The Longest Day (film)

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The Longest Day
Original movie poster for the film The Longest Day.jpg
original movie poster
Directed by
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay by
Based on The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan
Music by Maurice Jarre
  • Jean Bourgoin
  • Walter Wottitz
Edited by Samuel E. Beetley
Darryl F. Zanuck Productions, Inc.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • September 25, 1962 (1962-09-25) (France, U.S.)
  • October 4, 1962 (1962-10-04) (Canada)
  • October 23, 1962 (1962-10-23) (Germany, Mexico, UK)
Running time
178 minutes
Country United States
  • English
  • German
  • French
Budget $7.75 million[1]
Box office $50,100,000[2]

The Longest Day is a 1962 war film based on the 1959 history book The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, about D-Day, the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, during World War II. The film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, who paid the book's author Ryan US$175,000 for the film rights.[3] The screenplay was by Ryan, with additional material written by Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall and Jack Seddon. It was directed by Ken Annakin (British and French exteriors), Andrew Marton (American exteriors), and Bernhard Wicki (German scenes).

The Longest Day, which was made in black and white, features a large ensemble cast including John Wayne, Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Steve Forrest, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Jeffrey Hunter, Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Rod Steiger, Leo Genn, Gert Fröbe, Irina Demick, Bourvil, Curt Jürgens, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka and Arletty. Many of these actors played roles that were virtually cameo appearances and several cast members such as Fonda, Genn, More, Steiger and Todd saw action as servicemen during the war, with Todd actually being among the first British officers to land in Normandy in Operation Overlord and participated in the assault on Pegasus Bridge.

The film employed several Axis and Allied military consultants who had been actual participants on D-Day. Many had their roles re-enacted in the film. These included: Günther Blumentritt (a former German general), James M. Gavin (an American general), Frederick Morgan (Deputy Chief of Staff at SHAEF), John Howard (who led the airborne assault on the Pegasus Bridge), Lord Lovat (who commanded the 1st Special Service Brigade), Philippe Kieffer (who led his men in the assault on Ouistreham), Pierre Koenig (who commanded the Free French Forces in the invasion), Max Pemsel (a German general), Werner Pluskat (the major who was the first German officer to see the invasion fleet), Josef "Pips" Priller (the hot-headed pilot) and Lucie Rommel (widow of Erwin Rommel).


The Longest Day is filmed in the style of a docudrama. Beginning in the days leading up to D-Day, the film concentrates on events on both sides of the channel such as the Allies waiting for the break in the poor weather and the anticipation of the Axis forces defending northern France. The film pays particular attention to the decision by General Eisenhower, supreme commander of SHAEF, to go after reviewing the initial bad weather reports as well as the divisions within the German High Command on where an invasion might happen or what response to it should be.

Numerous scenes document the early hours of 6 June when Allied airborne troops were sent in to take key locations. The French resistance is also shown reacting to the news that an invasion has started. The Longest Day chronicles most of the important events surrounding D-Day. From the British glider missions to secure Pegasus Bridge, the counterattacks launched by American paratroopers scattered around Sainte-Mère-Église, the infiltration and sabotage work conducted by the French resistance and SOE agents, and the response by the Wehrmacht to the invasion and the uncertainty to whether it was a feint in preparation for crossings at the Pas de Calais (see Operation Fortitude).

Set piece scenes include the parachute drop into Sainte-Mère-Église, the advance inshore from the Normandy beaches, the US Ranger Assault Group's assault on the Pointe du Hoc, the attack on Ouistreham by Free French Forces and the strafing of the beaches by two lone Luftwaffe pilots.

The film concludes with a montage showing various Allied units consolidating their beachheads before the advance inland begins to liberate France.



