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Title:The Longest Day
Release Dates:1962
Running Time:178 minutes
Formats: DVD, VHS
Rated:G
Starring:Starring: John Wayne, Sean Connery, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Jeff Hunter, Richard Burton, Curt Jurgens, Robert Ryan
Directed By:Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki
Produced By:Darryl F. Zannuck
Written By:Cornelius P. Ryan (book and screenplay)
Reviewed By:Harold C. Hutchison    Buy it at Amazon.com

The classic war film is often debated. Perhaps the best of these classics is “The Longest Day”, based on the book by Cornelius P. Ryan. Ryan did the screenplay himself, a rarity in today’s film work. It also ensured a very accurate adaptation of the book, which was arguably the premier book on D-Day until Stephen Ambrose’s “D-Day.”

The major people focused here are on the American and British side. Perhaps the face most people will recognize is John Wayne’s portrayal of Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort, a battalion commander from the 82nd Airborne Division, commanded by Brigadier General James Gavin. Perhaps the most stirring performance is Robert Mitchum’s portrayal of the inspiring leadership Brigadier General Norman Cota, the assistant division commander of the 29th Infantry Division on Omaha Beach. Henry Fonda portrays Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who received the Medal of Honor for his performance at Utah Beach.

The operational plan in the movie is pretty close to that of the actual operation. Many of the small details, like the rubber dummies used to fake airborne landings and the crickets used to identify friend from foe by American paratroopers, were used in this film. Some little details were missed (a flight of A-1 Skyraiders flies overhead – a plane that did not enter service until 1946, and the planes used in the German attack on Juno were FW-190s, not the Me-109s the film portrayed). It touches on nearly all of the key parts of D-Day. It cannot cover everything in the space of three hours, but the high points selected (the Orne River bridge assault led by Major John Howard and the American landings at Utah and Omaha beaches, the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, and the airborne attacks, with some coverage of the British landings) are very good choices.

The film even shows the almost comedic elements that come in the chaos of war, particularly in the airborne sequences. There is a chaplain who loses his communion set (featured with the British), and there is also a point where a group of Americans and a group of Germans walk right past each other without exchanging fire.

The film accurately portrays the confusion of the Germans about the whether the invasion was for real or a diversion, and it also shows the relative ease of the attack at Utah (the wrong beach, a fortunate error) compared to Omaha. This film is arguably the standard by which other World War II war movies should be judged by. It tells the story, and does not get distracted with any romantic sub-plot or political preaching. It is available in DVD or VHS from Amazon.com. I highly recommend it – it is arguably the film by which war movies of World War II should be judged.

Buy it at Amazon.com

 



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