The Longest Day


The turning point in WWII, indeed, some would say in human history, came on June 6, 1944 when the Allied Forces, under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, invaded Nazi occupied France at Normandy Beach. It was the largest invasion force of men, ships and materiel ever assembled and it marked a crucial moment in the war. The Allies desperately needed to secure a beachhead from which they could penetrate into France and Germany. But it wasn't easy. The German forces were dug in deep, with massive, fortified bunkers and machine gun nests. The beaches were lined with mines, barbed wire and huge pieces of wood and iron, designed to impede access. Thousands of men stormed the beaches in one of the bloodiest, most hard fought battles of the war. It was D-Day. It was the longest day.

            In the early 1960s, 20th Century Fox producer Darryl Zanuck determined to make what would become the definitive film about D-Day. As source material, he turned to Cornelius Ryan's book, The Longest Day, which had become a bestseller and was widely regarded as the best, minute-by-minute account of the battle.

            Zanuck approached the project like a military campaign, marshalling his forces and money to produce the ultimate World War Two epic. He used an army of stars, a veritable who's who of both Hollywood and the European film industry to provide an omniscient, general's eye view of the unfolding battles from both sides of the front lines. While grand in scope The Longest Day also contains many moments of personal battles, sheer terror and unheralded bravery amid the massive armies on the move. Zanuck oversaw every aspect of the production and when it was completed, he had spent $10 million on the film, making it the most expensive black and white movie of the time. But the money is well spent. Every penny is on the screen and the attention to historical accuracy and details yields an unforgettable film. The stars didn't come cheap either. The Longest Day is a terrific, living history lesson, a moving document of a momentous day…

            In recent years there has been a revival of interest in D-Day… especially due to Steven Spielberg's film, Saving Private Ryan (1998). The first thirty minutes of Ryan offer the most horrific re-staging of the invasion ever put on film and it makes for an interesting contrast to The Longest Day. Zanuck's production takes the larger view while Spielberg puts us into the heart of combat, focusing on one small group of men. Both are valid ways of depicting the invasion.

from the Review for Paramount Movies, originally @ html/films/2001/longest.html