Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two sides of the same coin

Films about World War 2 were a staple in the 1960's.  They couldn't crank them out fast enough.  Lately I've been catching up on some of them on Netflix.

I recently watched the epic The Longest Day and Von Ryan's Express.   While ostensibly about the same thing, the war in Europe, they could not have been more different.

The Longest Day is about the invasion of Normandy and Von Ryan's Express is about an escape/liberation from a German POW camp.  One is a grand epic and the other is a much smaller vanity project featuring a pop singer. Longest Day strives for accuracy and mines the facts for it's drama, Von Ryan's tries to rely on Frank Sinatra's fading charisma.  Sinatra sat out the war but many in the Longest Day did not.

The Longest Day features an international cast that included big time stars of the day such as Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Eddie Albert, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Gert 'Goldfinger' Frobe, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Sal Mineo, Edmund O'Brien, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Robert Wagner, Stuart Whitman, and John Wayne.  Von Ryan's is all about making Frank Sinatra look like he's an action hero.

The difference between these two films is glaring and huge.  It's painfully obvious that one was made in order to placate Sinatra's huge ego, and some say this was the film alluded to in the opening scenes of The Godfather, the one where they have to cut off the head of the racehorse and slip it in the producer's bed in order to get the Italian singer the part.  While the other film was made to tell the story of the heroic D-Day invasion.  One was based on historical fact and the other was based on a novel.

I quite liked The Longest Day and I found Von Ryan's Express nearly unwatchable.  But I guess you knew that already.

No comments: