World War II movie locations

Many feature films were set against the backdrop of the World War II. Biographies, dramas and even comedies, all genres were used to describe this dark period of the 20th century. We offer ten locations from ten must-see films related to the conflict.

We offer you ten filming locations from essential films related to the World War II.

1. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg – 1998)

Colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery

World War II film locations: Colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery
Colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery

During his visit to France at the Colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery, a veteran was shocked by the sight of a cross representing the grave of a soldier who died during the Normandy landings in 1944. He remembers those tragic moments. That’s how start Saving Private Ryan.

If the action of the film is supposed to take place in Normandy, and in particular at Omaha Beach, the beach seen is that of Ballinesker Beach in Ireland. On the other hand, this cemetery – an unmissable monument of the World War II – appears on screen at the beginning and end of the feature. Covering an area of 70 hectares, it houses 9,386 tombs and was inaugurated in 1956. It is the first American military cemetery of the Second World War. As is customary in all cemeteries of the two world wars, the site is a perpetual concession made by France to the United States. They are the owners of this territory where French law nevertheless applies.

Address : Unnamed Road, 14710 Colleville-sur-Mer, France

2. The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, Gerd Oswald and Darryl F. Zanuck – 1962)

The scene of the paratrooper hanging from a church steeple…

World War II film locations: Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption Church
Our Lady of the Assumption Church

Based on Cornelius Ryan’s novel published in 1959, The Longest Day is one of the most popular films about the World War II in France (11,910,000 admissions in cinemas). It tells the story of the Allied landings in Normandy. The craze was such that when it was first broadcast on television, on November 10, 1976 on FR3, it caused a power cut in many French regions and particularly in Brittany.

The casting is international. British actors include Sean Connery or Richard Burton. Henry Fonda, John Wayne or Robert Mitchum among American actors. Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault or Bourvil for the French. Even the former president, Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed to play his own role. As for Romain Gary, he wrote some scenes for the French actors.

The mythical sequence of the Longest Day was filmed at Sainte-Mère-Eglise and more particularly at Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption church. She recreated the scene of the paratrooper hanging from his bell tower. The story is true and took place during Operation Albany on the night of 5-6 June 1944. The American soldier, John Steele, stayed there for more than two hours before being arrested by the Germans. He managed to escape from his jailers a few days later. To commemorate this tragic accident, the village festival committee had a mannequin, nicknamed Big Jim, installed on the roof of the building. The uniform and parachute are changed twice a year.

Address : Eglise Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, 50480 Saint-Mère-Eglise

3. Is Paris burning? (René Clément – 1966)

Hotel Meurice

Is Paris burning? recounts the feats of arms of the resistance to liberate the French capital. Fighting rages between the army of shadows and the Germans holding Paris.

During the occupation, the German army had established its command centre in the luxurious Hotel Meurice. Military governor of Greater Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz (Gerd Froebe) received the Swedish consul there, played by Orson Welles. Adapted from the eponymous book by Larry Collin and Dominique Lapierre, this 175-minute feature film tells the story of the Liberation of Paris at the end of the World War II.

If the film is in black and white, it is mainly because at the time of shooting, the government refused to allow Nazi flags to fly in the streets of Paris. Only their grey versions were tolerated. The title is a quote from Hitler to General Dietrich von Choltitz, then Governor of Paris. The dictator had ordered him on August 23, 1944 that only ruins of the city would remain when the Allies took it over. The next day, Hitler reportedly phoned him, furious, and asked, “Is Paris burning?” It wasn’t. The high-ranking officer had refused to follow his chief’s orders, remaining under the impression of an exhausted man who had fallen into madness when he had met him a few weeks earlier. The general signed the surrender of the Nazi troops on August 25, 1944 at the Montparnasse railway station.