Actor Role
Eddie Albert Colonel Thompson, 29th Infantry Division
Paul Anka US Army Ranger
Richard Beymer Private Arthur 'Dutch' Schultz, 82nd Airborne Division
Red Buttons John Steele, 82nd Airborne Division
Mark Damon Private Harris
Ray Danton Captain Frank
Fred Dur US Army Ranger Major
Fabian Forte US Army Ranger
Mel Ferrer Major General Robert Haines
Henry Fonda Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Deputy Commander, 4th Infantry Division
Steve Forrest Captain Harding, 82nd Airborne Division
Henry Grace General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander
Peter Helm Young GI
Jeffrey Hunter Sergeant (later Lieutenant) John H. Fuller
Alexander Knox Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, SHAEF Chief of Staff
Dewey Martin Private Wilder (role cut from released version)
Roddy McDowall Private Morris, 4th Infantry Division
John Meillon Admiral Alan G. Kirk, Senior US Naval Commander
Sal Mineo Private Martini
Robert Mitchum Brigadier General Norman Cota, Assistant Commander, 29th Infantry Division
Edmond O'Brien Major General Raymond O. Barton, Commander, 4th Infantry Division
Ron Randell Joe Williams
Robert Ryan Brigadier General James M. Gavin, Assistant Commander, 82nd Airborne Division
Tommy Sands US Army Ranger
George Segal US Army Ranger
Rod Steiger Destroyer commander
Nicholas Stuart Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, Commander, U.S. First Army
Tom Tryon Lieutenant Wilson, 82nd Airborne Division
Robert Wagner US Army Ranger
John Wayne Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort, Commander, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Stuart Whitman Lieutenant Sheen, 82nd Airborne Division


Actor Role
Patrick Barr Group Captain J. M. Stagg
Richard Burton Flying Officer David Campbell
Bryan Coleman Ronald Callen
Sean Connery Private Flanagan
Leslie de Laspee Private Bill Millin, No. 4 Commando (Piper on Beach)
Frank Finlay Private Coke, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Harry Fowler Paratrooper, 6th Airborne Division
Bernard Fox Private Hutchinson, 3rd Infantry Division
Leo Genn Brigadier Edwin P. Parker Jr.
Harold Goodwin Private, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
John Gregson Padre, 6th Airborne Division
Jack Hedley RAF Briefing Officer
Donald Houston RAF pilot at flight base
Simon Lack Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Commander, Allied Air Forces
Peter Lawford Brigadier Lord Lovat, Commander, 1st Special Service Brigade
Howard Marion-Crawford Glider Doctor
Michael Medwin Private Watney, 3rd Infantry Division
Kenneth More Captain Colin Maud, Royal Navy Beachmaster
Louis Mounier Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander
Leslie Phillips Royal Air Force officer
Trevor Reid General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Commander, Allied Ground Forces
John Robinson Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Commander, Allied Naval Forces
Norman Rossington Private Clough
Richard Todd Major John Howard, Officer Commanding, "D" Company, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Richard Wattis British Paratrooper officer, 6th Airborne Division


Actor Role
Arletty Madame Barrault
Jean-Louis Barrault Father Louis Roulland
André Bourvil Mayor of Colleville
Pauline Carton Maid
Gil Delamare Naval Commando (also the leading stunt director of the film)
Irina Demick Janine Boitard (French Resistance)
Bernard Fresson Naval Commando
Fernand Ledoux Louis
Christian Marquand Capitaine de Frégate Philippe Kieffer, Commander, French Naval Commandos
Madeleine Renaud Mother Superior
Georges Rivière Sergeant Guy de Montlaur
Jean Servais Contre-amiral Jaujard
Georges Wilson Alexandre Renaud


