“D-Day: The Sixth of June” (1956)
Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Ivan Moffett and Harry Brown
Based on the novel The Sixth of June by Lionel Shapiro
"1944. Half a million men awaited the signal to cross the English Channel. For many it was to be the last day of their lives. It was D-DAY THE SIXTH OF JUNE." - Prologue
In 1956, 20th Century Fox produced “D-Day: The Sixth of June,” a soapy wartime drama based on Lionel Shapiro’s novel The Sixth of June.
Starring Robert Taylor, Dana Wynter and Richard Todd, the movie isn’t so much a fictitious and small-scale precursor to the studio’s more expensive “The Longest Day” as it is an uninvolving two-soldiers-in-love-with-the-same-woman romance.
Adapted for the screen by Ivan Moffat (“Giant”) and Harry Brown (“Ocean’s 11”), D-Day begins with a flashback.
The story starts as Special Force Six heads toward Juno Beach on the Normandy coast. Comprised of American, British and Canadian personnel, this commando force is assigned to destroy a German gun emplacement several hours before the main landings begin.
Though this looks like it’s going to be an exciting opening sequence to an action-packed war movie, Special Force Six’s run-in to the beach is merely the prelude for a series of flashbacks centering on the interconnected personal lives of Captain Brad Parker (Taylor), Lt. Col. John Wynter (Todd) and Valerie Russell (Wynter).
Parker is an American officer who has been transferred to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in London after he breaks a leg during a parachute jump. He is also married to a woman he “left behind” in suburban Connecticut. Nevertheless, war being hell and all that, he meets and falls in love (or lust) with Valerie.
The problem is that Valerie is already in a relationship with Major Wynter, a commando officer whom she has known for years as a friend of her father’s.
Capt. Brad Parker: Perhaps you'd share an occasional meal with a man who seems due to be pretty lonely.
Valerie Russell: You're very kind.
Capt. Brad Parker: Which is British for “no”'?
Valerie Russell: Which is British for “I'd love to”.
At first, Valerie resists Capt. Parker’s smooth advances, but her British beau is away on combat duty in the Mediterranean. However, she eventually has a change of heart and starts a romance with the suave and persuasive American.
Things seem to be going smoothly till Brad is reassigned to North Africa. Then he comes back to England to join a new unit called Special Force Six, which is commanded by Lt. Col. Alexander Timmer (Edmond O’Brien).
Timmer is a loud-mouthed officer who is seeking a promotion to full colonel, but his fondness for alcohol and his experiences as a Ranger officer in the disastrous Dieppe raid make him more of a liability than an asset as a commander. Wynter, now a major, is his second in command, but since Timmer is not seen in the opening sequence, the viewer can bet a bag of popcorn that the ambitious American “light colonel” somehow gets canned and Wynter is promoted to take his place.
My Take: Though “D-Day: The Sixth of June” gets props for being a Hollywood production that doesn’t treat the Normandy invasion from just an American perspective, it is neither a great war movie nor a sweeping love story.
To its credit, the three leads were relatively well-cast. Robert Taylor, who had been under contract at MGM for most of his career, has a ruggedly handsome appearance that fits Capt. Parker’s war-weary but dashing persona. Richard Todd – who was a D-Day veteran – lends his military bearing and cool British demeanor to Major Wynter. Finally, Dana Wynter is lovely and somewhat believable as the torn-between-two-lovers Valerie.
On the other hand, though director Henry Koster (“The Robe”) does a good job of executing the movie’s modestly-staged Normandy invasion sequence, the Moffat-Brown screenplay is too weak and too formulaic to make an audience really care about the love triangle.
Not only does the story weave unevenly between the perspectives of Brad and John as they recall their relationship with Valerie, but Robert Taylor’s adulterous character is somewhat unworthy of the viewer’s sympathy.
In all fairness, Brad Parker’s faults as a character don’t fall on Taylor’s shoulders as an actor. The guy does well with the material that he is given. But as written by Ivan Moffat and Harry Brown, Captain Parker’s motivations to have an affair are not altogether admirable. The man does say to Valerie that he is lonely, and many men (and women) stationed in England in wartime really did succumb to the tug of temptation.
However, in “D-Day: The Sixth of June” Brad is too eager to bed Valerie almost at first sight, with nary a second thought or hint of remorse about (a) cheating on his wife and (b) sleeping with another man’s girlfriend.
Parker’s moral ambiguity may have been intended to make him edgier by the standards of 1956, but instead it makes him unsympathetic and a tad uncouth.
- Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Widescreen
- Language: English (Mono), French (Mono), Spanish (Mono)
- Subtitles: English, Spanish
- Dubbed: French, Spanish
- Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: NR (Not Rated)
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- DVD Release Date: May 21, 2002
- Run Time: 106 minutes