I'll have to disagree with a major point about your review of 'Tora Tora
Tora'; namely the Zanucks refused to use major stars. The Zanucks and the
unknown but influential Elmo Williams were stung by the critics going after 'The
Longest Day' because of all the big stars. Zanuck Sr had to fill 'The Longest
Day' full of major stars to guarantee big box office for the shareholders for
the increasing budget of TLD. I read he nearly was going to drop the
project until United Artists made a large scale offer for the rights to the
film. Mr Z realised that if UA was going to pay a huge amount the film
would gain at least twice that at the box office and went back to it.
Instead Tora used experienced character actors, many very well known (Joseph
Cotton, James Whitmore etc). I had recently researched the film prior to
screening it at our WEA film society.
Your point about the defeat is well taken; it's interesting that the
Bruckheimer 'Pearl Harbor' film featured a triumphant revenge Doolittle
Raid and started out with action of the Battle of Britain.
James Peter Young,
Retro Responds: James, we've also done a great deal of research on Tora! as part of our book The Great Fox War Movies . There is no doubt that Fox's official story is that the actors were chosen because of their talents and physical characteristics. However, the new Blu-ray edition makes the point that a major factor was the amount of money that the film was going to cost at a time when the studio's finances were shaky. Even Richard Zanuck admits he was less-than-enthused to take on this "dream project" for his father Darryl and producer Elmo Williams. I find it a bit hard to believe that Zanuck would have been apologetic about the use of major stars in The Longest Day. Unlike George Stevens' star-packed The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Longest Day was an enormous success with both critics and the public. Reviewers generally praised Zanuck's use of major stars as opposed to Stevens, who used them as stunt casting. Additionally, The Longest Day was a major boxoffice hit and was nominated for a number of key Oscars. So it seems hard to believe that Zanuck would have been sensitive about any aspect of that film. I think that, faced with skyrocketing pre-production costs, Zanuck and Williams realized that the addition of major stars would have sent the budget into the stratosphere at a time when the studio was skeptical about the project itself. The film was supposed to have gone into production in 1966 but costly delays added three years to the schedule. I guess we'll never know the definitive answer, but these are our theories. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and opinions about a very under-rated film.