Actor Role
Hans Christian Blech Major Werner Pluskat, 352nd Infantry Division
Wolfgang Büttner Generalleutnant Dr. Hans Speidel, chief of staff, Army Group B
Robert Freitag Meyer's aide
Gert Fröbe Unteroffizier "Kaffeekanne" ("coffee pot")
Paul Hartmann Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, Commander, OB West
Werner Hinz Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, Commander, Army Group B
Karl John Generalleutnant Wolfgang Häger
Curt Jürgens General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt, Chief of Staff, OB West
Til Kiwe Hauptmann Helmuth Lang, Rommel's aide
Wolfgang Lukschy Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, Chief of Staff, OKW
Kurt Meisel Ernst Düring
Richard Münch General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, Commander, LXXXIV Army Corps
Hartmut Reck Bernhard Bergsdorf
Heinz Reincke Oberst Josef "Pips" Priller, Commander, JG 26
Ernst Schröder Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth, Commander, 15th Army
Heinz Spitzner Helmuth Meyer
Wolfgang Preiss Generalmajor Max Pemsel, Chief of Intelligence, 7th Army
Peter van Eyck Oberstleutnant Ocker, Pluskat's commanding officer
Vicco "Loriot" von Bülow Luftwaffe Chief's aide



  • The film was shot at several French locations including the Île de Ré, Saleccia beach in Saint-Florent, Haute-Corse, Port-en-Bessin-Huppain filling in for Ouistreham, Les Studios de Boulogne in Boulogne-Billancourt and the actual locations of Pegasus Bridge near Bénouville, Calvados, Sainte-Mère-Église and Pointe du Hoc.[4]
  • During the filming of the landings at Omaha Beach, the extras appearing as American soldiers did not want to jump off the landing craft into the water because they thought it would be too cold. Robert Mitchum, who played General Norman Cota, became disgusted with their trepidation. He jumped in first, at which point the extras followed his example.
  • The Rupert paradummies used in the film were far more elaborate and lifelike than those actually used for the decoy parachute drop (Operation Titanic), which were actually just canvas or burlap sacks filled with sand. In the real operation, six Special Air Service soldiers jumped with the dummies and played recordings of loud battle noises to distract the Germans.
  • At $10,000,000, this film was the most expensive black-and-white film made until 1993, when Schindler's List was released.[3]
  • In the scenes where the paratroopers land, the background noise of frogs croaking "ribbit ribbit" was wrong for northern French frog species and showed that the film probably used an American recording of background night noises.
  • Colin Maud loaned Kenneth More the shillelagh he carried ashore in the actual invasion, while Richard Todd wore the actual D-Day helmet worn by Major John Howard.
  • In the film, three Free French Special Air Service paratroopers jumped into France before British and American airborne landings. This is accurate. 36 Free French SAS (4 sticks) jumped into Brittany (Plumelec and Duault) on June 5 (11 h 30). The first Allied soldier killed in action was Lieutenant Den Brotheridge of the 2nd Ox & Bucks Light Infantry as he crossed Pegasus Bridge at 0h 22m on 6 June.
  • The United States Sixth Fleet extensively supported the filming and made available many amphibious landing ships and craft for scenes filmed in Corsica, though many of the ships were of (then) modern vintage. The Springfield and Little Rock, both World War II light cruisers (though extensively reconfigured into guided missile cruisers) were used in the shore bombardment scenes, though it was easy to tell they did not resemble their wartime configuration.
  • Gerd Oswald was the uncredited director of the parachute drop scenes into Sainte-Mère-Église. Darryl F. Zanuck said he did some uncredited pick-ups, the American and British interiors.[5]
  • Elmo Williams was credited as associate producer and coordinator of battle episodes. He later produced another historical WWII film Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) for Zanuck. Similar to The Longest Day, it used a docudrama style, though it was in color. It focused on the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.


