THE LONGEST DAY

Battery de Longues-sur-Mer
(as 'Widerstandneste 60')

Major Pluskat is shocked to see the invasion fleet

A very impressive scène is when Major Pluskat (Hans Christian Blech) the invasion fleet observes coming at him through the morning haze. The unbelief that the Allies has brought so much ships under his coast almost makes you pity for the poor Pluskat. You feel more sorry for him when his commander does not believe him, even when he screams at him during the bombardment. The scène was shot in a studio, but the scène outside are made around the directionfinder casemat of Longues-sur-Mer . The real location at Ste Honorine des Pertes was not suitable. The Battery de Longues was also used as a complex near Caen, when that is ‘attacked’ by puppets (‘Rupert’) dressed as paratroopers and ‘loaded’ with explosives (squibs) who were dropped as decoy.

The directionfinder casemat of the battery from Longues-sur-Mer

Port-en-Bessin (Ouistreham)

Ouistreham was completely rebuilt after the destruction in June 1944. Everything had changed and the production team moved to Port-en-Bessin to film the battle for the casino over there. What Zanuck not was told, the casino at the time was torn down by the Germans, to have a clear field, where they dug trenches and built bunkers. When Zanuck realized this mistake, he ignored it. On the edge of the harbour of Port-en-Bessin they built a construction that represented the casino with a heavy gun in the basement. The building was constructed in such a way that it would collapse in three phases.

The Casino as it was constructed in Port-en-Bessin.

The great scene, the attack on the Casino in ‘The Longest Day’, was filmed from a helicopter. Several shots were made, but not the one that ‘grabbed’ the moment. And all the while the people of Port-en-Bessin had to stay indoors for various hours. When director Ken Annakin stepped into the making of this scene, the shot was made in one go. The shot, which lasts four minutes, is beautiful orchestrated. During the finally, the set of 12.000 English pounds was totally destroyed.

On the left was the 'casino', on the right the block of houses with the commando´s

For a documentary, made a couple of years after the shooting of ‘The Longest Day’, we see producer Zanuck return to Port-en-Bessin. Even now, he keeps the illusion up that we are in ‘Ouistreham’. He even has a interview, in dreadful French, with the mayor of ‘Ouistreham’. The mayor also declares how magnificent everything was during the filming.

Commander of the Free French Commando´s, Phillipe Kieffer,
was played by Christian Marquand (left)

The part of the Free French Commando's Com. Phillipe Kieffer, was played by Christian Marquand. Where the Allied actors played gung-ho, and were mostly good looking, the German cast were far more cliché Germans and played often a caricature of an officer. For instance, Heinz Reincke as Luftwaffe pilot Major ‘Pips’ Priller is really over the top. Exeptions were Hans Christian Blech as Major Werner Pluskat and Wolfgang Preiss as Major Generaal Max Pemsel. But nevertheless, they tried to give an honest image of the drama of D-DAY. To make it more authentic, the actors spoke in three languages, English, German and French. Beside the drama there was some room for humour. Sean Connery playes a 'walking tall' Scotsman: 'Flanagan is back!'

Sean Connery as Flanagan,... 'he's back!'

But André Bourvil makes the most of his scene as a hero of the resistance that listens at the radio and learns that the invasion is imminent. In one take, he listens to the radio, gets his soup, looks absent-minded for his firemen's helmet, places the 'talking' radio in the dresser and leaves his mother behind who listens astonished at the door of the dresser. An other unforgettable scene is with Gerd Froebe as 'sergeant Kaffeeklatsch' on his horse. When he observes the gathering of the invasion fleet and the first shot is fired, he runs like hell, and an almost liberated Frenchman waves like a lunatic his flag, a perfect target to aim at!

Sergeant 'Kaffeeklatsch' (Gerd Froebe) will be awake when he sees the Allied fleet.
Below is the same house, it can still be found in Honorine des Pertes

UTAH BEACH

A little lost area in 'The Longest Day', is UTAH Beach, landing spot for the 4th Division. There is an introduction with Henry Fonda, as Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who was supposed to land with the first wave as Assistant Commander. Roosevelt was suffering from arthritis at this time and was not fit, in the eyes of top brass, to lead his men into UTAH Beach. But Roosevelt was determent and did not want to miss out on this show. So he gets the ‘go-ahead’.

Henry Fonda (Roosevelt) gives the signal,… two more minutes

By coincidence, the first wave lands in an area of UTAH beach which was less under German fire. Despite they have landed on the wrong spot, Roosevelt decides ‘to start the war right here’.

Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. realizes they have landed on the wrong spot

Were the scenes at UTAH Beach minor, to say the least, the Canadian participation at JUNO Beach was completely ignored. Despite the fact that the Canadian troop had moved the furthest inland at the end of June 6. There is a scene however, that took place on JUNO, but was now reenacted at SWORD Beach. Beachmaster Commander Colin Maud (Kenneth More) was directing the traffic from the beach. In the movie he has as a sidekick a bulldog called Winston (in real life it was a German Shepherd). Kenneth More loaned from Colin Maud his 'shillelagh' (a stick). With this ‘stick’ he hits a bonnet from unwilling Bren Carrier. Small detail,… Kenneth More has four stripes (Captain) instead of the three, for Commander.

Beachmaster Colin Maud (Kenneth More) With his 'shillelagh' and 'Winston'

'THE WRONG' BOOTS?

