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The Longest Day is a war film based on the 1959 history book The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, about "D-Day", the invasion of Normandymarker 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."Operation Overblown". - TIME. - October 19, 1962. - Retrieved: 2008-06-23 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 Bridgemarker), Lord Lovat (who commanded the 1st Special Service Brigade), Philippe Kieffer (who led his men in the assault on Ouistrehammarker), 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).

One thing that sets the film apart from most films set in the Second World War is that all characters speak in their own languages, with subtitles in English wherever the characters speak either French or German. 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, but saw 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 usual stereotypes are avoided in the case of the German characters, most of whom are depicted as soldiers concerned with military matters, not Nazis consumed with political ideology. The words "Sieg Heil", for instance, are not uttered even once in The Longest Day, although they are seen written on a bunker wall in Ouistreham. At one point, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt refuses to ask Adolf Hitler for permission to release the Wehrmacht's panzer reserves, declaring that he would not "bow" to "that Bohemian corporal."

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), Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Leo Genn, Peter Lawford, Gert Fröbe, John Wayne, Irina Demick, Bourvil, Curt Jürgens, Robert Wagner and Arletty. Several of these actors played roles that were virtually cameo appearances.



Actor Role
Eddie Albert Colonel Thompson, 29th Infantry Division
Paul Anka U.S. Army Ranger
Richard Beymer Private Arthur 'Dutch' Schultz, 82nd Airborne Division
Red Buttons Private John Steele, 82nd Airborne Division
Ray Danton Captain Frank
Fred Dur U.S. Army Ranger Major
Fabian Forte U.S. Army Ranger
Mel Ferrer Major General Robert Haines
Henry Fonda Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.,

Commander 4th Infantry Div.
Steve Forrest Captain Harding, 82nd Airborne Division
Henry Grace General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander
Peter Helm Young GI
Jeffrey Hunter Sergeant (later Lt.) John H. Fuller
Alexander Knox Major General Walter Bedell Smith, SHAEF Chief of Staff
Dewey Martin Private Wilder
Roddy McDowall Private Morris, 4th Infantry Division
John Meillon Admiral Alan G. Kirk, Senior U.S. Naval Commander
Sal Mineo Private Martini
Robert Mitchum Brigadier General Norman Cota, Asst. Commander 29th Infantry Div.
Edmond O'Brien Major General Raymond O. Barton, Commander 4th Infantry Div.
Ron Randell Joe Williams
Robert Ryan Brigadier General James M. Gavin, Asst. Commander 82nd Airborne Div.
Tommy Sands U.S. Army Ranger
George Segal U.S. Army Ranger
Rod Steiger Destroyer Commander
Nicholas Stuart Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, Commander US First Army
Tom Tryon Lieutenant Wilson, 82nd Airborne Division
Robert Wagner U.S. Army Ranger
John Wayne Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort,
Commander 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Reg.
Stuart Whitman Lieutenant Sheen, 82nd Airborne Division


Actor Role
Patrick Barr Group Captain J.M. Stagg
Richard Burton Flying Officer David Campbell
Bryan Coleman Ronald Callen
Sean Connery Private Flanagan
Leo Genn Brigadier Edwin P. Parker Jr
John Gregson British military chaplain 6th Airborne Division
Donald Houston RAF pilot at flight base
Simon Lack Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Commander Allied Air Forces
Peter Lawford Brigadier Lord Lovat, Commander 1st Special Service Brigade
Michael Medwin Private Watney, 3rd Infantry Division
Kenneth More Capt. Colin Maud RN
Louis Mounier Air Marshal Arthur William Tedder, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander
Leslie Phillips Royal Air Force officer
Trevor Reid General Bernard Montgomery, Commander Allied Ground Forces
John Robinson Admiral Bertram Ramsay, Commander Allied Naval Forces
Norman Rossington Private Clough
Richard Todd Major John Howard, CO 2nd Oxford & Bucks L.I.
Richard Wattis British Paratrooper, 6th Airborne Division


Actor Role
Arletty Bathiat Madame Barrault
Jean-Louis Barrault Father Louis Roulland
André Bourvil Mayor of Collevillemarker
Pauline Carton Maid
Irina Demick Janine Boitard (French Resistance)
Fernand Ledoux Louis
Christian Marquand Capitaine de Frégate Philippe Kieffer
Commander French Navy commandos
Madeleine Renaud Mother Superior
Georges Rivière Sergeant Guy de Montlaur
Jean Servais Contre-amiral Janjard
Georges Wilson Alexandre Renaud


