|The Longest Day|
|Based on||The Longest Day|
by Cornelius Ryan
|Produced by||Darryl F. Zanuck|
|Edited by||Samuel E. Beetley|
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
Darryl F. Zanuck Productions
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$50.1 million|
The Longest Day is a 1962 American epic war film based on Cornelius Ryan's 1959 non-fiction book of the same name about the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944. The film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck for 20th Century Fox, and is directed by Ken Annakin (British and French exteriors), Andrew Marton (American exteriors), and Bernhard Wicki (German scenes). The screenplay was written by Ryan, with additional material written by Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall and Jack Seddon.
The film features a large international ensemble cast that includes 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, Curd Jürgens, George Segal, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka and Arletty. Many of these actors played roles that were essentially cameo appearances. Several cast members had seen action as servicemen during the war, including Albert, Fonda, Genn, More, Steiger and Todd, the latter having been among the first British officers to land in Normandy in Operation Overlord and participate in the assault on Pegasus Bridge.
The filmmakers employed several actual Allied and Axis D-Day participants as consultants, many of whom 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), Marie-Pierre Kœnig (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 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel).
The Longest Day premiered in France on September 25, 1962, and in the United States on October 4. It received positive acclaim from critics and was a significant commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing black-and-white movie at the time. At the 35th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, and won awards for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) and Best Special Effects.
Shot in a docudrama style (with captions identifying the different participants), the film opens in the days leading up to D-Day, depicting events on both sides of the English Channel. There is disagreement within the German High Command as to where the Allies will land and how the Wehrmacht should respond, but the threat is not perceived to be imminent, given the stormy weather. On June 5, 1944, not wanting to keep his forces waiting any longer, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of SHAEF, makes the decision to go ahead with plans to invade France through Normandy the following day after receiving a somewhat hopeful weather report.
In the early hours of June 6, Allied airborne troops are sent in to take key locations, and the French Resistance reacts to the news that the invasion has started. British troops arrive in gliders to secure Pegasus Bridge, American paratroopers land scattered around Sainte-Mère-Église to defend a road that will be a vital artery for the invasion, and French Resistance and SOE agents conduct infiltration and sabotage work. There is uncertainty among German commanders about whether these events are a feint to distract from Allied crossings at the Strait of Dover (see Operation Fortitude), where the senior German staff had always assumed the invasion would begin.
As day breaks, Allied forces land on several beaches in Normandy and attempt to push inland, having particular trouble at Omaha Beach. Two lone Luftwaffe pilots strafe the beaches before flying away. The U.S. Provisional Ranger Group conducts an assault on the artillery at Pointe du Hoc, only to discover the guns are not functional. Free French Forces destroy a German stronghold in Ouistreham. After blowing through a concrete barrier, the American troops on Omaha Beach are able to begin their advance and join the rest of the Allied troops on the march to retake France and, eventually, conquer Germany.
Note: Characters listed in order of rank.
(dubbed by Allen Swift)
|Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower||Supreme Commander, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF)|
|Alexander Knox||Lieutenant Gen. Walter Bedell Smith||Chief of Staff, SHAEF|
|Nicholas Stuart||Lieutenant Gen. Omar N. Bradley||Commander, 1st Army|
|John Meillon||Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk||Commander, Western Naval Task Force, U.S. 8th Fleet|
|Mel Ferrer||Major Gen. Robert Haines||Assistant Commander, SHAEF|
|Edmond O'Brien||Major Gen. Raymond O. Barton||Commander, 4th Infantry Division|
|Henry Fonda||Brigadier Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.||Assistant Commander, 4th Infantry Division|
