Trivia / The Longest Day

  • All-Star Cast: Paul Anka, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery (pre-Bond, and a very small role), Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Leo Genn, Jeffrey Hunter, Alexander Knox, Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd (actually playing the Captain he served under on D-Day), Robert Wagner (again, pre-fame) and John Wayne, in addition to a number of French and German/Austrian actors who were already household names in their own countries.
  • Backed by the Pentagon: About 23.000(!) real US, British and French soldiers were used as extras in the movie. They also rented two Messerschmitts from the Spanish air force and four Spitfires from the Belgian air force.
  • Cast the Expert:
    • Richard Todd, who plays Major Howard of the British Airborne, was a British paratrooper during the war and actually took part in the D-Day landings — in fact, he was initially approached to play himself in the film.
    • As a 22-year-old private, Joseph Lowe landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day with the Second Ranger Battalion and scaled the cliffs at Point-Du-Hoc. He scaled those 100-foot cliffs all over again, for the cameras, some 17 years later.
    • Donald Houston, who has one scene as an RAF pilot, actually was in the RAF during World War II.
    • Eddie Albert, who played Colonel Thompson, was a World War II veteran, but he served in the Pacific, not in Europe.
    • Hans Christian Blech (Werner Pluskat) was a German Eastern front veteran.
  • The Danza:
    • Sort of. Gen. James Gavin, played by Robert Ryan, was actually born James Ryan, but put up for adoption at age two, and adopted by Martin and Mary Gavin at age seven.
    • Richard Burton plays Richard Campbell.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • John Wayne as Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort. The real Benjamin Vandervoort was 12 years younger than Wayne, and on D-Day he had been just 27, while Wayne was 54 when the movie was filmed.
    • At 52, Robert Ryan was 15 years older than General James M. Gavin had been.
    • Richard Burton said he felt that both he and Donald Houston were too old to play RAF pilots. During his national service in the RAF he never saw a pilot older than 30.
  • Deleted Role: Dewey Martin, whose character was named Lt. Wilder, was deleted from the final cut.
  • Fake Irish: Sean Connery has a small part as Private Flanagan.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • John Wayne (a very conservative Republican) and Robert Ryan (a very liberal Democrat) had managed to put their political differences aside when they made Flying Leathernecks, but they did not get along at all while making this film.
    • Darryl F. Zanuck and Cornelius Ryan collaborated on the screenplay, even though they hated each other almost from the first time they met. It was up to producer Elmo Williams to mediate between the two and keep the peace.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: Curt Jürgens played General Blumentritt. In real life, Jürgens had been imprisoned by the Nazis.
  • Money, Dear Boy: This was one of several high-profile projects which John Wayne took in the wake of the extremely expensive The Alamo. He had used his own funds to help finance the project, and he was in desperate need of a quick payday.
  • Playing Against Type: Red Buttons usually played goofy comic-relief or funny hero types. Here, while there's some humor with him, his main scene is one of the film's most horrific parts.
  • Screwed by the Network: Averted - Fox was planning on just doing a quick wide release to earn some cash they needed to offset their pre-release losses from Cleopatra. Darryl Zanuck threatened to bringThe Longest Day to Warner Bros. if they didn't do a proper roadshow release, and Fox had to comply. (it still was the box office hit the studio needed)
  • Throw It In!: While clearing a section of the Normandy beach near Pointe du Hoc, the film crew found a tank used in the invasion. They cleaned it up and used it for the British Invasion scenes.
  • Wag the Director: As part of John Wayne's contract, in addition to his high fee, he insisted on getting separate billing. The usual practice in film credits for this type of situation is to start off with "Starring John Wayne and the other actors; however, the credits begin with "starring the other actors... and John Wayne". Wayne's name appears last on the credits, while still meeting the separate billing clause of his contract.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Christopher Lee, who fought in the War as an intelligence officer with the RAF, auditioned for any role he could get. He was turned down because the producers felt he didn't look like a military officer.
    • This was made just after Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency and the producers very nearly cast Eisenhower to play himself. They abandoned the idea because he was too old, though.
    • John Wayne's role was originally offered to Charlton Heston. William Holden was offered the role, but he turned it down, as he was exhausted after finishing Satan Never Sleeps, The Counterfeit Traitor and The Lion.
    • Alec Guinness was sought for a cameo.
    • The part of the British padre was first offered to Dirk Bogarde, who turned it down.
    • Brigitte Bardot and Marina Vlady turned down the role of Janine Boitard.


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