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The 19 Sep 1962 LAT noted that the title was originally coined by German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. Realizing that the first twenty-four hours of the invasion would determine the war’s outcome, Rommel predicted it would be “the longest day” for both sides of the conflict.
       The 27 Mar 1960 NYT announced French producer Raoul J. Lévy’s acquisition of motion picture rights for journalist Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 book, The Longest Day: June 6 1944, detailing the events of “D-Day,” the Allied invasion of Normandy, France. Lévy planned to cast forty actors from the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany to portray key historical figures who contributed to the event. Location filming in England and France was scheduled for spring and summer 1961. The production had an estimated budget of $6 million. Two days later, the 29 Mar 1960 LAT reported that Lévy was discussing the “advisability of investing $6 million” with executives at Columbia Pictures. According to the 8 Jun 1960 NYT, director Michael Anderson joined the project, to be produced through Associated British and Cinedis, and actor Jack Lord was being considered for a major role, as stated in the 5 May 1960 LAT. Less than two months later, the 2 Jul 1960 LAT reported that actor David Knapp had been cast, with David McLean directing.
       The project remained in limbo for several months until the 3 Dec 1960 LAT announced that Lévy sold the film rights to producer Darryl F. Zanuck for $175,000. A related article in the same issue stated that ... More Less

The 19 Sep 1962 LAT noted that the title was originally coined by German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. Realizing that the first twenty-four hours of the invasion would determine the war’s outcome, Rommel predicted it would be “the longest day” for both sides of the conflict.
       The 27 Mar 1960 NYT announced French producer Raoul J. Lévy’s acquisition of motion picture rights for journalist Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 book, The Longest Day: June 6 1944, detailing the events of “D-Day,” the Allied invasion of Normandy, France. Lévy planned to cast forty actors from the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany to portray key historical figures who contributed to the event. Location filming in England and France was scheduled for spring and summer 1961. The production had an estimated budget of $6 million. Two days later, the 29 Mar 1960 LAT reported that Lévy was discussing the “advisability of investing $6 million” with executives at Columbia Pictures. According to the 8 Jun 1960 NYT, director Michael Anderson joined the project, to be produced through Associated British and Cinedis, and actor Jack Lord was being considered for a major role, as stated in the 5 May 1960 LAT. Less than two months later, the 2 Jul 1960 LAT reported that actor David Knapp had been cast, with David McLean directing.
       The project remained in limbo for several months until the 3 Dec 1960 LAT announced that Lévy sold the film rights to producer Darryl F. Zanuck for $175,000. A related article in the same issue stated that Lévy’s associate, Michael Mindlin, would likely continue working on the picture, although his name does not appear in subsequent credits. Zanuck planned location shooting in England, France, Germany, and the U.S., to be directed by a native of each country. He told the 15 Feb 1961 LAT of his intention to cast John Wayne as Brigadier General Cota, based on the actor’s reputation as a cinematic war hero. The part was later given to Robert Mitchum. The 20 Apr 1961 LAT listed James Jones, Noel Coward, Romain Gary, and Erich Maria Remarque as Zanuck’s “literary consultants.” Neither Coward nor Remarque were credited on screen.
       In the 21 May 1961 NYT, Zanuck claimed that he took over the project after convincing Lévy that it would be too costly. Locations would include actual battlefields along the Normandy coast, including Omaha Beach, the Orne Bridge, the Ouistreham Casino, and Utah Beach. A portion of the English shoreline would substitute for Sword Beach. Although Zanuck was ready to begin work the following month, he anticipated delays as the French military was undergoing reorganization following a recent mutiny.
