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FILM REVIEWS Film nevlews are Intended to pnovlde hlstonlans and teachens with cnltlcal evaluations ofa falĂșas both In curnent distribution and those suitable ion ctassnoom use. Reviews ofa curnent faeatunes wilt be assigned to specialists In the given faleld, while all membens are Invited to contribute shorten critiques o fa falims they have used In the classnooom. Each Issue ofa film & Histony will canny nevlews ofa both kinds and we welcome youn comments. Unless othenwlse noted, all falims faon the ctassnoom are 16mm. the longest day (Twentieth Century Fox, 1962) by Steven Levine Myrna Englemeyer The Longest Day, Hollywood's account of the D-Day invasion of June 6 1944, is an ambitious attempt to portray the sweep and complexity of moden warfare. Unfortunately, it is an attempt that fails. Based on a best seller by Cornelius Ryan, with a screenplay which Ryan co^authored with James Jones and Romain Gary, the film describes the Allied master plan and documents its execution, by focusing on the activities of various Allied and German participants prior to and during the invasion. The scenes shift rapidly from defender to invader, from Rommel on the beach at Normandy to the headquarters of the Allied High Command, to the French undergrourd to Canadian paratroops, etc. At its best, The Longest Day convincingly conveys the tedious, cumbersome , and unromantic business of getting men and equipment into battle. At its worst, it descends too often into shallow and syrupy human interest anecdotes , which parade the studio's stable of stars, but detract from the realism of the rest of the film. These vignettes might not detract were they not so trite a view of war, but when paratroop commander John Wayne orders his men to "move out" one gets an irresistible feeling of deja vu. What is missing most from The Longest Day is a sense of history, of the larger significance of this great military venture, and of its place in the over-all history of the war. This is an inherent difficulty of any film (or written account for that matter) that limits itself to the details of battle. Michael Howard, the eminent British military historian, cites this separation of warfare from its political, social, and economic context as the chief failing of the older tradition of military history. The ere- /S3 Ci fanom The Longest Voy, Twentieth Century Trox ators of The Longest Day, like many military historians, chronicle "the splendors and the miseries of man fighting at the behest of authorities and in the service of causes which it was no business of his to analyze or of theirs to question." For example, as the British troops prepare to establish their bloody Normandy beachhead, we learn nothing of their motivation beyond the cryptic comment of an officer that "England has been waiting four years for this." Though we see Eisenhower making the momentous decision to proceed and take advantage of the break in the weather, we hear no comment of the implications of delay for Russian allies—noting beyond the fact that this specific landing might be delayed. We see free Frenchmen in uniform and we see a few attractive Resistance members deceiving not-toclever German soldiers ; but we do not know the meaning of these men for France. The history of war is isolated from any domestic decision-making. The ideological underpinings of the policies of the various powers are absent . Yet, the war in Viet Nam has taught us and our students that domestic and military policies are closely interrelated, if not totally interdependent . All the points that a teacher might wish to draw from The Longest Day for a class which was born after the Korean War have to be meticulously picked out of the morass of detail. At least one point is appealing in that one could build a picture of the difficulties of pursuing war in the SS state where the order of the leader frequently commanded the actions of the professional army against their will. A German officer bemoans the fact that his troops cannot move 'forward to the beach because the final command must come from Hitler who has taken a sleeping pill and cannot...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 19-21
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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