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
Starring
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography
  • Jean Bourgoin
  • Walter Wottitz
Edited by Samuel E. Beetley
Production
company
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
Language
  • 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 book The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, about the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944, during World War II. The film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, who paid author Ryan $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 essentially cameo appearances. In addition, several cast members – including 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 he in fact 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 German Gen. Erwin Rommel).

Plot[edit]

The movie is filmed in the style of a docudrama. Beginning in the days leading up to D-Day, it concentrates on events on both sides of the channel, such as the Allies waiting for the break in the poor weather and anticipating the reaction of the Axis forces defending northern France. The film pays particular attention to the decision by Gen. Eisenhower, supreme commander of SHAEF, to go after reviewing the initial bad-weather reports as well as reports about the divisions within the German High Command as to where an invasion might happen or what the 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 inland from the beaches. 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 to the response by the Wehrmacht to the invasion and the uncertainty of German commanders as to whether it was a feint in preparation for crossings at the Pas de Calais (see Operation Fortitude), where the senior German staff had always assumed it would be.

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 to liberate France.

Cast[edit]

American[edit]

Actor Role
Eddie Albert Col. Thompson, 29th Infantry Division
Paul Anka US Army Ranger
Richard Beymer Pvt. Arthur 'Dutch' Schultz, 82nd Airborne Division
Red Buttons Pvt. John Steele, 82nd Airborne Division
Ray Danton Capt. Frank
Fred Dur US Army Ranger Major
Fabian US Army Ranger
Mel Ferrer Maj. Gen. Robert Haines
Henry Fonda Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Deputy Commander, 4th Infantry Division
Steve Forrest Capt. Harding, 82nd Airborne Division
Peter Helm Young GI
Jeffrey Hunter Sgt. (later Lt.) John H. Fuller
Alexander Knox Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, SHAEF Chief of Staff
Dewey Martin Pvt. Wilder (role cut from released version)
Roddy McDowall Pvt. Morris, 4th Infantry Division
Sal Mineo Pvt. Martini
Robert Mitchum Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, Assistant Commander, 29th Infantry Division
Edmond O'Brien Maj. Gen. Raymond O. Barton, Commander, 4th Infantry Division
Ron Randell War Correspondent Joe Williams
Robert Ryan Brig. Gen. James M. Gavin, Assistant Commander, 82nd Airborne Division
Tommy Sands US Army Ranger
George Segal US Army Ranger
Rod Steiger Destroyer commander
Tom Tryon Lt. Wilson, 82nd Airborne Division
Robert Wagner US Army Ranger
John Wayne Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort, Commander, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Stuart Whitman Lt. Sheen, 82nd Airborne Division

British[edit]

Actor Role
Richard Burton Flying Officer David Campbell
Sean Connery Pvt. Flanagan
Leo Genn Brig. Edwin P. Parker Jr.
John Gregson Padre, 6th Airborne Division
Donald Houston RAF pilot at flight base
Peter Lawford Brig. Lord Lovat, Commander, 1st Special Service Brigade
Michael Medwin Pvt. Watney, 3rd Infantry Division
Kenneth More Capt. Colin Maud, Royal Navy Beachmaster
Leslie Phillips Royal Air Force officer
Norman Rossington Pvt. Clough
Richard Todd Maj. John Howard, Officer Commanding, "D" Company, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Richard Wattis British Paratrooper officer, 6th Airborne Division

French[edit]

Actor Role
Arletty Madame Barrault
Jean-Louis Barrault Father Louis Roulland
André Bourvil Mayor of Colleville
Pauline Carton Maid
Irina Demick Janine Boitard (French Resistance)
Fernand Ledoux Louis
Christian Marquand Capitaine de Frégate Philippe Kieffer, Commander, French Naval Commandos
Madeleine Renaud Mother Superior
Georges Rivière Sgt. Guy de Montlaur
Jean Servais Contre-amiral Jaujard
Georges Wilson Alexandre Renaud

German[edit]

Actor Role
Hans Christian Blech Maj. Werner Pluskat, 352nd Infantry Division
Wolfgang Büttner Generalleutnant Dr. Hans Speidel, chief of staff, Army Group B
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
Richard Münch General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, Commander, LXXXIV Army Corps
Wolfgang Preiss Generalmajor Max Pemsel, Chief of Intelligence, 7th Army
Peter van Eyck Oberstleutnant Ocker, Pluskat's commanding officer