       On 21 Jul 1961, LAT columnist Hedda Hopper announced the casting of William Holden as “Colonel Vandervoort.” That same day, NYT identified Bernard Blier in the role of the Mayor of Ste. Mere Eglise. He was later replaced by Bourvil. The 31 Jul 1961 LAT noted that the town’s actual mayor, M. Reynaud, would appear on screen as a firefighter in a sequence filmed the following day. In the 16 Aug 1961 LAT, columnist Philip K. Scheuer reported the casting of “rock ’n’ roll crooners” Fabian, Tommy Sands, and Paul Anka as U.S. Army rangers. Anka also wrote the film’s theme song. The 26 Oct 1961 LAT reported that Zanuck refused to cast actor Audie Murphy, a bona fide war hero, because it was common knowledge that Murphy was in Anzio, Italy, on D-Day. Academy Award-winning set decorator Henry Grace made his acting debut as “General Eisenhower,” as reported in the 4 Jan 1962 NYT. On 15 Jan 1962, NYT stated that John Wayne would assume the role of Colonel Vandervoort, giving no explanation for William Holden’s departure.
       The 7 Sep 1961 NYT reported that Zanuck augmented his production duties by acting as “overall coordinator of direction.” An item in the 21 Dec 1961 LAT revealed that Zanuck was directing several interior scenes, which would likely continue through Feb 1962. According to the 30 Jul 1961 LAT, Zanuck oversaw the recreation of an historical moment in which an English milk truck emerged from a landing barge during the invasion. As explained in the article, the truck and its driver were accidentally trapped aboard the barge on 5 Jun 1944 and carried to Normandy with a fleet of tanks. After the scene was completed, the driver distributed milk to the cast and crew.
       Although the U.S. Department of Defense had promised Zanuck 700 European-based American soldiers for background actors, the 15 Sep 1961 LAT reported that recent tensions between the U.S. and East Germany forced military leaders to reconsider their commitment. The issue arose after CA Congressman Bob Wilson demanded an explanation for transferring the troops from Germany to France to appear in the film. Weeks later, the 21 Oct 1961 NYT stated that the U.S. Army could only spare 250 soldiers. The original deal for 700 was reportedly criticized by members of the U.S. Congress due to Zanuck’s friendship with General Lauris Norstad, the “supreme allied commander in Europe.” However, an article in the 17 Oct 1961 LAT stated that the simulated amphibious operation was considered by the Department of Defense to be an excellent training exercise. A news item in the 24 Oct 1961 NYT revealed that Zanuck was expected to cover the expense of transporting the German-based troops to and from La Rochelle, France. The soldiers were expected back in Frankfurt, Germany, on 9 Nov 1961. An anonymous entertainment executive complained to the 12 Nov 1961 NYT that the reduced presence of American soldiers on screen only served to perpetuate the “fallacy” that British troops were responsible for the Allied victory on D-Day. Great Britain reportedly supplied approximately 500 troops to the production, compared to the 250 provided by the U.S.
       Among the American soldiers who participated in the film was Sgt. Joseph T. Lowe, a World War II veteran who told the 17 Sep 1961 NYT that both the battle and the production were equally fraught with confusion. Lowe was one of 100 D-Day veterans from the U.S. who appeared as background actors. Location filming continued for three weeks, during which American director Andrew Marton struggled to create an authentic reenactment of the battle, including errors and mishaps.
       A news brief in the 4 Nov 1961 NYT stated that scheduling conflicts required actor Henry Fonda to “film three weeks of interior scenes” in New York City. Upon completing his obligation to Advise & Consent (1962, see entry), Fonda planned to spend two weeks in France for exterior scenes.
       Excerpts from an interview with Robert Mitchum appeared in the 12 Nov 1961 LAT, in which actor criticized the reluctance of American soldiers to board a landing craft during inclement weather along the Normandy coast. The U.S. Army refuted Mitchum’s account, saying the soldiers’ hesitance was the result of a malfunctioning ramp on one of the vessels. A statement from Mitchum appeared in the 13 Nov 1961 LAT, denying the criticism as a “complete distortion.” The 30 Dec 1961 LAT reported another controversy as Senator Sam J. Ervin, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, investigated complaints from soldiers who were “compelled under threat of reprisals” to participate in the film. The U.S. Army refuted the complaints, as stated in the 20 Jan 1962 LAT.
       he18 Mar 1962 NYT estimated the films budget at $10 million. While Zanuck did not verify the amount, he admitted to spending $986,000 to feed his cast and crew. After actor Mel Ferrer injured his back while doing the “twist,” the 4 Feb 1962 LAT reported that Zanuck barred the entire cast from doing the popular dance until photography was completed the following month.
