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Monday, July 31, 2017

From "The Longest Day" to "Dunkirk"

I am sure that the new movie "Dunkirk" pays great homage to the heroes of that evacuation from the European continent of the British forces.

They lived to fight -- and die -- another day.


However, I remember 55 years ago when Twentieth Century-Fox bet the farm on "The Longest Day," a re-enactment of the most daring, successful, and largest invasion since the Normans invaded Britain in 1066.

That the allies invaded Normandy was fitting.

Darryl F. Zanuck bought the rights to Cornelius Ryan's best-seller, "The Longest Day," and recreated a star-studded invasion of his own.

He had plenty of grizzled actors -- a few of them World War II veterans -- portraying the generals. Henry Fonda was great as Teddy Roosevelt Jr. directing traffic.

Young singers and matinée idols played everyday soldiers: Sal Mineo, Fabian, and Paul Anka. That brought home the war to a new generation.

Zanuck's masterpiece was a spectacle in black-and-white that cost nearly $8 million to produce. It took in $50 million in box office.

The film was a tribute to the courage of men, but also a testament to what a generation of men from the wide-flung British family (including the American cousins) could do. They could take back a continent even if they had to wade through sea and gunfire, crawl through sand, climb 90 degree cliffs, or land in 10-foot-tall hedges.

Zanuck showed how to win, and what victory looked like.

In this new movie, we witness an evacuation -- a withdrawal from a homeland, a continent, and a way of life to avoid invaders from the east.

I hope the lesson in "Dunkirk" is that a retreat -- ceding land to a despot -- should be a last resort.

Perhaps a re-filming of "The Longest Day" with today's matinée idols serving as privates will follow, so that a new generation is inspired to preserve a continent from this latest invasion.

Otherwise, we are going backward. We should go from "Dunkirk" to D-Day, and not the other way around.



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18 comments:

  1. Very apt.

    Although, at the time, the Limeys did tend to regard it as something of a victory.

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  2. "to preserve a continent from this latest invasion." And to never trust Germany. Ever.

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    1. I recall back in 1989, talking to the proprietor of a campground by the Danube river in Germany, the guy stopped to complain as a US military plane took off noisily: "Look at that - sure, we lost the war, but really!"

      I am embarassed to say that I THOUGHT, but didn't SAY:

      "No, sir, it's not that you LOST a war - it's that you persist in STARTING them."

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  3. (The first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan had scenes that would have never been allowed in the same Longest Day theaters--it would have been too soon)

    But, [Click Click]..."Send them to Hell."
    Still a good message to keep in mind.

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    1. Keep in mind Spielberg has a blood fetish, much like Tarantino.

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  4. They still managed to sneak in some left wing propaganda in The Longest Day. The bit where the Rangers scaled the cliffs and massacred Germans trying to surrender only to find that the guns had never been installed in their replacements was totally misrepresented. A lie, if you will. If you watch the commentary about the making of the film those responsible actually admit that they were trying to make a pacifistic statement about the futility of war. Politics came before facts. They were just more subtle about it back then.
    Maybe if we'd started hanging people for that we wouldn't have the problems we have now.

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    1. IIRC In Band of Brothers they track down and destroy those guns which the Germans had moved to a forest nearby.

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    2. Len Lomell was cited for that action later on.

      As for the scene, the Krauts were saying, "Bitte, bitte", and the Rangers didn't know what it meant. Nobody at the time saw it as a "war crime". The Krauts come out of nowhere and the understandably edgy Rangers react.

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  5. Emplacements, nor replacements.

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    Replies
    1. Not, not nor.

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    2. Those dang editors never do their jobs, just like the NYT. /sarc, I have similar problems with my editors.

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  6. I don't think they are trying to send a message against retreat, they are trying to make a case for it. White-privilege guilt has replaced democratic-value pride.

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  7. Watching Dunkirk last week, I never got the impression that "retreat" was being celebrated in any way, rather the rescue itself -- and the survivors (who enjoyed a heroes' welcome on arriving home) was memorialized. It's a story not many people are really all that well aware of, especially here, Stateside (of course, we weren't yet involved in the War at that time).

    It wasn't about retreat as such; their backs to the sea, the British troops had nowhere to go, so for the Germans, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

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  8. A culture that builds forts instead of fighting fleets is doomed.

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  9. It is not right to blame the French or English for Dunkirk. The facts are simply that the Belgian and Dutch forces folded like cheap stationary while largely still intact. Had they held for even a few days the Brits and French would have had time to consolidate their forces and provide a substantial opposition to German forces. The allies had numerical superiority, advantages in several types of weapons, and were fighting a defensive campaign. Unfortunately they had to defend a long line whereas Germany had the advantage of force concentration.
    The operation at Dunkirk saved 330,000 troops, men the British could ill afford to lose. 2,260,000 good men were lost in the invasion of France. 157,621 Germans were eliminated at least temporarily from Hitler's juggernaut.
    As the good doctor noted above, the message of "The Longest Day" was the futility of war. The lesson of Dunkirk, not the movie, is the futility of peace at any price.

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    1. Reality check. None of the Allied Nations were mentally prepared to fight another war.

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  10. Operation Dynamo was an heroic rescue. It saved the core of the B.E.F. and it saved Britain's ability to resist and resume the fight. Those officers and soldiers rescued from the port and beaches of Dunkirk were the frame from which the British army in the remainder of the war was made. If the Germans had captured that core/corps the West would have been lost with no hope of recovery.

    -Mikey NTH

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    1. "the West would have been lost with no hope of recovery."

      Much like 2017.

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