Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

A Hollywood Dream Crushed at Normandy

It turns out the real life version of one of my favorite World War II movie characters wasn't what I once thought.

by
C. Blake Powers

Bio

October 18, 2013 - 3:00 pm
Page 1 of 4  Next ->   View as Single Page
A view from inside a gun bunker at Longues, Normandy

A view from inside a gun bunker at Longues, Normandy

Normandy.

The word brings to mind many things, but for many of us it means but one thing: D-Day. Hollywood has taken the event and made it a continuing part of our collective lives.

We have jumped into Normandy with the Band of Brothers, and shared the confusion, terror, loss, humor, and more that went with that jump. We’ve shared the day, and it’s aftermath, through Tom Hanks’ character in Saving Private Ryan. In addition to those blockbusters, you also have Ike: Countdown to D-Day, D-Day, the Sixth of June, D-Day The Total Story, and a host of lesser films.

Yet, only one movie has focused on the day and captured the public’s imagination: The Longest Day. This 1962 movie has moved from the big screen to being a staple of classic movie and history channels. In it, one sees the different pieces of the operation — from both sides. It’s treatment of the Germans is far more even-handed than one might expect, though it is clear who are the good guys and who is not. The cast is impressive, with Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Robert Ryan, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Red Buttons, and many more.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (12)
All Comments   (12)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I'm also a big fan of Pluskat's character in both book and movie. Mr. Ryan reported that he interviewed Pluskat himself but I don't know what access he'd have had to verify the Major's statements.
Also very fond of the pilot, Joseph Priller, and his wingman.
The movie The Longest Day is likely the most historically accurate film of that event. At some important points, it diverges from the book, let alone any other documentation. E.g., the Red Buttons character who lands on the church steeple was found by Americans in the movie but the book reports that the Germans took him as a POW.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lot has come out since Ryan did that interview, though there was also a good bit out before -- most of it in German and not readily available except with some serious research. I agree with you about Priller's character in the movie, and do wonder how close it is to reality.

The Longest Day is indeed the most accurate movie out there IMO, but sadly I've learned it is no where near accurate on the details. Rather spoils my enjoyment of it these days.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm going to speak current-day heresy, but everyone should keep in mind that an awful lot of "Saving Private Ryan" is fiction too, and bad fiction at that. One way in which "The Longest Day" and other earlier World War II movies are superior to SPR is that the older movies don't portray GI's as the chatty 90's guys who are in SPR. SPR might be more realistic about flying body parts, but I'd much rather watch a movie like "Battleground" or "Bataan," which are better at showing the character of people of the time.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Huh. And I thought I was the only one disappointed in that movie. The chatty and the particular comments made really made me dislike what could have been a great movie without the angsty political junk. In talking with a number of veterans of that era, the dialog just isn't real. Agree with your other movie choices, as they do a better job. The soldiers (and Marines) could, would, and did bi, er, complain a lot and they often wondered if higher was deliberately trying to get them killed, but they never questioned why they were fighting as much as current Hollywood would love for people to believe.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, I agree with you, Mr. Powers 100%. Your point about the World War II GI's believing in why they were fighting is on target and very important. There have probably always been malcontents, cynics and bad apples in armies, as in any group of humans, and soldiers have always grumbled, but "Saving Private Ryan" did an awful job of portraying men of the 1940's, based on what I know from my World War II-veteran Dad, other veterans, and non-fiction accounts that I've read. And you're right to point out what "The Longest Day" movie got wrong, but some of these later war movies are actually worse in my opinion with their distortions.

One of the few recent movies which I thought did a great job of portraying World War II events and people was "Der Untergang," about Hitler's last days. But as good as the Europeans often are at making movies, they've made some big clunkers too. Back in the '70s I read William Craig's great book "Enemy at the Gates" about the Battle of Stalingrad, and was fascinated by the Eastern Front ever since. In the '90s a movie called "Stalingrad" was made in Germany which I looked forward to seeing, but I was awfully disappointed in it too because it had a lot of "political junk" in it, as you put it. Plus it had way too many fat and dumpy actors playing front-line Wehrmacht soldiers, along with other inaccuracies.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting.

In similar vein, I enjoyed William Friedkin's explanation of making The French
Connection. Of necessity, much is symbolic of much larger events.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I will have to try to look that up to read. For me, it wasn't just that he reportedly lied about this, it was finding out that a number of other claims he made about his wartime service have also been called into question/shown to be fabrications. To say I'm not fond of Stolen Valor is an understatement, and to find out that Pluskat was something of the WWII posterboy for it really PO'd me. Then again, it's given me a push to go back to Normandy again and learn more/do more/share more. Thanks for the breadcrumb and the comment!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Stolen Valor"

The amount of BS out there could make a cynic of a saint.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Friedkin explanation was on the DVD version of The French Connection. He also gave some opinion about the Corsican fellow who was the actual connection. Wartime friend of de Gaulle, couldn't have truly escaped capture in New York...
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting, and that will help me find it. Thanks!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
“What I’m suggesting, of course, in saying this and I’m only suggesting that Charnier, who got out of the country, Sal and the others, who did very little time, I’m suggesting there were payoffs involved at the highest levels of law enforcement,” he suggests. “There was no way that Charnier could have escaped this cordon that was around him and that there was no way Sal Boca was not gonna do major jail time for what he did.”

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/33-things-we-learned-from-the-french-connection-commentary-jkirk.php

If you want the whole magilla, it's here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IdnXmI0pVo
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All