       In the 1 Apr 1962 LAT, Zanuck explained that the film’s $10 million budget was considerably more than he anticipated, but he was satisfied with the results. He estimated actors’ salaries at twenty percent of the budget, noting that the “Sword Beach” sequence required 2,000 men. In addition, the cost of transporting U.S. troops to and from Germany totaled $300,000. Zanuck revealed that there were as many as four units shooting on any given day, and commended associate producer Elmo Williams with coordinating all of them. Although Zanuck admitted to directing the most scenes of his entire career, he preferred that his four directors and Williams receive the credit. One third of the scenes were filmed at France’s Studio Boulogne, which contained forty-seven sets. The result was sixty-six hours of film, accumulated over ten months of production, which would be edited to approximately 200 minutes by late Jul 1962.
       The Longest Day premiered 25 Sep 1962 in Paris, France, at the Palace de Chaillot. The 2,700 members of the audience paid $30 each to attend, and were treated to a performance by singer Edith Piaf, perched on the nearby Eiffel Tower. Proceeds supported four charities “connected with World War II French resistance.” A New York City opening followed on 4 Oct 1962 at the Warner Theatre. Profits were donated to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. A preview screening was scheduled for the previous evening, as reported in the 29 Jul 1962 NYT. Proceeds benefited the International Rescue Committee, comprised of such dignitaries as General Omar Bradley, former U.S. president Herbert Hoover, financier Nicholas D. Biddle, and Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt, among others. A brief in the 3 Oct 1962 NYT noted that the Department of Defense cancelled the National Guard band’s performance at the event, as it conflicted with military regulation. The Fordham University Band performed instead. The picture made its Los Angeles, CA, debut on 11 Oct 1962 at the Carthay Circle Theater, with celebrities such as Jack Benny, George Jessel, and Danny Thomas in attendance. Proceeds benefited the Diabetes Association of Southern California and its Summer Camp for Diabetic Children.
       Reviews were generally positive. While production was underway, NYT critic Bosley Crowther expressed concern in his 10 Sep 1961 column that the picture would glorify the horrors of war. His review in the 5 Oct 1962 NYT suggested that his fears were unfounded. The 24 Oct 1962 Var declared it the highest-grossing film of the season. However, the 6 Mar 1963 Var noted that a civil rights group, known as the Hollywood Race Relations Bureau (HRRB), picketed screenings to protest the absence of African Americans in the cast.
       As the president of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, Zanuck told the 24 Aug 1962 LAT that the studio’s annual losses would likely reach $25 million. The 30 Aug 1962 NYT reported that Zanuck would place half of his 600 employees on unpaid suspension, although editing would continue on Cleopatra (1963, see entry), another costly epic.
       On 7 Nov 1962, Var noted that former model Irene Demick, the only woman to play a lead role in the picture, was on a promotional tour of the U.S.
       Dewey Martin's role was cut from the final release print. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
29 Mar 1960
Section B, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1961
Section B, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
5 May 1960
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1960
p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
3 Dec 1960
Section B, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1961
Section A, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
1 Mar 1961
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jul 1961
Section A, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jul 1961
Section O, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
10 Aug 1961
Section B, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1961
p. 35.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1961
Section B, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
15 Sep 1961
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
17 Oct 1961
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
26 Oct 1961
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
12 Nov 1961
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1961
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1961
Section B, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
30 Dec 1961
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
20 Jan 1962
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
4 Feb 1962
Section A, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
1 Apr 1962
Section N, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
20 Jun 1962
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1962
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
11 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1962
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
19 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
29 Sep 1962
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
2 Oct 1962
Section D, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
12 Oct 1962
Section D, p. 13.
New York Times
27 Mar 1960
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
8 Jun 1960
p. 45.
New York Times
25 Jun 1960
p. 12.
New York Times
1 Dec 1960
p. 19.
New York Times
3 Dec 1960
p. 19.
New York Times
21 May 1961
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
21 Jul 1961
p. 14.
New York Times
7 Sep 1961
p. 40.
New York Times
10 Sep 1961
Section X, p. 1.
New York Times
17 Sep 1961
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
21 Oct 1961
p. 8.