|Robert Mitchum||Brigadier Gen. Norman Cota||Assistant Commander, 29th Infantry Division[a]|
|Robert Ryan||Brigadier Gen. James M. Gavin||Assistant Commander, 82nd Airborne Division|
|John Crawford||Col. Eugene M. Caffey||Commander, 1st Engineer Special Brigade|
|Eddie Albert||Col. Lloyd Thompson||Aide-de-camp to Cota, 29th Infantry Division[b]|
|John Wayne||Lieutenant Col. Benjamin H. Vandervoort||CO, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment|
|Bill Nagy||Maj. Lance||XO, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment|
|Fred Dur||Maj. Stoltz||XO, 2nd Ranger Battalion|
|Rod Steiger||Lieutenant Cmdr. Joseph Witherow Jr.||Commander, USS Satterlee|
|Steve Forrest||Capt. Harding||XO, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment|
|Ray Danton||Capt. Frank||XO, 29th Infantry Division|
|Stuart Whitman||Lt. Sheen||Paratrooper, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment|
|Tom Tryon||Lt. Wilson||Paratrooper, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment|
|Gary Collins||Ensign Sheeran||Bridge officer, USS Satterlee|
|Jeffrey Hunter (credited as Jeff Hunter)||Sgt. John H. Fuller (later field promoted to Lieutenant)||Combat engineer, 299th Engineer Combat Battalion|
|Tony Mordente||Wyman||Cook, 82nd Airborne Division|
|Bob Steele||Corporal Alexander||Paratrooper, 82nd Airborne Division|
|Richard Beymer||Pvt. Arthur 'Dutch' Schultz||Paratrooper, 82nd Airborne Division|
|Red Buttons||Pvt. John Steele||Paratrooper, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment|
|Sal Mineo||Pvt. Martini||Paratrooper, 82nd Airborne Division|
|Roddy McDowall||Pvt. Morris||Infantryman, 4th Infantry Division|
|George Segal||Pvt. Wohl||Infantryman, 2nd Ranger Battalion|
|Robert Wagner||Pvt. Keller||Infantryman, 2nd Ranger Battalion|
|Paul Anka||Pvt. Lowell||Infantryman, 2nd Ranger Battalion|
|Mark Damon||Pvt. Harris||Infantryman, 29th Infantry Division|
|Peter Helm||Young Pvt. who loses his rifle||Infantryman, 29th Infantry Division|
|Fabian||Pvt. Forte||Infantryman, 2nd Ranger Battalion|
|Tommy Sands||Pvt. Hunt||Infantryman, 2nd Ranger Battalion|
|Joseph Lowe||Ranger Pvt.||Sgt. Joseph T. Lowe of the 505th Infantry Battle Group was a 22-year-old PFC with the Fifth Ranger Battalion on the day|
|Mickey Knox||Airman Louis||Downed airman with damaged eye|
|Ron Randell||Joe Williams||War correspondent|
|Trevor Reid||Gen. Sir Bernard Montgomery||Commander-in-Chief, Allied Armies|
|John Robinson||Adm. Sir Bertram Ramsay||Commander-in-Chief, Allied Naval Forces|
|Simon Lack||Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory||Commander-in-Chief, Allied Expeditionary Air Force (AEAF)|
|Louis Mounier||Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder||Deputy Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces|
|Walter Horsbrugh||Rear-Adm. George Creasy||Chief of Staff to Admiral Ramsay|
|Leo Genn||Major-Gen. Hollander||XO, SHAEF|
|Peter Lawford||Brig. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat||Commander, 1st Special Service Brigade|
|Patrick Barr||Group Capt. J. M. Stagg||Meteorologist|
|Kenneth More||Acting Capt. Colin Maud||Beachmaster, Juno Beach, Royal Navy|
|Richard Todd||Maj. John Howard||OC, "D" Company, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry|
|Howard Marion-Crawford||Maj. John Jacob-Vaughan||Medical Officer, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry|
|Richard Wattis||Maj. Whaley||6th Airborne Division|
|Jack Hedley||Capt. Knowles||6th Airborne Division briefing officer|
|Leslie Phillips||Flight Lt. Owens||RAF officer with French Resistance|
|Lyndon Brook||Lt. Ian Walsh||"D" Company, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry|
|Richard Burton||Flying Officer David Campbell||Fighter pilot, Royal Air Force[c]|
|Donald Houston||Flying Officer Neil||Fighter pilot, Royal Air Force|
|John Gregson||Chaplain Wattis||Padre, 6th Airborne Division|
|Siân Phillips||Chief Wren Jennings||Wren assistant to Stagg|
|Richard Dawson||Cpl. Purdom|
|Harry Fowler||Cpl. Lehman||Paratrooper, 6th Airborne Division|
|Bernard Fox||Lance-Cpl. Hutchinson[d]||Royal Armoured Corps|
|Norman Rossington||Lance-Cpl. Clough||3rd Infantry Division|
|Sean Connery||Pte. Flanagan||Infantryman, 3rd Infantry Division[e]|
|Frank Finlay||Pte. Coke[d]|
|Michael Medwin||Pte. Watney||Universal Carrier driver, 3rd Infantry Division|
|Leslie de Laspee||Pte. Bill Millin||Piper, 1st Special Service Brigade|
|Bryan Coleman||Ronald Callen||War correspondent|
|Jean Servais||Contre-amiral Robert Jaujard||Commander, 4th Cruiser Division, Free French Naval Forces|
|Christian Marquand||Capitaine de Corvette Philippe Kieffer||Group leader, 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos|
|Georges Rivière||Second-Maître Guy de Montlaur||Section leader, 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos|