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

French producer Raoul Lévy signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to purchase the filming rights to Cornelius Ryan's novel The Longest Day: 6 June 1944 D-Day on March 23, 1960. After finishing The Truth, Lévy set up a deal with the Associated British Picture Corporation and got director Michael Anderson attached. Ryan would receive $100,000, plus $35,000 to write the adaptation's screenplay. Lévy intended to start production in March 1961, filming at Elstree Studios and the English and French coasts. But the project went into a halt once ABPC could not get the $6 million budget Lévy expected. Eventually former 20th Century Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck learned about the book while producing The Big Gamble, and in December purchased Lévy's option for $175,000.[4] Zanuck's editor friend Elmo Williams wrote a film treatment, which piqued the producer's interest and made him attach Williams to The Longest Day as associate producer and coordinator of battle episodes. Ryan was brought in to write the script, but had conflicts with Zanuck as soon as the two met. Williams was forced to act as a mediator; he would deliver Ryan's script pages to Zanuck, then return them with the latter's annotations.[5] While Ryan developed the script, Zanuck also brought in other writers for cleanups, including James Jones and Romaine Gary. As their contributions to the finished screenplay were relatively minor, Ryan managed to get the screenplay credit after an appeal to the Writers Guild arbitration,[6] but the four other writers are credited for "additional scenes" in the closing credits.

During pre-production, producer Frank McCarthy, who had worked for the United States Department of War during World War II, arranged for military collaboration with the governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Zanuck also realized that with eight battle scenes, shooting would be accomplished more expediently if multiple directors and units worked simultaneously. He contacted with German directors Gerd Oswald and Bernhard Wicki, the British Ken Annakin, and the American Andrew Marton.[7] Zanuck's son Richard D. Zanuck was reluctant about the project, particularly the high budget. [8]

Filming[edit]

  • 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.[9]
  • 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 Gen. 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 in the decoy parachute drop (Operation Titanic), which were simply 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.
  • With a budget of $10,000,000, this 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 incorrect 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 (More has served as an officer in the Royal Navy during WWII, albeit not as a Beachmaster); similarly Richard Todd wore the D-Day helmet worn by his character, Maj. John Howard.
  • In the film, three Free French Special Air Service paratroopers jump into France before British and American airborne landings. This is accurate. Thirty-six Free French SAS (4 sticks) jumped into Brittany (Plumelec and Duault) on 5 June at 23:30, (operation Dingson). The first Allied soldiers killed in action were Lt. Den Brotheridge of the 2nd Ox & Bucks Light Infantry as he crossed Pegasus Bridge at 00:22 on 6 June and Corporal Emile Bouétard of the 4th Free French SAS battalion, at the same time in Plumelec, Brittany.
  • 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 that he himself directed some uncredited pick-ups with American and British interiors.[10]
  • 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. Like The Longest Day, it used a docudrama style, although it was in color. It depicted the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Casting[edit]

John Wayne in The Longest Day
  • Charlton Heston actively sought the role of Lt. Col. 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, 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.[11]
  • Sgt. 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.[12][13]
  • In Sainte-Mère-Église, Pvt. 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 Maj. John Howard, leader of the British airborne assault on the Pegasus Bridge, took part in the real bridge assault on D-Day. He was offered the chance to play himself but took the part of Maj. 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 Gen. 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 (Sgt. Kaffeekanne) and Curd Jürgens (Gen. 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 Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart in the 1977 film A Bridge too Far, which was also based on a book by Cornelius Ryan. (Likewise Wolfgang Preiss played Maj. Gen. 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 Gen. James M. Gavin but withdrew from the role due to a scheduling conflict.[9]
  • 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 that 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.

Release[edit]

The film premièred in France on 25 September 1962, followed by the United States on 4 October and 23 October for the United Kingdom. Given Fox was suffering with the financial losses of Cleopatra, the studio was intending for The Longest Day to have a wide release to reap quick profits. Zanuck forced them to do a proper Roadshow theatrical release, even threatening to sell distribution to Warner Bros. if Fox had refused to do so.[14] The Longest Day eventually became the box office hit Fox needed, with $30 million in worldwide rentals on a $7,5 million budget.[1]

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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b 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. ^ Rubin 1981, p. 91.
  5. ^ Williams 2006, p. 138-40.
  6. ^ Lev 2013, p. 234.
  7. ^ Rubin 1981, p. 93.
  8. ^ Gussow 1971, p. 198-9.
  9. ^ a b "Notre jour le plus long" [Our longest day]. La Presse de la Manche (Cherbourg, France). 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Longest Day". American Film Institute. 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  11. ^ Wills, Garry (1997). John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-80823-9. 
  12. ^ "Piper Bill Millin". The Pegasus Archive. Retrieved November 1, 2007. 
  13. ^ "D-Day Piper – Bill Millin". The Miniatures Page. August 3, 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2007. 
  14. ^ The Last Movie Tycoon, New York Magazine
  15. ^ a b c d e "The Longest Day (1962) Awards". Turner Classic Movies, A Time Warner Company. Retrieved April 30, 2008. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Gussow, Mel (1971). Darryl F. Zanuck: Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306801329. 
  • Lev, Peter (2013). Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935–1965. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292744471. 
  • Rubin, Steven Jay (1981). Combat Films: American Realism, 1945-2010. McFarland. ISBN 0786486139. 
  • Williams, Elmo (2006). Elmo Williams: A Hollywood Memoir. McFarland. ISBN 0786426217. 

External links[edit]