With The Longest Day, producer Darryl F. Zanuck wanted to translate the most epic and important battle of World War II, D-Day, into the most epic and important war movie ever made. Did he pull it off? Not by a long shot, but this magnum opus, still one of the most massive war movies ever made, boasts a colossal number of stars, five directors (including Zanuck himself, who isn't always credited), and some gripping battle sequences. Still, its awesome size has a way from detracting from its impact. The sheer number of stars, for example, turns the movie into more of a Hollywood pageant than a war movie. John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Eddie Albert, Robert Wagner, George Segal, Roddy McDowall, Red Buttons, and Jeffrey Hunter are among the 48 "international stars" Zanuck packs into the film. Most of their appearances are too brief to register as much more than celebrity cameos. You never get much of a chance to care about any of them, although Wayne, Burton, and Mitchum are effective in their bits. As written by historian Cornelius Ryan, who also wrote the book that served as the basis for another, similar movie, A Bridge Too Far, Day's script is historically accurate, but often stilted. The dialogue in early scenes explaining the battle's significance runs terribly wooden, and the movie's too-tidy Omaha Beach sequences are a good primer for just how bloody spectacular Saving Private Ryan's opening sequence really is. A tribute less to D-Day than Zanuck's monumental ego, The Longest Day is worth a look just for that reason.
by Nick Sambides, Jr. review