For a long time, when anyone thought of a war movie, they immediately thought of Darryl F. Zanuck’s, The Longest Day. Cornelius Ryan, who was the author of the book by the same name, and happened to be a D-day veteran himself, wrote the movie. The book meticulously recreates the events preceding and during the invasion. It is filled with detailed descriptions of multiple occurrences during the invasion. It explains everything from mass attacks on beaches and towns to humorous anecdotes. The book wasn’t exactly a story involving characters, and neither was the film. The Longest Day is more a story of tragedy, glory, and courage surrounding one very important day. And even though mainly American and English filmmakers produced the movie, the movie and book both portray the Germans fairly. But the film added so much to the story that the book could not. Without some of the stunning visuals that the five (Zanuck went unaccredited, but was said to have directed over half the movie) directors put in the film, it would have been impossible to comprehend the scale of it all.
Even though Ryan’s book accurately describes many of the things that happened on D-day, he doesn’t describe many of the situations well. The majority of his descriptions are minimal and are not that vivid. When it comes to describing scenes that would be visually amazing, he is very brief and factual. When he describes the scores of paratroopers sent into France, he simply states that “882 planes carrying thirteen thousand men” were sent in. He doesn’t help the reader in visualizing just how that many planes looked in the sky, as well as what it looks like to see hundreds of paratroopers drifting to the ground. The film accomplishes this very well, with visuals that strived to strike awe in the viewer. When the planes fly into France, the viewer is shown hundreds upon hundreds of planes flying in the same formation at many different altitudes. To actually see all those planes was incredible, most people haven’t seen something that stunning in real life, or in a film. The same goes for when the paratroopers actually jump out of their planes. Ryan just states that there were “thirteen thousand men” sent to jump, but to show you a few hundred paratroopers has a different effect on a person. Gerd Oswald and the cinematographers did an amazing job in sho...
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...es the appearance of the Allied forces. The same scene happens in the book, but it has a much greater effect when it is acted out, as you see just how excited the French were for the Allied forces to show up.
Although the book did an incredible job in explaining every detail and story that happened throughout the day and preceding night, the movie did a much better job in helping the viewer visualize the entire ordeal. Without the film there would be no real way to understand how massive and tragic the invasion was, unless you were there. Which is one reason why both the book and the movie are both so accurate. Because Ryan had based everything in his book on his own personal accounts and hundreds of veteran accounts. The writers, directors, and producer successfully realized their goal of a truly exact D-day film, and they did it without a consistent story or gore. While the stories in the movie were weak and were never truly completed, the movie and book still left the viewer satisfied with what they had watched or read. Without Ryan’s book, I doubt that there would be a D-day movie out that accomplished the same goal of realism that Zanuck’s The Longest Day had.
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