D-Day, the Sixth of June: Almost no war in this touching wartime love story
Jun 16, 2012
The title suggests a war movie, but the video box cover promises a romance. Believe the box cover.
If you want to commemorate the wartime efforts and sacrifices of the Allied nations, you might not want to do it by watching D-Day, the Sixth of June (1956; director Henry Koster; screenwriters Ivan Moffat and Harry Brown, adapting Lionel Shapiro's novel). The movie isn't about the war very much and it's almost not at all about the legendary maneuver from which it takes its title. This is a love story. The war serves only to bring the lovers together and sometimes to keep them apart.
D-Day, the Sixth of June is about D-Day the way that The Way We Were is about socialism.
The lovers are Robert Taylor, playing a U.S. Army colonel, and Dana Wynter, an Elizabeth Taylor look-alike cast as the daughter of a British brigadier. They are star-crossed lovers, if that can be understood to mean she has a boyfriend and he has a wife. But while those significant others occasionally appear to intrude on the thoughts of our central couple, they don't intrude much on the story. The colonel's wife is, conveniently, in the United States while he is in London. And the brigadier's daughter's boyfriend is, for most of the movie, conveniently off fighting the war that his girlfriend's new beau helps to direct from a reasonably safe distance in London.
Neither of our heroes wants to hurt anyone, of course. It's just that they are drawn together by a love so strong it has them saying things to each other like:
"I wasn't sure you'd be here."
"I'd have crawled."
It doesn't matter who said which of those lines; they could easily have been swapped. It's the same way either of them could have been the one to say to the other as they revel in learning a little bit about each other's homeland by learning about each other, "All of a sudden the whole country becomes the voice and face of one person." This is the kind of movie that has its lovers take blissful comfort from knowing that even when they are apart, they are under the same moon.
And the audience takes comfort with them. We want Taylor and Wynter to end up together, although other stories about impossible love have prepared us for the likelihood that they won't. When the end comes, it brings a twist that might surprise but doesn't disappoint because it leaves us thinking well of each of the people we've been pulling for.
Taylor brings conviction to his part, as well as bland good looks. But those looks are a little . . . weathered. He is at least 20 years older than Wynter, and the disparity in their ages is distracting, at least initially. But anyone who can accept Helen Hunt as a love interest for Jack Nicholson won't have any trouble with this one.
Especially because Wynter is adorable. Her resolve and her stiff upper-lip approach to the war's inconveniences suggest a younger Mrs. Miniver. And her delicate beauty and auburn hair suggest she could easily have played Liz Taylor's sister. Wynter's eyes might even be violet for all we know. The movie is in color, but there aren't any close-ups that show us for sure. However, Taylor (Robert) remarks frequently on how compelling and lovely they are.
Taylor and Wynter make a charming pair who can easily carry a story that has its share of not especially serious improbabilities. If you're looking for a chronicle of the heroics of those whose D-Day campaign defined most of the summer of 1944, you should probably look elsewhere. But if you're looking toward your own summer of love, you and your significant other could do much worse than to settle down for a romantic evening that includes watching D-Day, the Sixth of June.