|Bernard Fresson||Dubocq||Commando, 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos|
|Irina Demick||Jeanine Boitard||Partisan, Caen[f]|
|Yves Barsacq||Marcel||Partisan, Caen|
|Maurice Poli||Jean||Partisan, Caen|
|Jean Champion||Édouard||Partisan, Caen|
|André Bourvil||Alphonse Lenaux||Mayor of Colleville-sur-Orne|
|Georges Wilson||Alexandre Renaud||Mayor of Sainte-Mère-Église|
|Jean-Louis Barrault||Father Louis Roulland||Parish priest of Sainte-Mère-Église|
|Madeleine Renaud||Justine||Mother Superior, Ouistreham|
|Arletty||Madame Barrault||Resident of Sainte-Mère-Église|
|Fernand Ledoux||Louis||Elderly farmer|
|Pauline Carton||Joanna||Louis's housekeeper|
|Alice Tissot||Gemma||Lenaux's housekeeper|
|Clément Harari||Arrested Man||Civilian|
|Paul Hartmann||Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt||CO, OB West|
|Werner Hinz||Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel||CO, Army Group B|
|Wolfgang Lukschy||Generaloberst Alfred Jodl||Chief of Operations, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht|
|Ernst Schröder||Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth||CO, 15th Army|
|Curd Jürgens||General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt||Chief of Staff, OB West|
|Richard Münch||General der Artillerie Erich Marcks||CO, LXXXIV Army Corps|
|Wolfgang Büttner||Generalleutnant Dr. Hans Speidel||Chief of Staff, Army Group B|
|Wolfgang Preiss||Generalleutnant Max Pemsel||Chief of Staff, 7th Army|
|Karl John||Generalleutnant Wolfgang Häger||CO, Luftwaffen Kommando West|
|Paul Edwin Roth||Oberst Ludwig Schiller|
|Heinz Reincke||Oberstleutnant Josef Priller||Kommodore, Jagdgeschwader 26|
|Heinz Spitzner||Oberstleutnant Helmuth Meyer||Chief of Intelligence, 15th Army|
|Peter van Eyck||Oberstleutnant Karl-Williams Ocker||CO, 352nd Artillery Regiment, 352nd Infantry Division|
|Walter Gotell||SS-Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Mohnke||CO, 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend|
|Hans Christian Blech||Major Werner Pluskat||CO, 352nd Artillery Regiment, 352nd Infantry Division|
|Eugene Deckers||Major Becker||Officer in church|
|Kurt Meisel||Hauptmann Ernst Düring||CO, 352nd Infantry Division|
|Til Kiwe||Hauptmann Helmuth Lang||Aide-de-camp to Rommel|
|Hans Söhnker||Hauptmann Witt||Pemsel's staff officer|
|Robert Freitag||Leutnant Weber||Meyer's aide|
|Rainer Penkert||Leutnant Fritz Theen||352nd Artillery Regiment, 352nd Infantry Division|
|Dietmar Schönherr||Leutnant Vogel||Häger's aide|
|Hartmut Reck||Oberfeldwebel Bernhard Bergsdorf||Pilot, Jagdgeschwader 26|
|Vicco von Bülow||Oberfeldwebel Leuchter||Pemsel's adjutant|
|Gert Fröbe||Unteroffizier "Kaffeekanne" ("coffee pot")||Soldier, Wehrmacht|
|Ruth Hausmeister||Lucie Rommel||Rommel's wife|
|Michael Hinz||Manfred Rommel||Rommel's son|
French producer Raoul Lévy signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to purchase the filming rights to Cornelius Ryan's book The Longest Day: June 6, 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 stalled when 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. 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. While Ryan developed the script, Zanuck also brought in other writers for cleanups for the various nationalities, including James Jones for the Americans, Romain Gary for the French, Noël Coward for the British and Erich Maria Remarque for the Germans. 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, but four other writers are credited for writing "additional episodes" in the film's 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, who was friends with Supreme Allied Commander Lauris Norstad, secured 700 United States Army Europe and Africa soldiers for use as extras. However, hundreds of these soldiers had to be recalled after the Berlin Crisis of 1961, and many Members of Congress, such as Bob Wilson, criticized the military for transferring soldiers to a film production in France during a major Cold War standoff. The Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights under Sam Ervin investigated the film for allegly forcing soldiers to appear as extras against their will. In the end, the film included 250 U.S. Army soldiers and 500 British Army soldiers as extras.
Zanuck realized that, with eight battle scenes, shooting would be accomplished more expediently if multiple directors and units worked simultaneously, so he hired German directors Gerd Oswald and Bernhard Wicki, British director Ken Annakin, and Hungarian-American director Andrew Marton. Zanuck's son Richard D. Zanuck was reluctant about the project, particularly the high budget; with a budget of $10 million ($96.7 million in 2022 dollars), this was the most expensive black-and-white film made until 1993, when Schindler's List was released.
