A Last Hurrah
"The Longest Day" explores the events of the D-Day invasion of Normandy during WWII. It takes us from a few days before the invasion, covers the important decisions and shows the events from various angles be it those in charge, those fighting and also from both the allied point of view as well as the German point view. I have kept this synopsis down to the briefest description possible as at almost 3 hours "The Longest Day" has a lot going on, more than needs to be mentioned to explain the movie and in truth this is a movie where you don't need the detail to know whether or not you will want to watch it.
Darryl F. Zanuck started producing movies back in 1925 when he was in his early twenties and in 48 years he was involved in the production of over 200 movies many of which are highly regarded as he worked with just about anyone who was some one in Hollywood. I mention that for those who come to "The Longest Day" now some 50 plus years after it was made and are unaware of who Zanuck was. He was old school, a movie man who wasn't only about the money but also the spectacle and you can certainly call "The Longest Day" a spectacle with a cast list which reads like a who's who of Hollywood.
But before I look at the cast the movie is in fact very simple to describe with its docudrama style as it takes us through the final preparations for the D-Day landings from various people's perspectives and from both sides as we see what the Allies are up to as well as the Nazis. Now whilst simple it does mean it is dry and early on struggles to find its rhythm as it tries to entertain us through the various people involved. In fact at times it feels like the directors, and there were several involved in pulling off this spectacle, rely on the cast to keep you interested when yet another Hollywood star would appear.
Now the thing is that "The Longest Day" does rely heavily on its cast but it also features some fantastic staging and camera work and I am not just on about when things start to kick off. In an early scene we see the GI's passing time in a room of bunks, chilling out and gambling whilst they wait for the order to be given but whilst simple the sheer spectacle of this hangar kitted out with bunk beds, men milling around everywhere is simply impressive and also believable. Every single scene is beautifully crafted, maybe a little too perfectly crafted at times as the look and sheer spectacle of the movie some times distracts from the story it is telling.
But that is the thing about "The Longest Day" it is a spectacle and when it comes to the cast it reads like a who's who with names of big name stars in major roles and future stars in smaller roles. Let me put it this way, if you had a poster for "The Longest Day" signed by its stars I reckon it would have to be worth millions as there are so many acting legends in the movie. Now whilst the cast list is impressive the acting whilst good is more of a case of these famous actors playing to type rather than actually playing characters or real people. It is another reason why "The Longest Day" whilst giving us this docudrama style is more about the entertainment of the spectacle rather than the authenticity of everything.
What this all boils down to is that "The Longest Day" isn't the best war movie I have ever watched and has since been surpassed by movies which are spectacles but also more authentic. But "The Longest Day" is a spectacle of the sort I doubt will ever be seen again with it's massive production and a cast list which dwarfs every modern day movies which thinks it has an impressive cast.