Actor Role
Hans Christian Blech Major Werner Pluskat, 352nd Infantry Division
Wolfgang Büttner Generalleutnant Dr. Hans Speidel, chief of staff, Army Group B
Gert Fröbe Unteroffizier "Kaffeekanne"
Paul Hartmann Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, commander OB West
Werner Hinz Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, commander Army Group B
Karl John Generalleutnant Wolfgang Häger
Curd Jürgens General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt, chief of staff, OB West
Til Kiwe Hauptmann Helmuth Lang, Rommel's aide
Wolfgang Lukschy Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, chief of staff, OKW
Kurt Meisel Ernst Düring
Richard Münch General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, commander LXXXIV Army Corps
Hartmut Reck Bernhard Bergsdorf
Heinz Reincke Oberst Josef Priller, commander JG 26
Ernst Schröder Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth, commander 15th Army
Heinz Spitzner Helmuth Meyer
Wolfgang Preiss Generalmajor Max Pemsel chief of intelligence, 7th Army
Peter van Eyck Oberstleutnant Ocker, chief of Luftwaffe operations, OB West
Vicco "Loriot" von Bülow Unknown German officer


  • Sergeant Kaffeekanne's name is German for "coffee pot", which he always carries.
  • It is a common misconception that Bill Millin, the piper who accompanies Lord Lovat to Normandy with his bagpipes, played himself in the film. He was actually portrayed by Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother in 1961.
  • In Sainte-Mère-Églisemarker, Private John Steele from the 82nd Airborne (played by Red Buttons) has been memorialised by the local population with a dummy hanging from a parachute from the church tower on which he accidentally landed.
  • Richard Todd, who played Major John Howard, leader of the British Airborne assault on the Pegasus Bridgemarker, took part in the real bridge assault on D-Day. Todd was offered the chance to play himself, but thought the part would be too small, so he asked to play the part of Major John Howard instead. Shortly after the British have captured the Ornemarker bridge (later renamed Horsa Bridge) in the film, one of the soldiers tells Todd that all they have to do now is sit tight and wait for the 7th Parachute Battalion to relieve them, to which Todd replies dismissively that the Paras are always late. This was a private joke, as Todd had been the adjutant of the 7th Parachute Battalion on D-Day and did help relieve the forces on the bridge. During the scene of Todd as Howard awaiting relief from the beachhead, an officer in a Para beret next to Todd is an actor playing the real Richard Todd.
  • Joseph Lowe landed on Omaha Beachmarker and scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hocmarker on D-Day. He repeated the climb for the cameras 17 years later.
  • Actor Curt Jürgens portrayed the German General Blumentritt who muses on the incompetence of his superiors. Jürgens himself was actually imprisoned by the Nazis in his youth.
  • Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was considered for the role of himself in the film, and he indicated his willingness. However, it was decided that makeup artists couldn't make him appear young enough to play his World War II self. The role of General Eisenhower went to a set decorator with no acting experience, but who had been in the film industry since the mid-1930s. He was a dead ringer for the younger Eisenhower, though his voice differed. His role in this film was his only acting credit.
  • The role of Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin H. Vandervoort was actively sought by Charlton Heston, but the last-minute decision of John Wayne to take a role in the film prevented Heston from participating. While everyone else accepted twenty-five thousand dollars as payment, John Wayne insisted on a quarter of a million dollars to punish Zanuck for an earlier negative remark in the press about Wayne and his film The Alamo.
  • Acclaimed British actor Christopher Lee auditioned for a role, but was turned down because he did not look like a military man, even though he had served in the Royal Air Force as an Intelligence Officer. However, some film books incorrectly credit him with a role in the film.
  • The film was the last one made by Sean Connery before he was cast in the role of James Bond.


  • During the filming of the landings at Omaha Beach, the American soldiers appearing as extras did not want to jump off the landing craft into the water because they thought it would be too cold. Robert Mitchum, who played General Norman Cota, became disgusted with their trepidation. He jumped in first, at which point the soldiers had no choice but to follow his example.
  • The Rupert paradummies used in the film were far more elaborate and lifelike than those actually used for the decoy parachute drop (Operation Titanic), which were actually just canvas or burlap sacks filled with sand. In the real operation, six Special Air Servicemarker soldiers jumped with the dummies and played recordings of loud battle noises to distract the Germans.

  • At $10,000,000, this film was the most expensive black-and-white film made until 1993, when Schindler's List was released.
  • In the scenes where the paratroopers land, the background noise of frogs croaking "ribbit ribbit" was wrong for northern French frog species and showed that the film likely used an American recording of background night noises.


  • Academy Awards for Best Art Direction (1962): Ted Haworth, Léon Barsacq, Vincent Korda and Gabriel Béchir (nominated)
  • Academy Awards for Best Cinematography (1962): Jean Bourgoin (won)
  • Academy Awards for Best Cinematography (1962): Walter Wottitz (won)
  • Academy Awards for Best Editing (1962): Samuel E. Beetley (nominated)
  • Academy Awards for Best Picture (1962): (nominated)
  • Academy Awards for Best Special Effects (1963): (won)

See also


  1. The Longest Day: Trivia. - IMDb

External links

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