The Longest Day (USA, 1962)

the-longest-day-movie-poster-1962-1020430921Directed by: Various. Produced by: Darryl F. Zanuck. I felt compelled to include the producer on the credits of this one because, from what I gather, Zanuck was the major player in putting this thing together. This wasn’t entirely uncommon in this era, either (again, from what I gather. My lack of knowledge on this stuff is a huge, embarrassing blind spot). The whole story on how this film got made and its cultural importance, bringing together a ton of the huge names in Hollywood to all be bit players in what amounts to a gigantic, egalitarian sketch movie about the single day in which the war began to demonstrably turn in favour of the Allies, is a fascinating story I’m sure, but I won’t tell it here. What really interested me about this movie was its reputation as the King of all WWII movies. Having seen it finally, I think I agree. For someone my age, it’s hard to loosen my impressionable childhood’s grip on those formative moments watching Spielberg’s and Tom Hanks’ depiction of WWII between Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. It’s hard to really appreciate this film’s D-Day sequence with its sanitized, 1962 lack of explicit blood and gore—but to be fair, it was 1962. Where this film unarguably gains advantage is the whole aspect of historical proximity that only a film of this era could have. A lot of these Hollywood actors playing grizzled, middle-aged commanders actually did serve as young privates in the war. That’s so cool! And, of course, a lot of the commanders depicted in the film, American and German alike,  were based on real commanders who came in to consult with Zanuck on the events depicted. The film itself, beyond the built-in fun of recognizing and trying to place the familiar faces that keep popping up, is a pretty interesting movie. Despite its tremendous scale and disjointed frames of action, the motion keeps propelling us forward, each tick of the clock in this single diegetic day feeling like an urgent deadline. That memorable final scene between Richard Burton and the young American kid (Richard Beymer—that’s Horne from Twin Peaks!) is pretty great. It’s so obviously metaphorical that I just love it. Burton, his legs blasted out from  under him, not sure if he’s going to live or die, muses about the dead German soldier he’s been watching for hours and the hapless American kid detached from his unit: “Look at us. I’m crippled, you’re lost, and he’s dead.” Derrrrrrrrrr. But I love it.

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2 responses to “The Longest Day (USA, 1962)

  1. Pingback: The Big Red One (USA, 1980 / 2004) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: The Battle of the Bulge (USA, 1965) | Offhand Reviews·

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