The Longest Day: D-Day Marks 80th Anniversary

Two-time Oscar-winning The Longest Day is an epic film that recreates D-Day and the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944.

The Allied invasion on D-Day marked a turning point during World War II. Less than a year later, the war in Europe would be over. I have my own feelings on the invasion coming too late in the war but that’s another story. In any event, landing at Normandy would get the Allied forces closer to defeating Hitler. I am of the generation that grew up with Saving Private Ryan and its epic recreation of the landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. But for others, they came to experience D-Day through watching films such as this one, which arrived just over 18 years after the invasion. My G-d, there are so many stars: 42 international stars if you believe the poster. A number of actors in the film also served during the war.

Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki are credited for their directing while Gerd Oswald and Darryl F. Zanuck are uncredited. Oswald handled the parachute drop scenes into Sainte-Mère-Église while Zanuck took care of a pick-up scenes. With the many battle scenes, one can definitely see why Zanuck brought on multiple directors.

In terms of casting, John Wayne was too old to portray Lt. Col. Benjamin H. Vandervoort. I can understanding wanting a legendary actor like Wayne in the cast but he was ten years older than Lt. C0l. in real life. Charlton Heston actively pursued the role but even then, you get into age differences. Heston was six years younger than the Army officer, who was 27 when D-Day took place. He would still be too old for the role but at least he was younger than Wayne. Similarly, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower offered to portray himself but today’s de-aging technology did not exist and that era’s makeup team can only do so much for black-and-white movies.

The D-Day attack includes 3,000,000 men, 11,000 planes and 4,000 ships. At the time, it marked the largest armada in world history. Chances are likely that we’ll never see the likes of it again. The Oscar-winning black-and-white cinematography captures a good amount of the activity, switching POVs between Americans, British, French, and Germans throughout the three-hour run-time. One interesting choice about the film is to film it with a docudrama approach. I will say that a positive of this is providing captions with people’s names throughout. It’s a very lengthy film and there are a lot of people involved!

As the film starts, the German High Command knows that an invasion is imminent but they don’t know when. Back in Britain, the weather forecast leads Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of SHAEF, to give the go-ahead for the Normandy invasion. Ahead of the sea invasion, paratroopers arrive by air to secure Pegasus Bridge. On the ground, the French Resistance and SOE do their part in infiltration and sabotage. As they all do their part, the German commanders are in something of a state of confusion because they were expecting the Allied forces to land at the Strait of Dover. You have Operation Fortitude to thank for that–General George Patton’s placement with FUSAG gave credibility to the deception.

Of the five beach landings at Normandy, Omaha Beach was one that gave forces a good amount of trouble. If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, you probably have a good idea of what happens after they land. Eventually, the Allied Forces make their way inland. But for the Allied forces who died during their attack, their sacrifices will forever be remembered.

The Longest Day is an ambitious film and it shows in its efforts to recreate the Normandy invasion on D-Day.

DIRECTORS: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, Darryl F. Zanuck, Gerd Oswald
SCREENWRITERS: Cornelius Ryan; Additional Episodes: Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall & Jack Seddon
CAST: Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Richard Beymer, Hans Christian Blech, Bourvil, Richard Burton, Wolfgang Büttner, Red Buttons, Pauline Carson, Sean Connery, Ray Danton, Irina Demick, Fred Dur, Fabian, Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Gert Fröbe, Leo Genn, John Gregson, Peter Helm, Werner Hinz, Donald Houston, Jeffrey Hunter, Karl John, Curt Jürgens, Alexander Knox, Peter Lawford, Fernand Ledoux, Christian Marquand, Dewey Martin, Roddy McDowall, Michael Medwin, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Kenneth More, Richard Münch, Edmond O’Brien, Leslie Phillips, Wolfgang Preiss, Ron Randell, Madeleine Renaud, Georges Riviere, Norman Rossington, Robert Ryan, Tommy Sands, George Segal, Jean Servais, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd, Tom Tryon, Peter Van Eyck, Robert Wagner, Richard Wattis, Stuart Whitman, Georges Wilson, and John Wayne

20th Century Fox released The Longest Day in theaters on October 4, 1962. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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