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The Longest Day Movie Review

film robert gen ranger

1962 – Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Gerd Oswald, Bernhard Wicki –

The Longest Day is one of the last war epics to be filmed in black and white. It covers the D-Day invasion of Normandy of June 6, 1944, in a sporadic, almost documentary way. As the movie begins, both the German and Allied forces are watching the weather. The Germans are content with the rain since the Allies have never staged an invasion in anything less than perfect weather. But the Allies are contemplating doing just that. History plays out in a diverse set of vignettes that moves back and forth between the German high command and their forces, and the Allied (mostly American, of course) commanders preparing their armies and invading Europe.

The collage-like collection of subplots gives the film a disjointed feel. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of the many hands that contributed to the project. Four directors worked on the film: the British exteriors were directed by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton directed the American exteriors, Gerd Oswald was in charge of the parachute-drop sequence, and the German scenes were directed by Bernhard Wicki. Add to this five screenwriters, among them James Jones, the author of From Here to Eternity and Cornelius Ryan, the author of the book on which the film is based, and four more cinematographers and you begin to feel that this film crew not only dramatizes the action of an army but also resembles one.

Any film so heavily populated behind the cameras would also of course feature a long roster of stars in front of the cameras and The Longest Day is no slouch in that department. Part of the attraction of the film seems to be the idea that no small part should be played by an anonymous actor. The advantage of this approach is that the studio can promote the film on the strength of its many famous names; the drawback is that none of the famous faces is on screen long enough to develop a sense of character. The viewer is expected to accept each character predrawn by the personality of its star.

Though the film suffers from having too many good actors in roles that are usually too flat, some of these star personalities work well to bring to life a particular character. Sean Connery, for example, is believable as an sensitive private hitting the beach, and Eddie Albert and Robert Mitchum both do good jobs in their roles. Perhaps one of the best-developed characters in the film is Major Pluskat, portrayed by the lesser known Hans Christian Blech. He may be remembered for his role as Robert Shaw's aide in The Battle of the Bulge. In this film he is the one who finally informs the German high command of the impending and imminent invasion. Richard Burton and John Wayne offer no surprises. Burton's acting is overdone, and Wayne, in a scene with Robert Ryan, throws his coat across his chest into a chair with the same cocky, disgusted flair he would give to tossing away a cigarette in a western.

The battle scenes are intricate and exciting, occasionally running for several minutes without an edit. Three hours is not too long for a movie about D-Day, but the fragmentation of this storyline eventually stalls the movie. More coherence and some fully drawn characters would have created more dramatic success.

Cast: John Wayne (Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort), Robert Mitchum (Brig. Gen. Norman Cota), Henry Fonda (Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.), Richard Burton (Flight Officer David Campbell), Eddie Albert (Colonel Tom Newton), Paul Anka (U.S. Ranger), Hans Christian Blech (Major Pluskat), Bourvil (Mayor of Colleville), Wolfgang Buttner (Major General Doctor Hans Speidel), Red Buttons (Pvt. John Steele), Sean Connery (Private Flanagan), Irina Demick (Janine Boitard), Fred Durr (Major of the Rangers), Fabian (U.S. Ranger), Mel Ferrer (Maj. Gen. Robert Haines), Steve Forrest (Captain Harding), Jeffrey Hunter (Sgt. John Fuller), Curt Jurgens (Maj. Gen. Gunther Blumentritt), Peter Lawford (Lord Lovat), Roddy McDowall (Pvt. Morris), Sal Mineo (Pvt. Martini), Robert Ryan (Brig. Gen. James Gavin), Tommy Sands (U.S. Ranger), George Segal (1st commando up the cliff), Rod Steiger (Destroyer Captain), Robert Wagner (U.S. Ranger), Stuart Whitman (Lt. Sheen) Screenwriter: Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Cornelius Ryan, Jack Seddon Cinematographer: Jean Bourgoin, Pierre Levent, Henri Persin, Walter Wottitz Composer: Paul Anka, Maurice Jarre Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck and Elmo Williams for Twentieth Century Fox Running Time: 180 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1962: Cinematography (Black and White), Special Effects; Nominations: Art Direction/ Set Decoration, Editing, Picture; National Board of Review Awards, 1962: 10 Best Films of the Year Budget: $10M Box Office: $17M.

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