LONGEST DAY, THE
(directors: Ken Annakin (British scenes)/Andrew Marton (American)/Bernhard Wicki (German)/Darryl E. Zanuck (Uncredited)/Gerd Oswald (Uncredited); screenwriters: Romain Gary/James Jones/David Pursal/Jack Seddon/Cornelius Ryan/from the book by Cornelius Ryan; cinematographers: Jean Bourgoin/Walter Wottitz; editor: Samuel E. Beetley; music: Maurice Jarre; cast: John Wayne (Lieut. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort), Robert Mitchum (Brig. Gen. Norman Cota), Richard Todd (Maj. John Howard), Red Buttons (Pvt. John Steele), Richard Beymer (Pvt. Dutch Schultz), Robert Ryan (Brig. Gen. James M. Gavin), Mel Ferrer (Maj. Gen. Robert Haines), Henry Fonda (Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt), Paul Anka (U.S. Rangers), Henry Grace (Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower), Peter Lawford (Lord Lovat); Runtime: 180; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl E. Zanuck; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1962)
“Longest film imaginable at three-hours, which proves to be a hinderance.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Doesn’t compare as well when compared to Saving Private Ryan, but in its day was the ultimate epic war film on WWII. It has three directors and two uncredited ones–producer Darryl E. Zanuck and Gerd Oswald. Ken Annakin directs the British scenes, Andrew Marton the American and Bernhard Wicki the German. There were five writers Romain Gary, David Pursal, Jack Seddon, James Jones and Cornelius Ryan; it was based on Ryan’s mammoth best-seller. It features a large international all-star cast (around 48 stars, if I counted correctly). It comes with a lot of bluster and noise and spectacular action scenes. It tells in great detail about the first day of the D-Day landings in Normandy by the Allies on June 6, 1944. Though a sound production with surprisingly good acting and a script that was both intelligent and humorous, it still dishes out the usual wartime clichés and is filled with flag-waving speeches. It’s also the longest film imaginable at three-hours, which proves to be a hindrance.
It’s filmed in black-and-white and told in a semifictionalized documentary form. It did well in the box office, being one of the biggest money making films in 1962. It’s a credit to the film that no character stands out as more significant than anyone else (But who can forget John Wayne as the hard-nosed Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort, a battalion commander in the 82nd Airborne Division who has the most screen time and is a heroic figure as he hobbles through D-Day with a broken ankle using his rifle as a crutch?) It’s an epic film in the very essence of what an epic film is supposed to be. The theme song is written by Paul Anka, who also plays a U.S. army private.
REVIEWED ON 1/20/2006 GRADE: B