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The Longest Day is a 1962 war film based on the 1959 history book The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, about “D-Day”, the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II.
Producer Darryl F. Zanuck paid the author of the book, Cornelius Ryan, $175,000 for the screen rights to produce the film. The film was adapted from the book by Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Jack Seddon, and the author himself. It was directed by Ken Annakin (British and French exteriors), Andrew Marton (American exteriors), Gerd Oswald (parachute drop scene), Bernhard Wicki (German scenes), and Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited).
Many of the military consultants and advisors who helped with the film’s production were actual participants in the action on D-Day, and are portrayed in the film. The producers drew them from both sides; Allied and Axis. Among them are Günther Blumentritt (a former German general), James M. Gavin (an American general), Frederick Morgan (Deputy Chief of Staff at SHAEF), John Howard (who led the airborne assault on the Pegasus Bridge), Lord Lovat (who commanded the 1st Special Service Brigade), Philippe Kieffer (who led his men in the assault on Ouistreham), Pierre Koenig (who commanded the Free French Forces in the invasion), Max Pemsel (a German general), Werner Pluskat (the major who was the first German officer to see the invasion fleet), Josef “Pips” Priller (the hot-headed pilot) and Lucie Rommel (widow of Erwin Rommel).
Unique for British and American produced World War II films at the time, all French and German characters speak in their own languages with subtitles in English. A separate version exists, shot simultaneously, in which all the actors speak their lines in English, which is why the trailer has the Germans delivering their lines in English. This version saw limited use during the initial release, and more extensive use during a late 1960s re-release of the film. The English-only version was featured on the “flip side” of an older single disc DVD release.
The film, one of the very few 1960s epics made in black and white, features a large ensemble cast including actors such as Kenneth More, Richard Todd (who took part in the actual invasion; his battalion reinforced John Howard’s Pegasus Force), Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Leo Genn, Peter Lawford, Gert Fröbe, John Wayne, Irina Demick, Bourvil, Curd Jürgens, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka and Arletty. Several of these actors played roles that were virtually cameo appearances.
Many men came here as soldiers
Many men will pass this way
Many men will count the hours
As they live the longest day
Many men are tired and weary
Many men are here to stay
Many men won’t see the sunset
When it ends the longest day
The longest day the longest day
This will be the longest day
Filled with hopes and filled with fears
Filled with blood and sweat and tears
Many men the mighty thousands
Many men to victory
Marching on right into battle
In the longest day in history