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Before Private Ryan

In black and white, with a huge international cast, The Longest Day was originally considered an impressive war movie that strived to be definitive about D Day. As much as it could be, considering that movies about war up to this point in time (1962) rarely became explicit in blood and carnage. We saw bombs explode, but not bodies; we saw the after-effects of bullets but not their initial impacts. Blood in black and white wasnt antiseptic, but it didnt look realistic, either. (All of this is why the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan gripped us—it showed the realities that for so long had been held back from view.) Like Tora! Tora! Tora! roughly ten years later, The Longest Day tells two parallel stories—this time, one from the Allies view, the other from the Germans. Unlike Tora!, where claimants contradict what they knew was coming, the Germans knew an Allied invasion was imminent, only they didnt guess right where it would be coming from. The movie is Darryl F. Zanucks movie star parade of heroism and triumph, with “heroes” like John Wayne reassuring his men and viewers that hes up to the task that awaits him. (Unlike Ryan, this movies engagement of bloody war stops after the invasion.) There are some good moments—like Red Buttons getting hung up in a parachute; Richard Burton having some quite time away from his usual oratorical emoting; the German in the bunker first sighting the massive armada arriving at Normandy Beach. Packed with cameo star power: Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Wagner, Curt Jurgens, Rod Steiger, Richard Beymer, Sean Connery, Richard Todd, Kennegth More, Mel Ferrer, Alexander Knox, Robert Ryan, Roddy McDowall, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, Gert Fröbe, Tommy Sands, Paul Anka, George Segal, Tom Tyron, and Stuart Whitman. The most viewed female attraction: Zanucks girlfriend Irina Demick, but Frances celebrated Arletty does a bit as Madame Barrault. Oscars for best b & w cinematography, special effects; nominated for best picture, b & w art direction, film editing. Big hit: The second biggest grosser for the calendar year 1963, number one being Cleopatra, the picture many blame Zanuck for destroying in the editing process. Directed by Ken Annakin (British scenes), Andrew Marton (American) and Bernhard Wicki (German), with Zanuck involved in some scenes. Based on the book and basic screenplay by Cornelius Ryan; additional writing by Romain Gary, James Jones and David Pursall. In CinemaScope. 

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