The Longest Day

LongestStrand

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, a fitting time say I to memorialize Hollywood’s greatest D-Day testament pre-Private Ryan, 1962’s The Longest Day.

I had never heard of this somewhat strange movie until I came across it on TMC a few years ago. The most expensive black and white picture before Schindler’s List, it’s a careful retelling of the Normandy Invasion from the perspective of all sides, using American, English, French and German actors, the French and Germans speaking in their native tongues with subtitles (a technique later borrowed for films about the Pacific theatre like Midway (1976) and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) .

Like How the West was Won, released that same year, the film boasts several directors and so many stars that it nearly makes itself ridiculous: not only top of the marquee talent like John Wayne…

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 Henry Fonda

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Robert Mitchum…

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Richard Burton

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Rod Steiger…

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Robert Ryan…

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and a pre-Bond Sean Connery…

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but also kitschy pseudo-stars like Roddy McDowell…

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Richard Beymer, Paul Anka,Peter LawfordRed ButtonsGeorge Segal, and Fabian. The seriousness of purpose combined with the odd hodgepodge of star presence is reminiscent of the We Are The World video, only with Nazis (one of whom is played by Curd Jurgens, better known for playing the title character in Goldfinger). So devoted to accuracy were the makers of the film that they included among their advisors a former German general. One wonders if he walked around the set in jodhpurs, wielding a riding crop? In any case, the ghost of DeMille was smiling on this well-meaning, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production. It’s an earnest tribute to one of America’s proudest days.

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2 comments

  1. I remember seeing this pic when it came out…the family at a drive in on LI…imagine a 3 hr b/w flick with a packed car…and a thunderstorm raging outside! They had to stop and pause the movie because of lightning! I best remember RED BUTTONS as a parachutist who got caught in a tree and was shot and killed. At the time, all I knew of Buttons was as a stand up on Sullivan or singing/dancing on other variety shows but he’s acted in hundreds of tv shows and even got an Oscar for the Poseidon Adventure. I’ve seen Longest Day several times since then…still one of the best WW2 movies.

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