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The events of D-Day in World War II have been the grist for war movies for half a century, either in the form of full-blown recreations of that day's events (The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan) or as an incidental event in the telling of a different story (Patton, The Americanization of Emily). Falling somewhere in between is a curiously titled 1956 film—D-Day The Sixth of June. Curious in that the title (and the fact that it's a CinemaScope production) would suggest that you're about to see a reconstruction of the D-Day events, whereas in reality, those events (and in fact only a minor component of them) merely serve to frame a wartime love triangle that occupies 90 percent of the film time. Fox has now released the film on DVD as part of its latest wave of War Classics.
Facts of the Case
American army officer Brad Parker and British commando officer John Wynter are both in love with the same British woman—Valerie Russell. Valerie had first fallen for Wynter and promised to wait for him as he went into action early in the war. Then with the United States entering the war in 1941, American servicemen began to be posted to England. Brad Parker was among them and eventually came into contact with Valerie who by then was working at a center for off-duty servicemen. A relationship begins to develop between the two, but Valerie calls it off in deference to her promise to Wynter. Eventually, she changes her mind and Valerie and Brad begin an affair that is cut short when he is transferred to the Algiers command center. Wynter, meanwhile, has served on several fronts and been wounded. Returning to England, he hopes to re-establish his relationship with Valerie, only to find out about her change of heart. Valerie now finds herself torn between the two men, but final resolution of the situation must wait, as both men find themselves assigned to a commando operation that will lead off the Normandy invasion on D-Day.
There's certainly nothing new in D-Day The Sixth of June. On any list of World War II films, it would be well below the top tier of titles. Yet, it does provide good entertainment value for several reasons. The film has a polished, professional look to it that is enhanced by the use of CinemaScope. The process is used effectively by veteran director Henry Koster in both the romantic scenes and the brief action scenes involving the initial movement of the D-Day force and the commando attack. Appearing as Brad and Valerie, Robert Taylor and Dana Wynter respectively capture the film's acting honours with sincere, sympathetic, and natural performances. Richard Todd as John Wynter has less screen time than the other two principals, but he manages to make his character a credible third component to the triangle although his work is a touch wooden at times. The screenplay by Harry Brown (collaborating with Ivan Moffat) was his second war effort for Fox in 1956; Between Heaven And Hell was the other. It demonstrated a fine touch for dialogue in the scenes between Valerie and Brad—that being one of its characteristics that attracted Robert Taylor to do the film in the first place (that plus the fact that it reminded him of a somewhat similarly-paced film that he had done and enjoyed—1940's Waterloo Bridge).
Despite the fact that actual D-Day events are substantially subordinated to the rest of the story, when the film does get around to them, it handles the action efficiently. As mentioned above, re-creation of such events are limited to an advance commando raid. Filming of this sequence was actually done on a beach north of Los Angeles with U.S Army assistance in the form of a technical advisor. The action looks pretty realistic and gritty for a 1956 effort, although obviously we're spared the blood and severed limbs that we're familiar with from more current war film fare.
A final few words about Robert Taylor. Taylor was one of the MGM stars who remained with the studio the longest, not departing until the late 1950s. Fox's D-Day The Sixth of June was the first film he had made outside of MGM in 20 years; ironically the previous one in 1937 had been for Fox also (This Is My Affair). For many people including myself, Robert Taylor's best films were (like the one currently under discussion) the ones he made later in his career when his face had a more aged and weathered look to it. He looked more comfortable and those films reflected the increased feeling of realism that he conveyed. He started to make westerns more frequently also and that was a genre that suited him well. Keep a look out for The Last Hunt (1956), Saddle the Wind (1958), The Law and Jake Wade (1958), and The Hangman (1959).
Fox has released D-Day The Sixth of June on DVD in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. There are a few speckles and scratches, but in general the source material looks to be in pretty good shape. Consequently, we get a very pleasing image. The colour by Deluxe is bright, but natural-looking with only one or two exterior scenes where it looks a little faded. Blacks are deep and whites are clean. Shadow detail is quite good. The transfer has a very film-like look with no edge enhancement in evidence.
A Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround track is provided. Use of the surrounds and separation effects are restricted to the action scenes, although even there, they're not particularly noticeable. Nevertheless, there is a generally enveloping air to the mix that tends to persist throughout the film. It's subtle, but it does give that little extra feeling of audience engagement in the proceedings. Mono tracks are provided in French and Spanish, and English subtitles are included.
The film has the standard Fox War Classics supplements—the theatrical trailer plus trailers for a number of other Fox war films.
Fox has recently released five further films in its War Classics Series. Between Heaven and Hell is the best of the bunch, but D-Day the Sixth of June is a close second. The story is nothing new, but it's well acted and made with topnotch production values. Fox provides a very pleasing rendition on DVD.
Both defendant and co-conspirator Fox are acquitted. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
• Original Theatrical Trailer
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