A returning ‘side-gag’ is of a German officer who tries to put on his boots during the para landings in the night. He struggles to get in those things, when he sees that he has them the wrong way around! When he steps outside with his boots still on the wrong feet, we see a British paratrooper with his knife ready for the ‘kill’. At the end of the movie we see how it ended. Richard Burton, downed and wounded RAF pilot Fl.Off. David Campbell, meets a lost paratrooper, 'Dutch'Schultz (a roll by Richard Beymer), from the American 82nd Airborne Division. Burton points at the dead German officer and tells the para of the boots on the wrong feet. This raises the question,… who dropped the dead German officer in the American sector? It is at least a distant of almost a 100-km from the British sector. The producers placed a German motorcycle near the dead German, but is still very unlikely that this officer had by then not noticed the ‘wrong’ boots,…

RAF pilot David Campbell points out the 'wrong boots', to the para 'Dutch'Schultz

'IT'S A WRAP !'

After the location-scene's are 'in the can', one filmcrew left for 'Studio de Boulogne' in Paris. Here 53 sets were built to shoot the final scenes. Another team left for Île de Ré, a island beneath Brittany, near the town of La Rochelle, to shoot the final sequence of OMAHA Beach. The beach was perfect with the original bunkers that once protected the harbor of La Rochelle. Over a period of ten months the 4000.000 English pounds costly picture was made. Three directors were involved in making it all happen. For the American scenes there was Andrew Marton, Ken Annakin did the British scenes and Bernard Wick took credit for the German scenes. And Zanuck himself did some directing when it was needed.

...I see only big star actors!'

Some 50 star-actors and thousands of 'extra's were cast (which took 350.000 pounds from the budget!). For the special effects they burned 25.000 old tires and fifteen tonnes of explosives were brought to detonation, 600.000 blank bullets and not to mention the hundreds of thousands litres of fuel! But it was well worth the effort, the special effects got an Oscar. The cinemaphotography got an Oscar as well. The picture was nominated for 'Best Picture', but that one went to 'Lawrence of Arabia'.

CLOSING CREDITS

Eddie Albert .... Col. Thompson
Paul Anka .... US Army Ranger
Arletty .... Madame Barrault
Patrick Barr .... Group Capt. J.N. Stagg
Jean-Louis Barrault .... Father Roulland
Richard Beymer .... Private ‘Dutch’ Schultz
Hans Christian Blech .... Major Werner Pluskat
Bourvil .... Mayor of Colleville
Lyndon Brook .... Lt. Walsh
Richard Burton .... Fl.Off. David Campbell
Red Buttons .... Private John Steele
Sean Connery .... Private Flanagan
John Crawford .... Colonel Caffey
Mark Damon .... Private Harris
Ray Danton .... Captain Frank
Irina Demick .... Janine Boitard
Fred Dur .... US Army Ranger Major
Fabian .... US Army Ranger
Mel Ferrer .... Gen. Robert Haines
Frank Finlay .... Private Coke
Henry Fonda.... Brigadier Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Steve Forrest .... Captain Harding
Gert Fröbe .... Sergeant 'Kaffeeklatsch'
Leo Genn .... Brigadier Gen. Parker
Henry Grace .... General Dwight D. Eisenhower
John Gregson .... British Padre
Paul Hartmann .... Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
Ruth Hausmeister .... Frau Rommel

Paul Anka as a US Ranger below Pointe du Hoc

Jack Hedley .... Briefing officer
Peter Helm .... Young GI
Michael Hinz .... Manfred Rommel
Werner Hinz .... Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Donald Houston .... RAF Pilot
Jeffrey Hunter .... Sgt. John Fuller
Karl John .... Luftwaffe General Wolfgang Hager
Curt Jürgens .... General Gunther Blumentritt
Alexander Knox .... Major General Walter Bedell Smith
Simon Lack .... Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory
Peter Lawford .... Lord Lovat
Fernand Ledoux .... Louis
Wolfgang Lukschy .... Colonel General Alfred Jodl
Christian Marquand .... Commander Philippe Kieffer
Dewey Martin .... Private Wilder
Roddy McDowall .... Private Morris
Michael Medwin .... Private Watney
John Meillon .... Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk
Sal Mineo .... Private Martini
Robert Mitchum .... Brigadier Gen. Norman Cota
Kenneth More .... Captain Colin Maud
Richard Munch .... General Erich Marcks
Edmond O'Brien .... General Raymond O. Barton
Leslie Philips .... RAF Officer
Sian Phillips .... Wren

'All American boy',... Robert Wagner

Wolfgang Preiss .... Major General Max Pemsel
Ron Randell .... Joe Williams
Madeleine Renaud .... Mother Superior
Trevor Reid .... Field marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery
Heinz Reincke .... Major ‘Pips’ Priller
Georges Riviere .... Sergeant Guy de Montlaur
John Robinson .... Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey
Norman Rossington .... Private Clough
Robert Ryan .... Brigadier Gen. James Gavin
Tommy Sands .... US Army Ranger
Ernst Schroder .... General Hans von Salmuth
George Segal .... US Army Ranger
Jean Servais .... Rear Admiral Jaujard
Heinz Spitzner .... Lieutenant Colonel Hellmuth Meyer
Rod Steiger .... Destroyer commander
Nicholas Stuart .... Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley
Richard Todd .... Major John Howard
Tom Tryon .... Lieutenant Wilson
Peter Van Eyck .... Lieutenant Colonel Ocker
Robert Wagner .... US Army Ranger
Richard Wattis .... British Soldier
John Wayne.... Lt.Col. Benjamin Vandervoort
Stuart Whitman .... Lieutenant Sheen
Georges Wilson .... Alexandre Renaud

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