New York Times
24 Oct 1961
p. 30.
New York Times
4 Nov 1961
p. 14.
New York Times
12 Nov 1961
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
4 Jan 1962
p. 24.
New York Times
15 Jan 1962
p. 23.
New York Times
18 Mar 1962
p. 123.
New York Times
28 May 1962
p. 24.
New York Times
29 Jul 1962
p. 57.
New York Times
30 Aug 1962
p. 29.
New York Times
9 Sep 1962
p. 108.
New York Times
3 Oct 1962
p. 44.
New York Times
5 Oct 1962
p. 28.
Variety
24 Oct 1962
p. 14.
Variety
7 Nov 1962
p. 6.
Variety
6 Mar 1963
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
The British:
The French:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Darryl F. Zanuck Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir American exteriors
Dir British exteriors
Dir German episodes
Dir Ste. Mere-eglise episodes
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod & coordinator of battle episodes
WRITERS
Addl episodes
Addl episodes
Addl episodes
Addl episodes
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Helicopter shots
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
Mus arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant, Cap. de Frégate
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Military consultant
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The Longest Day: June 6, 1944 by Cornelius Ryan (New York, 1959).
SONGS
Theme song, words and music by Paul Anka.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 October 1962
Premiere Information:
Premiered in Paris, France: 25 September 1962
New York opening: 4 October 1962
Los Angeles opening: 11 October 1962
Production Date:
June 1961--March 1962
Copyright Claimant:
Darryl F. Zanuck Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 October 1962
Copyright Number:
LP23378
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
180
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower makes the momentous decision that the combined Allied invasion of Europe will take place on the 6th of June. The decision proves to be strategically wise: the German High Command, assuming the invasion will not take place during the current inclement weather, is caught unawares; Panzer divisions are awaiting the attack at Dover, the Luftwaffe is scattered, and Hitler himself has taken a sleeping pill and left orders that he is not to be disturbed. Allied sources alert the French Resistance, who cut telegraph wires and blow up ammunition trains. Dummy parachute figures are dropped to confuse the Germans. Airborne glider infantry are landed near the key site of the Orne River Bridge. Then, at dawn, the full Allied might is unleashed as 150,000 troops, backed up by 5,000 transport and fighter vessels, storm the three major Normandy beachheads of Juno, Omaha, and Utah. Although a division of paratroopers is slaughtered when they overshoot their mark, French commandos capture the seaside town of Oistreham and American Rangers successfully scale the supposedly-impregnable cliffs of Point-du-Hoc. It is at Omaha Beach that the assault falters; held back by a seemingly impregnable cement wall, the troops are unable to advance. But Brigadier General Cota rallies his men, urges Sergeant Fuller to place a dynamite charge, and blasts a clear path from the beach. With the coming of nightfall, the Allies are firmly entrenched on European ... +


In 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower makes the momentous decision that the combined Allied invasion of Europe will take place on the 6th of June. The decision proves to be strategically wise: the German High Command, assuming the invasion will not take place during the current inclement weather, is caught unawares; Panzer divisions are awaiting the attack at Dover, the Luftwaffe is scattered, and Hitler himself has taken a sleeping pill and left orders that he is not to be disturbed. Allied sources alert the French Resistance, who cut telegraph wires and blow up ammunition trains. Dummy parachute figures are dropped to confuse the Germans. Airborne glider infantry are landed near the key site of the Orne River Bridge. Then, at dawn, the full Allied might is unleashed as 150,000 troops, backed up by 5,000 transport and fighter vessels, storm the three major Normandy beachheads of Juno, Omaha, and Utah. Although a division of paratroopers is slaughtered when they overshoot their mark, French commandos capture the seaside town of Oistreham and American Rangers successfully scale the supposedly-impregnable cliffs of Point-du-Hoc. It is at Omaha Beach that the assault falters; held back by a seemingly impregnable cement wall, the troops are unable to advance. But Brigadier General Cota rallies his men, urges Sergeant Fuller to place a dynamite charge, and blasts a clear path from the beach. With the coming of nightfall, the Allies are firmly entrenched on European soil. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.