"There's two kinds of men on this beach. The ones who have died and the ones who are going to die."
For many years I've had the notion of watching THE LONGEST DAY (1962) on June 6th. Today was the day I finally did it. I also hope to watch YANKEE DOODLE DANDY on July 4th and TORA! TORA! TORA! on December 7th this year. I'll let you know if I succeed.
Cornelius Ryan's historical account of D-Day, THE LONGEST DAY, became in instant bestseller when it was published in 1959 and the film version was produced in 1962, just eighteen years after the invasion of France. I didn't see the film when it was first released but I always had an urge to try and read the book when I was a youngster, even though I knew it would be a lot of material to absorb. I never did read the book (but I do have a copy of it on my WWII bookshelf) and I finally got around to seeing the film uncut (TCM?) on television several years ago. Today was the first time I'd watched the film since. It's a truly epic war movie, staggering in scope and attention to detail and historical accuracy. It tells the story of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944 and it tells that story from both points of view: the Allies and the German high command. I like the fact that the scenes featuring German and French speaking actors and actresses are subtitled. It adds to the authenticity of the film.
With a running time of 178 minutes, THE LONGEST DAY is an almost minute-by-minute depiction of the invasion and it covers a lot of ground (literally and narratively). There are the British gliders that land behind enemy lines in the night, the U.S. paratroopers who land all over the place, the beach landings at Omaha, Utah, Gold-Juno and Pointe du Hoc, a daring French raid against a harbor town, etc. The action cuts back and forth from all of these theaters of combat (and scenes of confusion and incredulity at the German high command) skillfully and smoothly. There's never any confusion about where and when and with whom the various narrative threads are occurring. Credit for this masterful job of direction goes to several men: Ken Annakin (British and French exteriors), Andrew Marton (American exteriors), Gerd Oswald (parachute drop scene), Bernhard Wicki (German scenes) and producer Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited). The action sequences are all extremely well staged and there are several sustained aerial tracking shots that are simply breathtaking.
The cast is comprised of all-star actors from both sides of the Atlantic and includes John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Eddie Albert, Curt Jurgens, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Rod Steiger, Gert Frobe, Edmond O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Robert Wagner, Fabian, Sal Mineo, Stuart Whitman, Steve Forrest and Kenneth More.
THE LONGEST DAY cost $7.75 million to produce and every penny of that budget is on the screen. With an unforgettable theme by Maurice Jarre, THE LONGEST DAY ranks as one of the greatest war movies ever made. I was thoroughly enthralled by this magnificent film and I strongly suggest that every American should see it at least once in his or her life. I shed a tear (more than one) at the end of this film. It's a stirring re-creation of a day in history in which the fate of the world hung in the balance and it's a tribute to the fighting men who paid the ultimate price in that battle. I hope I'm able to watch this movie every June 6th (if possible) for many years to come.