Address: 228 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France

4. The scene of the murder of the SS officer

Located 12 km northwest of Paris, the Fort of Cormeilles was the setting for the cult scene inInglourious Basterds in which the Jewish Bear, Sergeant Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) kills the SS sergeant with a baseball bat. This fortification of the Val-d’Oise was completed in 1877. It was part of the plan to fortify the capital. At that time, it housed 64 guns, could accommodate up to 1,095 men, 36 officers and 14 horses. Now owned by the Ile-de-France regional council, the site is managed by the Friends of Cormeilles Fort association. Because of the wide variety of buildings, its size and its network of galleries, the fort is frequently used for movies and television series. On average, four shoots take place there every year. For example, the first feature film shot here was Terence Young’s Triple Cross in 1966. Then came Jean-Pierre Melville’s cult film L’Armée des ombres in 1969, Robert Lamoureux’s On a retrouvé la 7e compagnie in 1975 and Claude Chabrol’s Le Sang des autres in 1984. More recently, the Fort of Cormeilles was used as a setting for Jean-Paul Salomé’s Les Femmes de l’ombre in 2008, Olivier Marchal’s MR 73 the same year and Roschdy Zem’s Chocolat in 2015. The scene of the execution of Marcel and Chassagne in season 5 of the series Un village français was also shot there.

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5. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg – 1993)

Oskar Schindler’s factory

Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, the feature film tells how this German industrialist, a member of the Nazi party, saved more than 1,000 Jews working in his factory from deportation.

The Schindler company still exists in Krakow, Poland. Steven Spielberg therefore filmed exterior shots of the factory, while the interior sequences were shot in the enamel factory in Olkusz, in the province of Malopolska. During filming, between March and May 1993, the American director used the Kazimierz district of Krakow but was unable to obtain permission to film in the Auschwitz camp. It was decided to recreate an identical decor not far away. To cheer the teams up, Robin Williams would tell them jokes on the phone every day. It should be pointed out that the atmosphere was heavy on the set.

Address: Lipowa 4, 33-332 Kraków, Poland

6. La traversée de Paris (Claude Autant-Lara, 1956)

The Jambier building

During the Occupation, Marcel Martin (Bourvil) and Grandgil (Jean Gabin) had to transport suitcases containing the pieces of a pig to the other end of Paris for the black market. Marcel first comes to play the accordion in the cellar of the grocer Jambier (Louis de Funès) to cover the cries of the animal when it is killed. The situation becomes more complicated when he returns to take possession of the suitcases with Grandgil. The latter wants to be paid more and bullies the grocer, first by damaging part of his food stock, then by repeating loudly “Jambier, 45 rue Poliveau!” Fearing that the police will discover his traffic, the shopkeeper finally gives in.

If 45 de la rue now houses a café called La Traversée de Paris and is decorated in the effigy of the film, the building whose facade is filmed is actually at number 13. For his role as Marcel Martin, Bourvil was awarded the Performance Prize at the Venice Mostra in 1956. However, at the beginning, Marcel Aymé, whose eponymous novel is an adaptation, disagreed on the choice of the actor of the Atlantic Wall. Claude Autant-Lara gave in to the novelist on the subject of the colour in which his film would be broadcast in order to be able to keep the actor.

Address : 13 Rue Poliveau, 75005 Paris

7. The Last Metro (François Truffaut – 1980)

Jean-Loup Cottins’ apartment

The Last metro tells the story of Marion Steiner (Catherine Deneuve), patron saint of the Montmartre theatre. She has been running it since her husband Lucas (Heinz Bennent) fled Paris because he is Jewish. But he actually hid in the basement of the facility. She falls in love with Bernard Granger (Gérard Depardieu), an actor involved in the resistance.

Jean-Loup Cottins (Jean Poiret) lives in this building. It was also at this address that he was arrested by three young FFIs. Opened in 1904, this avenue is only 115 m long and is one of the smallest in Paris. It is actually a dead end for vehicles since its junction with Delessert Boulevard is via magnificent and monumental staircases. François Truffaut doubted the success of his film until its release. He was rewarded with ten Caesars. In the history of these awards, no film has ever managed to collect so many!

