Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1962. Darryl F. Zanuck Productions, Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Cornelius Ryan, additional episodes by Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Jack Seddon, based on the book by Cornelius Ryan. Cinematography by Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottitz. Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by Leon Barsacq, Ted Haworth, Vincent Korda. Costume Design by John McCorry. Film Editing by Samuel E. Beetley. Academy Awards 1962. Golden Globe Awards 1962.
The power, terror and grandeur of D-Day is captured in this magnificent epic film, shot in three languages and featuring an international cast that includes some famous stars in cameo roles. Based on the novel by Cornelius Ryan (who also wrote the script), it details the days leading up to and including the Allied invasion at Normandy when the tide officially turned for Germany and the war was on its way to being won by the good guys. Adding a level of documentary realism is the fact that the Germans are played by German actors speaking their own language, the French, British and Americans doing the same, with three directors, each responsible for a different nationality, filming their scenes which were later combined into a surprisingly cohesive whole. The film has so many elements that could make it fail that it is remarkable they pulled it off: a lack of emphasis on character depth, an overemphasis on clinical detail and stunt casting (RED BUTTONS!) should have guaranteed a turkey or at least an old clunker that failed to age well…yet it manages to be a masterpiece. The work by the three filmmakers is seamlessly combined (most likely by producer Darryl F. Zanuck himself) and the pace is exquisitely steady, never lingering on any aspect of the proceedings for too long before moving on, and flipping back and forth between countries, cultures and characters enough to keep the viewer freshly interested. The Oscar-winning cinematography includes expansive, fantastic shots of battle, and the cast includes some terrific work by John Wayne, who manages to make his moments incredibly memorable.