How a master filmmaker channeled Hitchcock with ‘the James Stewart of Korea’
‘The Longest Day’ is the story of the Korean War
Koreans were in battle when the James Stewart movie “The Longest Day” was made.
It’s difficult to believe the era in which the movie was set, a time when people were getting killed every day and the world was largely unfamiliar with the brutal war that was Korea. Even the stars were different. The late director Robert Aldrich, who wrote the screenplay, was a British-born American who was born in China. He’d made 20 movies before making “The Longest Day” and had seen and filmed every war and conflict in which he’d ever been involved. From World War II through World War II, he’d been there. And when war breaks out in Korea, no American on the West Coast is remotely prepared.
Aldrich was working on the script for his new film script when a chance phone call from the president convinced him to look beyond his own country. He went to Korea. He was in a different generation of filmmakers than the American filmmakers who’d gone to Korea during the war. And he was an experienced one. “The Longest Day” is a war movie, but Aldrich made it into a love story as well, the story of how war touched lives of all manner of people in both countries, and how, by showing how men were made to fight and the pain of losing a loved one, he was able to tell his own great, strange, brave love story.
Aldrich had been a screenwriter since 1933, having won some of the first screenwriting Oscars at age 26 in 1935 for scripts for “The Man Who Would Be King” and “The Great Ziegfeld.” He’d been nominated again the year after for “The Little Colonel,” written for MGM, and in 1941, he would win the Oscar for screenwriting “It’s a Wonderful Life” and get a third nomination the year after for