The film premiered in France on September 25, 1962, in the United States on October 4, and in the United Kingdom on October 23. Funds from the premiers were donated to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the International Rescue Committee. Because Fox was suffering due to financial losses incurred during the concurrent production of Cleopatra, the studio wanted The Longest Day to go straight into wide release to reap quick profits, but Zanuck got them to do a proper roadshow theatrical release, threatening to sell distribution rights to Warner Bros. if Fox refused to do so. The Longest Day eventually became the box office hit Fox needed, with $30.5 million in worldwide theatrical rentals on a $7.5 million budget. It was the highest-grossing black-and-white movie at the time. Zanuck's production company (DFZ Productions) received 50% of the profits, and by 1964 had received over $5.8 million.
There were special-release showings of the film in several cities in the United States at which men who had participated in D-Day were invited to see the film with their fellow soldiers. One such screening took place in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Hippodrome Theater.
The scenes in the film featuring German and French characters were shot both with them speaking their native language and with them speaking English. Almost uniquely among British- and American-produced World War II films of the time, the version of the film with foreign languages accompanied by English subtitles was more widely seen during the film's initial release. The all-English version of the film was used more extensively during the film's late 1960s re-release.
When the film was re-released in 1969, it opened at number one at the US box office with a first-week gross of $501,529. In the first four days of its worldwide re-release in 544 theatres, it grossed $2,846,627.
The film was released in widescreen with stereo surround sound on LaserDisc in 1989. A colorized version of the film was released on VHS in 1994, the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. The original black-and-white version of the film was released on DVD on November 6, 2001. In 2008, 20th Century Fox released the film on Blu-ray.
The day after the film opened at the Warner Theatre in New York City, Bosley Crowther of The New York Times declared: "The total effect of the picture is that of a huge documentary report, adorned and colored by personal details that are thrilling, amusing, ironic, sad [...] It is hard to think of a picture, aimed and constructed as this one was, doing any more or any better or leaving one feeling any more exposed to the horror of war as this one does". Variety described it as "a solid and stunning war epic" that "emerges as a sort of grand scale semi-fictionalized documentary concerning the overall logistics needed for this incredible invasion".
Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called the film "a tingling, eye-gripping, fantastic picture" that "must rank as the screen's most massive battle epic", his only criticism being "the lack of perspective in depicting the German belief that the Normandy landings might not have succeeded had Hitler not taken a sleeping pill [...] 'The Longest Day' should have taken infinitely more care to put this German belief, however strongly held, into proper proportion". Brendan Gill of The New Yorker called the film "a tour de force of audio-visual verisimilitude," but confessed that "my emotions were hardly ever engaged, and I ended, rather to my embarrassment, by being bored". He continued: "Mr. Zanuck made it all the harder for me to take this mock-documentary seriously by stuffing it with innumerable celebrated actors, most of whom make such fugitive appearances that the audience finds itself engaged in a distracting game of instant identification".
The Monthly Film Bulletin stated: "The Longest Day is a monument split down the middle by compromise. At its best, what comes across very strongly is the feeling of immense and careful organisation that went into the whole D-Day operation, the sheer crippling weight of noise, the simple fact that a lot of people died, and the sense of personal confusion and dismay of soldiers wandering alone through the countryside [...] But the film is, first and foremost, a spectacle, and therefore it has stars—a multitude of them, often with barely a line to speak, and usually with no real part to play".
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87% based on 23 reviews, with an average score of 7.8/10.
|1962||Academy Award||Best Picture||Darryl F. Zanuck||Nominated|||
|Best Art Direction, Black-and-White||Ted Haworth, Léon Barsacq, Vincent Korda and Gabriel Béchir||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography, Black-and-White||Jean Bourgoin and Walter Wottitz||Won|
|Best Film Editing||Samuel E. Beetley||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Robert MacDonald and Jacques Maumont||Won|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Motion Picture – Drama||Darryl F. Zanuck||Nominated|||
|Best Cinematography - Black and White||Henri Persin, Walter Wottitz and Jean Bourgoin||Won|
|Eddie Awards||Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic||Samuel E. Beetley||Won|||
|David di Donatello||Best Foreign Production||Darryl F. Zanuck||Won|||
|Directors Guild of America Award||Outstanding Directing – Feature Film||Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton and Bernhard Wicki||Nominated|||
In one scene they needed some Spitfires that attacked a German column. Through the French ex-wartime pilot, Pierre Laureys, they rented a couple of Spitfires. Laureys restored the Spitfires (MH415, MK297, and MK923) and flew self a Spitfire when they shot the attack scene, just as he did with 340 Squadron on June 6th, 1944, low and very fast!