Address: 1 Avenue de Camoens, 75016 Paris, France

8. Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum – 2014)

Chancery Lane

World War II film locations: Chancery Ln, London
Chancery Ln, London

Based on the novel Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, Imitation Game is a biography of Alan Turing, the famous British mathematician and cryptanalyst. The film focuses on his scientific contribution during the World War II.

Alan (Benedict Cumberbatch) worked on Enigma, a machine capable of decrypting German coded messages. At Bletchley Park, he joined other scientists and logic specialists, including Joan Clarke (Knightley keira), Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and John Cairncross (Allen Leech).

In this scene, Alan Turing is cycling down a devastated street in London. 80 tons of rubble was dumped on Chancery Lane for the purpose of filming. They were cleaned in a single weekend. The film recounts certain aspects of the famous scientist’s life, including his private life. Turing was convicted of homosexuality in 1954. In 2013, 60 years after his death, he was finally pardoned posthumously by Queen Elizabeth II. Bringing this injustice to light, the feature film played a big part in this decision.

Address: Chancery Ln, Holborn, London, UK

9. Amen (Costa-Gavras, 2002)

The Vatican

World War II film locations: Mogoşoaia Palace, Romania
Palace of Mogoşoaia, Romania

Alerted by the German officer Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur) of the genocide on the Jews, Ricardo Fontana (Mathieu Kassovitz) tries to approach Pius XII (Marcel Iures) to talk to him about it. He thinks the pope will be able to use his aura to stop the massacre.

Since it’s not easy to get permission to film inside the Vatican, Costa Gavras had to choose Romania for this. Cheaper in production, this Eastern European country often hosts film productions.

Thus, the exterior scenes were filmed at the Mogosoaia Palace (Strada Valea Parcului 1, Mogoșoaia), a building of the nobility whose construction was completed in 1702. Today it belongs to the Romanian state. As for the interior sequences, they were shot at the Parliament Palace in Bucharest (Strada Izvor 2-4, București) where both chambers, deputies and senators, sit. This sorreal-style building is the largest stone building and the second largest administrative building in the world behind the Pentagon.

The poster of Amen, signed by Oliviero Toscani – famous for the Benetton campaigns – created a great stir in the Catholic community. It represented the intermingling of the Christian cross and the swastika. The film depicted the wait-and-see attitude of Pius XII during the Second World War and more specifically the Holocaust. A lawsuit was filed against the visual of the poster but the assignees were dismissed.

Address : Strada Valea Parcului Mogoșoaia, Strada Valea Parcului 1, Mogoșoaia, Romania

10. Mr. Klein (Joseph Losey – 1976)

Home of Robert Klein

During the German occupation, Robert Klein (Alain Delon) does business. He buys things belonging to Jews at very low prices. One day he finds out he has a namesake. This Robert Klein is Jewish, resistant and registered at the police headquarters. The businessman is trying to distance himself from this embarrassing man. The more attempts he makes to clear his name, the more suspicion grows.

Denounced, the two Kleins were arrested during the Vel d’Hiv raid on 16 July 1942. They were both deported without ever meeting each other.

If in the film the address of Robert Klein (Alain Delon) is mentioned at 136 rue du Bac, the filming actually took place at number 108. And sometimes fiction and reality come together, like here. For it was in this building that Romain Gary lived from 1963 until his death on December 2, 1980. The writer and diplomat had joined the Free French Air Force as early as the summer of 1940 and participated in many missions for the Free France. It was during this period that he gave up his name of Romain Kacew to become Romain Gary, this name meaning “burn!” in Russian, his native language.

Address: 108 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris, France

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By Damien Canteau

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Passionné par l'Histoire, les animés, les Arts et la bande dessinée en particulier, Damien est le rédacteur en chef du site spécialisé dans le 9e art, Comixtrip.

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