John Wayne in The Longest Day
  • Charlton Heston actively sought the role of Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin H. Vandervoort but the last-minute decision of John Wayne to take the role prevented Heston's participation. At 55, Wayne was 28 years older than Vandervoort at the time of action (and 10 years older in real life). While everyone else accepted $25,000 as payment, John Wayne insisted on $250,000 to punish producer Zanuck for referring to him as "poor John Wayne" regarding Wayne's problems with his lavish movie The Alamo.[6]
  • Sergeant Kaffeekanne (played by Gert Fröbe)'s name is German for "coffee pot", which he always carries.
  • It is a common misconception that Bill Millin, the piper who accompanies Lord Lovat to Normandy with his bagpipes, played himself in the film. He was actually portrayed by Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother in 1961.[7][8]
  • In Sainte-Mère-Église, Private John Steele from the 82nd Airborne (played by Red Buttons) has been memorialised by the local population with a dummy hanging from a parachute from the church tower on which he accidentally landed.
  • Richard Todd, who played Major John Howard, leader of the British Airborne assault on the Pegasus Bridge, took part in the real bridge assault on D-Day. Todd was offered the chance to play himself but took the part of Major John Howard instead. In the film, shortly after the British have captured the Orne bridge (later renamed Horsa Bridge), one of the soldiers tells Todd, playing Howard, that all they have to do now is sit tight and await the arrival of the 7th Parachute Battalion, to which Todd's character replies dismissively: "the Paras are always late". This was a private joke, as Todd had been the adjutant of the 7th Parachute Battalion on D-Day.
  • Joseph Lowe landed on Omaha Beach and scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day. He repeated the climb for the cameras 17 years later as a serving member of the 505th Airborne Battle Group who provided US Army film extras.
  • Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was considered for the role of himself in the film, and he indicated his willingness. However, it was decided that makeup artists couldn't make him appear young enough to play his World War II self. The role of General Eisenhower went to Henry Grace, a set decorator with no acting experience, but who had been in the film industry since the mid-1930s. He was a dead ringer for the younger Eisenhower, though his voice differed.
  • The film marked the last film appearance of Sean Connery before he was cast in the role of James Bond. Gert Fröbe (Sergeant Kaffeekanne) and Curd Jürgens (General Günther Blumentritt) would later go on to play Bond villains Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger (1964)) and Karl Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)) respectively. Connery would later play Major General Roy Urquhart in the 1977 film A Bridge too Far which was also based on a book by Cornelius Ryan. (Likewise Wolfgang Preiss played Major General Max Pemsel in The Longest Day and Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt in A Bridge too Far.)
  • Mel Ferrer was originally signed to play the role of General James M. Gavin but withdrew from the role due to a scheduling conflict.[4]
  • According to the 2001 documentary Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood, Richard Burton and Roddy McDowall were so bored having not been used for several weeks while filming in Rome, they phoned Zanuck begging to do "anything" on his film. They flew themselves to the location and each did a day's filming for their cameo-performances for free.


The film premièred in France on 25 September 1962, followed by the United States on 4 October and 23 October for the United Kingdom.

There were special release showing of the film in several United States cities. Participants in D-Day were invited to see the film with their fellow soldiers—in Cleveland, Ohio, this took place at the Hippodrome Theater.[citation needed]

Unique for British and American produced World War II films of the time, all French and German characters speak in their own languages with subtitles in English. Another version, which was shot simultaneously, has all the actors speaking their lines in English (this version was used for the film's trailer as all the Germans deliver their lines in English). However this version saw limited use during the initial release. It was used more extensively during a late 1960s re-release of the film.

The English-only version has been featured as an extra on older single disc DVD releases.

Awards & nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. 
  2. ^ "The Longest Day - Box Office Data". The Numbers. 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Operation Overblown". TIME. October 19, 1962. 
  4. ^ a b "Notre jour le plus long" [Our longest day]. La Presse de la Manche (Cherbourg, France). 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Longest Day". American Film Institute. 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Wills, Garry (1997). John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-80823-9. 
  7. ^ "Piper Bill Millin". The Pegasus Archive. Retrieved November 1, 2007. 
  8. ^ "D-Day Piper – Bill Millin". The Miniatures Page. August 3, 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "The Longest Day (1962) Awards". Turner Classic Movies, A Time Warner Company. Retrieved April 30, 2008. 

External links[edit]