This epic film depicts the Allied D-Day landings at Normandy on 6 June 1944 – the turning point of World War II, and in many ways the day that changed the world. The invasion marked the end of Nazi domination over Europe and involved 3 million men, 11,000 planes and 4,000 ships.
The large international all-star cast is exceptional, helping The Longest Day become an all-time screen classic.
The endless parade of stars – John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery and Richard Burton, to name just a few – makes for an astute mix of realism and Hollywood star-power.
In addition to the 50 international stars, 10,000 extras were involved in the movie – which cost $10 million to make. No black and white movie has ever cost as much.
Based on a book by war correspondent Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day is almost The Longest Film, clocking in at just over three hours (183 minutes).
Three directors were assigned to the movie – Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton and Bernhard Wicki – but there was never any doubt about who was in charge.
Darting from location to location in a helicopter, the cigar-chewing producer Darryl F. Zanuck declared, “this is my picture. When one wants to take the credit for something, one must also take the responsibility. I don’t mind the hard work. There is plenty of compensation in the pride one can feel when it’s over”.
Filming of The Longest Day took place over a nine-month period between August 1961 and June 1962. The film was shot at several French locations, including the Île de Ré, Saleccia beach in Saint-Florent, Haute-Corse, Port-en-Bessin-Huppain (filling in for Ouistreham), Les Studios de Boulogne in Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris and the actual locations of Pegasus Bridge near Bénouville, Calvados, Sainte-Mère-Église, and Pointe du Hoc.
The US Sixth Fleet provided extensive support to the production, making available many amphibious landing ships and craft for scenes filmed in Corsica. The USS Springfield and USS Little Rock, both World War II light cruisers (though updated as guided missile cruisers), were used in the shore bombardment scenes.
The massive preparations, mistakes and random events that determined the outcome of 6 June 1944 are shown in the movie and add to the realism.
The screenplay by Cornelius Ryan, based on his own authoritative and best-selling book, is as factually accurate as possible and the set-piece battles are truly spectacular.
The Longest Day had its world premiere at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris on 25 September 1962, a six-hour gala event that was likely the most extravagant film opening ever staged.
Detachments of British, French, and American troops stood ceremonial guard for the arrival of 2,700 guests, some of whom paid as much as $70 for a ticket. After the screening, there were fireworks at the Eifel Tower, where Edith Piaf gave a free concert. There was also a champagne supper for 400 of the guests, which included lots of Hollywood celebrities and 10 French cabinet ministers.
The film had its US opening in New York on 4 October and its London opening a week later. Luckily for Darryl Zanuck and 20th Century Fox, The Longest Day proved to be a box office smash, grossing $39.1 million domestically and $11 million in foreign markets for a total of $50.1 million against a $10 million production budget.
The movie won Academy Awards for special effects and cinematography.
Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort
Flying Officer David Campbell
Brig. Gen. Norman Cota
Pvt John Steele
Major of the Rangers
US Army Ranger
US Army Ranger
Theodore Roosevelt Jr
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Brig. Gen. James M. Gavin
Maj Gen Robert Haines
Sgt. John H. Fuller