“The Longest Day” (1962)
(Originally published June 23, 2013)
Darryl F. Zanuck’s monumental war epic depicting the events of the D-Day invasion of World War 2 has the disadvantage of not only following dozens of characters over dozens of different locations, but also the input of three different credited directors working to patch a cohesive picture of just what did go on during the massive invasion of Normandy on that “longest day” (as referred to in a quote by German Field Marshal Irwin Rommel) on June 6, 1944. Add to that, the fact that, unique in a big-budget studio epic, disregarding the expectations of the audience, the story is presented entirely in correct linguistic terms: the French and Germans speak in their native tongues with the assistance of subtitles. By all rights, this should be a colossal boondoggle, a confused and incoherent film not unlike Rene Clement’s “Paris brule-t-il?” or the Phil Feldman fiasco cobbled from bits of Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale”. Happily, this is not the case.
“The Longest Day” is, in fact, one of the most intelligently realized, dramatically cohesive, literate films on World War II ever made; certainly light years ahead of the Hollywood studio epics that permeated the 50’s and 60’s with such egregiously insulting results such as the disastrous “Battle of the Bulge”- a film so haphazard it had the most famous Winter battle of modern combat history being fought in the desert.
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I saw this film on widescreen at the age of 10, and thought it was simply amazing. I had certainly never seen a war film like it at the time. Since then, I have watched it again at the cinema, and a couple of times on TV. It holds up, even in 2020.
Best wishes, J. Wayne.