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THE LONGEST DAY (1962)

The product of four directors (including an uncredited John Wayne) and an all-star ensemble cast, this Oscar-winning war epic, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, tells the story of the allied invasion of France on D-Day. Filmed on the beaches of Normandy, The Longest Day tells the story from both Allied and Axis points of view. The huge cast, led by John Wayne, Sean Connery, Robert Mitchum and Henry Fonda, is an embarrassment of riches, and took home Academy Awards for Cinematography and Special Effects. .

With "The Longest Day," the Directors, Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki made one of the best World War 2 movies ever.

The dream cast includes: John Wayne, Richard Burton, Rod Steiger, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Peter Lawford, Robert Wagner, and many others, including a young Sean Connery.

THE LONGEST DAY was nominated for the Best Picture award.

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"This is the day that changed the world... When history held its breath."

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Darryl F. Zanuck's "The Longest Day," was a real labor of love, dedicated to depict an important turning point in World War 2. The basic story involves the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War 2, and what the Germans were doing as well. It is June,1944, in England. The Normandy beaches will be the Allies destination while paratroopers are dropped inland to take key towns and bridges, some more successful than others.

The screenplay and the book that it was based on, were both written by D Day participant, Cornelius Ryan, who was actually present at the invasion, as a 24-year-old reporter. He takes great pains to present an accurate rendition of how the Longest Day unfolded for both sides of this conflict. With its big cast, and long running time, the elaborate behind the scenes events, leading up to and including the invasion, are fascinatingly presented. It is thought of as being a modern war classic. While lacking in the realism of showing blood and guts, all the drama, pain, tragedy and victory of war is evident in this colossal effort, that took two years to film. (Hoards of soldiers are shown in one scene running on the beach, as many are shot dead). Heroism is celebrated and appreciated in the men who participated.

For the Allied side, it tells the story of 5 different Allied invasion drop points, that made up the overall Allied attack plan, establishing "the reasons, the strategy and tactics, and in some cases, the utter foolishness." Meanwhile, "back at the ranch," the German side of the story is also told. This classy picture makes good use of actors speaking German, coupled with English sub-titles. This does much to enhance the reality of certain scenes. The attention to all the exhaustive preparations made by the Allies before this massive attack, and what the Germans were thinking / doing at the same time, makes this a very interesting film. Germans were portrayed as human beings, doing what they thought was honorable and right, not just cartoon villainous bad guys.

The various battle sequences are superbly filmed. The stars who took part in the restaging of the invasion found it physically demanding. Robert Mitchum was required to leap out of a landing craft, and race 2,000 yards up the beach, alongside real soldiers being used as extras, being careful to avoid 97 marked explosive charges. Also as part of the assault team that took Point Du Lac, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka, Fabian and Tommy Sands actually had to climb up a 9 story high cliff, right along with trained U.S. Rangers. One can see why this vigorous mountain climb took 12 days.

This sprawling, three hour movie sports 48 international stars. While Bigger isn't always better, in this case it is. Besides Cornelius Ryan, some of those involved in the production were actually in the real D- Day battle. It was filmed only 20 years after the real event. All the performances in "The Longest Day" are good. Red Buttons, John Wayne, and Henry Fonda particularly distinguish themselves. One complaint from some is that the film's stars screen time was too short. However, no one actor is the star of this film, because the focus was on presenting what happened.

John Wayne plays one of his better roles, in the part of Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort, whose battle philosophy is summed up with this quote from the script: "You can't give the enemy a break. Send him to hell." John Wayne plays a focused, determined Lieutenant Colonel who will lead and fight, despite his broken foot. John Wayne can communicate more feeling and emotion in one look than many actors can in a page of dialog. In one powerful scene, one squad of paratroopers was dropped inside a well-defended French town, instead of on the outskirts, which results in many men being machined gunned to death by German soldiers, as their parachutes get caught on poles, buildings. When the John Wayne enters the town after it was liberated in battle, his face expressly shows the bitter rage his character is feeling, at seeing the sickening sight of dead soldiers hanging all over town.

Red Buttons (Private John Steele) is one of lucky paratroopers that isn't killed in the town, as he is hidden behind the church tower. Petrified with terror, he watches helplessly as he sees his buddies being shot as they hang from their parachutes.

Henry Fonda (Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.) plays an officer, who is the son of ex-president Teddy Roosevelt, who doesn't want special treatment, and finds a way to hit the beaches with his men, and becomes a source inspiration for his men.

Despite its length, (3 hours), "The Longest Day" is highly entertaining, offering many unforgettable scenes. My favorite scene takes place late in the film. As a seriously wounded Burton (Flight Officer Captain David Campbell) waits for support troops, he speaks of his life to a lost American soldier. (A dead German soldier lies near them.) "He's dead. I'm crippled. You're lost. Do you suppose it's always like that? I mean war." It's a stirring emotional moment, made especially memorable by his wonderful speaking voice.

The film is a classic because of the excellent cast, epic war scenes, and Oscar wining cinematography and special effects.

Flight Officer David Campbell: "He's dead. I'm crippled. You're lost. Do you suppose it's always like that? I mean war."

If you enjoyed THE LONGEST DAY, you may like
PATTON,
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, A BRIDGE TOO FAR,
and THE GREAT ESCAPE.