in England for the strike at Europe...
Combined American, British, Irish and Canadian forces assault the beaches of Normandy in an effort to gain a foothold on the continent... From the viewpoint of the Americans and Germans involved, the story unfolds through numerous episodes highlighting the 'Longest Day.' We see the commands posts occupied by the Germans; Caen, the starting point; the French underground network; Omaha Beach; Utah Beach; Ste-Mère-Église; as well as sites and camps in England...
The film is a clear examination of D-Day looked at from almost every viewpoint, particularly from that of the Germans who are overwhelmed by the forces brought against them... It is in fact Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (profiled against the French beach thoroughly planted with mined obstacles) who looks out to where the invasion fleet will appear later-or sooner, and gives the film its title: "The first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive... For the Allies as well as the Germans, it will be the longest day."
In the first half, much attention is focused on the weather, as the troops... American, British, Irish, Canadian and French are poised on board their boats and ships, waiting for the rain to stop... In the key scene when Gen. Eisenhower (David Grace), makes the decision to go ahead with the invasion on June 6, more than 5,000 ships moved to assigned positions... The importance of time is emphasized by increasing the ticking of a clock... On the other side of the channel, the German generals, who know the invasion is imminent, see the same nasty weather and decide to take some time off for war games...
French Resistance fighters receive their coded instructions from BBC radio and increase their sabotage activities... Much of the early going is also devoted to some of the Allies' more unorthodox ideas, the kinds of things that make more sense cinematic ally than militarily: the use of metal clickers by paratroopers for identification, and parachuting mechanical dummies loaded with firecrackers behind German lines to create confusion...
The film reaches its peak when the two sides in the battle are finally engaged...
The first assault wave hit the Normandy beaches at 6:30 A.M. on June 6... The soil of France looked sordid and uninviting... Planning has been as complete as possible, but in the vast confusion of invasion under enemy fire, so many men fell uselessly when they left their landing craft, and stepped into water... Others fell into underwater shell craters and drowned...
The Allied air bombing that was to have knocked out German beach defense guns had not been accurate, especially on Omaha Beach where the bombs had been laid down too far inland to do much good... As a result, the gunfire that met American troops there was more murderous than anything they had been prepared for..
Today it is difficult to watch the invasion scenes and not compare them to the opening of Steven Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan,' but that really is unfair... Zanuck manages to display the image of thousands of young soldiers who were killed fighting to liberate France...
A long aerial shot from the point of view of a German pilot Josef 'Pips' Priller (Heinz Reincke) strafing Normandy Beach reveals a shore-line of successive waves of men running for their lives trying to secure Omaha Beach... This awful waste and destruction of war: scores of trucks and boats hit by shells, or sunk by mines with their crew lost... Trucks overturned and swamped, partly sunken barges, and many jeeps half submerged...
Field Marshal Rommel set to work to do everything possible to make the beaches if not impregnable, very uninviting indeed... 'The war will be won or lost on the beaches,' he states... The German command was slow to react to the invasion... They had been misled by the weather and the Allied deception plan that Normandy was a diversion and the main landing would be at Pas-de-Calais...
Shot in CinemaScope and in black-and-white, 'The Longest Day' captures the history of the moment... The film tracks the book very closely, shifting the viewpoints from German to French to American to British throughout... In three hours Zanuck and his staff expand on the scope of one day, to tell mostly everything, with an exceptionally strong cast playing cameo roles... The cast could not be better, in spite of the brevity of their roles:
- Bourvil is the French Mayor of Colleville who welcomes the British soldiers with a bottle of champagne...
- Irina Demick is Janine Boitard, the sexy good-looking Resistance member...
- Henry Fonda is Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the Brigadier General who limps ashore with the first of the assault boats landing on Utah Beach...
- Christian Marquand is Philippe Kieffer, the French Commander in desperate situation in Ouistreham...
- Robert Mitchum is Norman Cota, the Brigadier general who chops on his cold cigar, and walks along the beach and rallies his men... Mitchum gets some great lines and delivers them with the right amount of idealism and cynicism...
- Richard Todd is John Howard, the major who lands by glider at Bénouville to capture the canal bridge over the Orne River...
All the characters speak in their own languages... The motion picture is Winner of two Academy Awards for Cinematography and Special Effects, Zanuck's 'The Longest Day' is one without doubt an absolutely remarkable film, one of the most impressive and most authentic documentation of war ever put on film...
Darryl F. Zanuck's THE LONGEST DAY is indeed long, has over 48 international
stars, 3 directors, and took about 2 years to make. 1962 was the year of
the epic as far as the 1960's were concerned and this exceptional film is no
exception. No cost was spared. Some good war sequences mixed with stock
footage of WWII effectively present a version of D-Day, June of 1944. We
see it from the German perspective (in sub-titles), the American plight, and
the rest of the Allied forces. One problem: If you are seeing the film for
the first time AFTER watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, you may come out
disappointed. The war scenes are well-crafted, however, the piercing
reality is missing. I tried to watch it as objectively as I could, but it
is hard, considering the impression Spielberg's version of D-Day left on
The soldiers are led by a variety of huge name actors. John Wayne is a no-holds-barred Captain who will fight, broken foot or not. Henry Fonda plays Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. looking not to be treated as the son of an ex-president. Bob Mitchum is great as a cigar-smoking officer of the U.S. raid on Omaha Beach. The only problem is authenticity. The actors look good and realisticly war-like, however, they are kept in frame to showcase their talents and they never seem to be near death. This is by no means an anti-war film like RYAN. It can be harrowing at times, but watching Richard Burton, Sean Connery, and Rod Steiger deliver cameo-like performances (meaning they know they are only on-screen for a short time) was a bit contrived and distracting.
Overall, I did like the movie. It is greatly detailed and it lets you know exactly who each actor is playing. This is pure American propaganda, but it is still exciting. Too many fearful war experiences are handled with kid gloves. The grand spectacle of the top-notch production values as well as non-stop action make the picture watchable, if only once.
RATING: 7 of 10
True, the first half an hour of Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" is truly mesmerizing but then it degenerates into a soap opera of sorts and all the angst and horror of war evaporates until the truly sentimental finale. "The Longest Day" doesn't depend on special effects but on the minute by minute horror of its moment. It's also, if I'm permitted to say it, a lot of fun to watch. Strangely enough the all star cast is not distracting at all. It was much more in "Saving Private Ryan" with a cast of up and comings headed by Tom Hanks himself. In "The Longest Day" there are real moments, film, cinematic moments that are intimately connected with the profoundest sense of drama: The clicking of the rifle. Richard Burton, Richard Beymer and the boots of the dead German. Red Buttons hanging from the Cathedral. Paul Anka, Fabian, Robert Wagner, the landing in Normandy. This film remains one of the best, from every angle, films of its kind.
Invariably compared with "Saving Private Ryan" (SPR), this scores over the
more modern work because of the focus on all the major sides of the action
(British, American, French and German).
All languages are used (with subtitles as appropriate - eg the Germans speak in German, etc).
While true that the battle scenes are not gory as SPR's, and that the sounds of battle are muted during the dialog (unlike SPR's), it should be borne in mind that in '62, the audience rating of the time *was* a General Release ("G" in the US, "A" in the UK (I'm guessing for the UK, but it is now PG)) - which more detail would not have allowed.
I think part of the purpose of this film is to allow *everyone* to see what happened 18 years before!
This was an another one of these all-star casts that you don't see in
more modern times, in which about everyone who was actor made an
appearance....or it just seems that way. For those unfamiliar with this
film, take a look back on the main page here and check out the famous
names in this movie. Click the "more" under the cast overview and
you'll see all the names. It's unbelievable. Some of them, to be fair,
had very short roles in here, such as Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger and
Roddy McDowell, but this is a real "Who's Who" of the acting profession
in 1962. There are also a lot of German actors in here speaking German
(with subtitles provided), perhaps numbering even more than the
English-speaking stars. That's because the famous day of June 6, 1944,
is seen from both sides of the conflict.
At three hours, it gives you plenty of D-Day World War II action. Almost two-thirds of the movie involves action from that famous invasion. In some spots, it just gets to be too much. Frankly, the whole film is too much and almost bogs down in too many areas....and it shouldn't, but it is a very technical film. And, for a film 45 years old, the action is pretty realistic. I thought the best shots were the overheads during one particular scenes when the Alies were going through a town.
I am anything but a WWII expert so how much detail of the infamous 'D-Day" here is correct, Since they went into such detail, I'll assume they were fairly accurate. I can't say but this movie educated me on the size of the task. I had no idea "D-Day" was this huge in scope: three million men and 5,000 ships??!!! Amazing.
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.
Despite being a classic war movie THE LONGEST DAY is very flawed as a
production . Did someone say there's just too many stars in this movie
? If so I agree . Look at the way they're introduced , Mister big name
movie star has back to camera , he turns round and wow we're looking at
a big name movie star . All this is somewhat distracting .
It should also be pointed out that many of the cast are let down by Corneilus Ryan's script . Ryan wrote the definitive account of the last year of the war via his trilogy THE LONGEST DAY , A BRIDGE TOO FAR and THE LAST BATTLE , he was a truly great historian but it's obvious he couldn't master the technicalities of screen writing , his characters are more like caricatures with the Americans all being butch and macho while the Europeans are somewhat eccentric save for a few Englishmen who have stiff upper lips . Like HG Wells with THINGS TO COME Ryan writes dialogue that sounds suspiciously like thought processes , an example being where the rangers fight their way into a bunker only to find it's a decoy and someone says " You mean we came all the way up here for nothing ? " . You can almost imagine the passage in the book saying " it was obvious to the men who had survived the battle , so obvious that no one dare say it but they'd fought their way to the bunker for nothing "
Despite that I will congratulate Ryan and everyone else involved in the production for pointing out that the 6th of June was a multi national effort to free Western Europe from the Nazi jackboot , Brits , Yanks and the Free French are represented ( Not sure about the Canadians but ? ) unlike the rather overrated SAVING PRIVATE RYAN that seems to indicate that D Day was an American solo effort THE LONGEST DAY is far more accurate and subjective as to what happened on the day . The script also has the temerity to suggest that the allies didn't win the battle but the Nazis lost due to the military incompetence of Hitler . It should be remembered that despite the overwhelming fire power of the allies they could have easily have been massacred on the beaches and that the Normandy landings was probably the most complicated military endeavor in all of military history
A word of warning - If you ever watch this movie only see the widescreen version because the technical aspects are awesome . The outstanding scene is where a few Americans sit on a bunk playing cards and one of them stands up pleading " Hey guys , anyone got five bucks , ten bucks , anyone got twenty bucks " . At this point the camera quickly pans out and the sound crashes in making the audience realize that the scene is set in a billets with hundreds of soldiers . Needless to say this scene is totally ruined when it's watched on a scanned copy
THE LONGEST DAY is a flawed film but a great tribute to the men who fought in that campaign . As the veterans who fought there gather tomorrow for the 60th anniversary along with politicians who didn't have the guts to join the military but are very happy to use it for political gain I'd just like to say a big thank you to all the men who fought there . Thank you to one and all . If it weren't for you I wouldn't be here now
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