- British and French: Ken Annakin
- American: Andrew Martin
- German: Bernhard Wicki
This movie tells the story of D-Day in a documentary like style from both the Allied and German viewpoints.
The film has a very talented all-star cast of the time. It is quite literally a Who’s Who of the big (or rising) names of the era. The cast included:
- Henry Fonda as Brigadier Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
- Robert Mitchum as Brigadier Gen. Norman Cota
- Rod Steiger as Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Witherow, Jr.
- Eddie Albert as Col. Lloyd Thompson
- John Wayne as Lt. Col. Benjamin H. Vandervoort
- Stuart Whitman as Lt. Sheen
- Jeffrey Hunter as Sgt. (later field promoted to a lieutenant) John H. Fuller
- Red Buttons as paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele
- Roddy McDowall as Pvt. Morris
- George Segal as Pvt. Wohl
- Robert Wagner as Pvt. Keller
- Paul Anka as Pvt. Lowell
- Sal Mineo as Pvt. Martini
- Fabian as Pvt. Forte
- Richard Burton as Flying Officer David Campbell
- Peter Lawford as Brigadier Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat
- Bernard Fox as Lance-Cpl. Hutchinson
- Richard Dawson as Cpl. Purdom
- Sean Connery as Pvt. Flanagan
- Walter Gotell as SS-Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Mohnke
- Gert Fröbe as Unteroffizier “Kaffeekanne”— “coffee pot”
- Curd Jürgens (aka Curt Jurgens) as General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt
And that’s to name only a few! The cast was enormous. There were many others and many of those and these could be considered glorified cameos, but it doesn’t matter in a great film. And this is truly one of the greats.
Despite multiple stars comprising an international cast as well as an international film crew the movie manages to tell a cohesive story. Yes it has the benefit of being based upon a real event and having that as a guide but with so many big names and so many parts in different portions of the world, it’s amazing that they were able to pull something so cohesive off.
The effects used in this film by and large still hold up today. That’s no small feat in a movie that’s heavy with special effects. There are moments of weakness but for the most part you’re not pulled out of the story.
The battle scenes are pretty tough. You can get more brutal these days than you could back then but even so these were some pretty rough scenes. What’s surprising is they have in them what could best be described as pointless deaths. No glorious death. No turning the tide. They were just shot dead. They didn’t try to glamorize war in this film. They showed it as clearly and accurately as they possibly could for the day.
In every fact-based drama there is some amount of fiction. It irks me to no end. I’m not a fan of composite characters or characters created for dramatic affect and there are some here. They are created to help give a more human face to the story I guess. I’m not a fan of it because it can easily take the story farther and farther from the truth.
Having said that I do have to note one thing that really did happen that seems a little extraordinary: paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele getting stuck on the pinnacle of the church tower during the D-Day invasion. It is a 100% real story. How closely the film adheres to the facts I don’t know but it would be worth checking out. I always suggest using dramatic presentations of real events as a starting point and this would be a good point to start at.
I really do enjoy this movie. I watch it more often than I do some other films. It’s not a short movie but it feels shorter than it is. That’s a credit to the creative forces behind this film that at no point does it slow down or remove you from the narrative.
If you have not watched it, you should. This is a great war film that honors the event that it portrays and all those that participated in it.