Sunday, June 23, 2013

FORGOTTEN GEM? D-Day - The 6th of June (1956)





              “D-Day – Sixth of June” is a war romance set in the events leading up to the invasion of Normandy.  It is an American film released in 1956.  It is based on an award-winning novel by a Canadian correspondent named Lionel Shapiro.  The book is simply titled “The Sixth of June”.  It is one of the few American movies that focus on the British point of view and features Canadian soldiers.  The film is from the tried and true love triangle subgenre.  It opens with a warning that “For many [the sixth of June] was the last day of their lives.”  If that whets your appetite for bloodshed, prepare to be disappointed.

                Lt. Col.  Wynters (Richard Todd) is a Brit in command of an elite unit called Special Force Six ( a great name for a B movie, by the way).  They are on their way to Normandy.  Good, here comes the combat.  Wait, what’s this?  Damn, a flashback!  Wynters reminisces about his romance with Valerie Russell (Dana Wynter) who is the daughter of a stuffy (are there any other types?) British brigadier.  It’s a schmaltzy flashback replete with treacly music.  When you see the moon, think of me looking at it, too.  Argggh.   The third member of the triangle is Lt. Col. Parker (Robert Taylor).  He is on the same mission and also has a flashback.  Guess who their flashbacks have in common? The Parker-Val relationship starts off chaste.  They meet while Wynters is off to war.  They are just going to be friends – like the countries they represent.  However, just like England before Pearl Harbor, she could be seduced by the right country.  He tells her he is married.  There is a lot of talking and some ominous dancing that leads to… you guessed it – a weekend at a quaint country inn.  Off screen hootchie-cootchie alert!

a cuckold and a cheat
                A ten month separation while Parker is posted to Algiers does not end the romance.  They reunite at the… you guessed it – railway station.  Wait, isn’t this supposed to get complicated?  Queue the return of the wounded cuckolded fiancé Wynters.  He finds out about the cheating, but he accepts it with a stiff upper lip (he’s British).   Parker joins Special Force Six whose mission is obviously based on the actual U.S. Rangers mission to take out the guns of Pointe Du Hoc.  In the movie, the site is called Angel Point (very French!).  It is going to be a “sticky wicket”.  Val has chosen Wynters (loyalty?) and breaks it off with Parker in a syrupy scene.  It looks like someone is going to die and it ain’t gonna be the bird.  Wait, don’t the two dudes have to buddy up in an awkward way?  Sure enough, Wynters is brought in to take command of Special Force Six after the previous commander drunkenly blabbed about the mission.  How convenient.

                If you been waiting for some action (not the kind of action Parker was getting), those fifteen minutes are now here as the flashbacks end and the fighting begins.  They land (in nice weather) to lots of noise and lots of mortars.  Parker gets wounded taking out the mortars and Wynters is hit in the arm.  Hold on – they both survive?  What the hey?  Wynters says good bye to Parker and then steps on a land mine.  LOL – cliché achieved!

                I won’t give away the ending, but I have to say it is the only thing in the movie that is not predictable.  The director must have patted himself on the back and proclaimed himself to be an auteur.  This works if the audience has a very limited memory of the rest of the film.

                This movie actually has its fans.  Gary Freitas of Belle and Blade gave it a 3.0, but you can tell he realizes he’s on shaky ground and probably did not sleep well that night.  The movie is boring!  There is a lot of talking and obviously not much action.  The combat is above average, but pedestrian.  The plot is ridiculous and I can’t imagine the book could be very good.  The special effects are bad.  The budget was low and it shows.  The landing was filmed in California using two Higgins boats and 80 soldiers.  They did not wait for the weather to get D-Dayish.  On the plus sign, Dana Wynter is hot and she gets naked (off camera).  This was her favorite movie, believe it or not.  Suck it, “Sink the Bismarck” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.  I never thought I’d say this, but “Yanks” has a similar plot and is a better movie, relatively speaking.

                In an interesting (I hope) post script, let me add that there was a dollop of accuracy in the plot.  The commander of the U.S. Rangers tasked to take out the guns at Pointe du Hoc was relieved of command before the mission.  But not for drunken blabbing.  He had heard about French Resistance reports that the guns had been removed and thus vocalized his opinion that it made the mission unnecessary, especially since it was borderline suicidal.  You can imagine how the authorities responded to his suggestion.  Hint: it was similar to the British response when intelligence indicated that there was a Panzer division in the vicinity of the Bridge Too Far.  “The best laid plans… must be allowed to take place.”

Grade =  D
 
 
the trailer
 
 

6 comments:

  1. Too bad, I had high hopes when I saw the cast and then I saw your rating.
    While we may disagree occasionally I don't think if you call it boring I will find it fascinating.

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  2. Uggh, that movie sounds boring, so boring. Have to admit, you would not think a movie with Dana Wynter and Robert Taylor would be dull.

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  3. A pet peeve of mine is war movies that purport to be about an actual historical event, but then use that event as a backdrop for a soap opera plot (usually, a love triangle). I would rather watch "The Longest Day" than "D-Day, the Sixth of June," and I would rather see "Tora Tora Tora" than "Pearl Harbor." I understand that the film makers are in business and have to make a profit, and that the movie has to have entertainment value, and therefore the plot has to have some sugar coating to appeal to a mass audience. But "D-Day" went too far in pushing the titular event into the background. I was shocked by how little screen time was spent on the Normandy invasion. I probably would not be so annoyed if the title had been something more appropriate for a love story (like another Robert Taylor wartime romance, "Waterloo Bridge"). "D-Day, the Sixth of June" sounds like a semi-documentary account of the allied invasion of occupied France.

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  4. BTW, there have been war movies (e.g., "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo") that achieved a reasonably good balance of drama, romance, and action.

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    1. I agree with your thesis, but the romance in "Thirty Seconds" is pretty schmaltzy. The best movie with this blend is, in my opinion, "The Last of the Mohicans".

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