Screengrab: The Longest Film

Screen GrabRichard Lutz looks at the TV schedules to find the movie you can’t miss.

Watch out. Lock and load. Don’t shoot ’til you see the whites of their eyes. The free world army finally attacks.

Yes, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Leslie Phillips, Richard Todd, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Robert Mitchum and dozens of other four star actors invade France to save the world.

The Longest Day (Fri,Film4, 14.55) screens on the 70th anniversary of D Day.

Yes, movie schedulers got it right rather than slapping a Jerry Lewis celebration at us on this momentous day. The black and white film is actually a catalogue of events rather than an unfolding narrative. After all, we all know what happened. It took three directors, a fistful of writers and a credit list as long as a German general’s face on June 6th, 1944 when the fog over he Channel lifted to reveal the Allies off the coast of Normandy.

To be fair, it is weirdly ‘old school’ black and white. Unlike great hardcore war films such as Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line, all the A-listers do look like they had Hollywood smudge smeared on their faces and their uniforms had just come out of wardrobe. But real vets did show up: Fonda, Steiger and Brit Richard Todd all saw action – the latter was part of the heroic Pegasus Bridge assault, in fact.

All stars were paid a flat $25,000. Except John Wayne. He demanded ten times that amount because he hated producer Daryl Zanuck. Plus, he never went into the forces during WW2 despite being in the age range. Director John Ford, who used him in epoch westerns later on, never let him forget it.

Ironically, the only troops to actually achieve their original assigment were the Canadians and they were never shown in the the 1962 film. It is Connery’s last film before he was re-born as 007. So, if you want Hollywood’s longest film to sum up The Longest Day, hit the remote,sit back and see how overpaid actors presented the drama, horror and heroism of the fight against the Axis.