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The great fighting heart and spirit of the Israeli people was not
developed by one man. It was embodied in the dream of every Jewish
peasant who for two previous generations contributed even pennies to
Theodore Herzl's Zionist organization. And for the holocaust survivors
it represented their last chance for a place in the world that was
truly their's. No longer to be a guest in everyone else's country.
The heart and spirit were there when part Palestine became the state of Israel, but the military leadership was provided by a man born like myself in Brooklyn, New York. Colonel David "Mickey" Marcus was a West Point graduate who opted for a civilian career as a lawyer and dabbled in politics. His political allies at one time or other were Fiorello LaGuardia and Tom Dewey. He held various appointive positions in the LaGuardia administration in New York. When World War II broke out, Marcus went back in the army and for the most part given his legal training worked in the Judge Advocate General's office, but later did see combat with the Third Army under George Patton.
Kirk Douglas plays Marcus and for him, this must have been a role he relished given his background as the son of Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. The film opens with James Donald representing the Haganah literally accosting Douglas in Macy's 1947 and explaining he's about the fiftieth person they've contacted to be a military adviser to the provisional government in Palestine. Douglas explains he hasn't been in Temple since his bar mitzvah and really doesn't consider himself much of a religious Jew or even a cultural one. By the end of the film, he's developed pride in his religion and ethnicity and earnestly commits to the struggle.
You might have expected Douglas's own Bryna Productions to have produced Cast a Giant Shadow, but co-producing it with the Mirisch Brothers was Batjac Productions which was John Wayne's company. Wayne took a minor role in the production as General Mike Randolph who is clearly Patton. Made clear by the prominent two stars Wayne has on his helmet in flashbacks to World War II which later become three stars during the scene of a concentration camp liberation.
Well Patton as we all know was killed in December 1945 in that jeep accident in occupied Germany. So obviously a decision was made to fictionalize Wayne's name in order to give him a bigger part as a man who encourages his former subordinate in his work.
And if Wayne were fictionalized then some others had to be also. Yul Brynner as Asher was definitely Moshe Dayan who was winning the Six Day War when Cast a Giant Shadow came out. Luther Adler's character name was Jacob Zion and he was clearly David Ben-Gurion. Michael Hordern has a brief part and is just listed as British Ambassador in the credits and that would have been Lord Halifax then.
Also fictionalized was Marcus's fling with his female aide who is played by Senta Berger. She serves kind of like his Kay Summersby. Should never have been part of the film, but maybe the producers decided a little sex was needed. Marcus's wife in America is played by Angie Dickinson.
Even though Cast a Giant Shadow is based on a true story, the film does suffer in comparison to the film made of Leon Uris's novel about the founding of Israel, Exodus. Most of that novel did make it on the screen. It's characters were better developed in a much longer film that held the interest throughout.
Cast a Giant Shadow also had its moments of silliness. There was a whole scene with Frank Sinatra as a mercenary pilot joining the new Israeli army dropping seltzer bottles on the enemy. Whatever possessed the powers that be to let that into the film?
I will say that the battle scenes were well staged and the politics albeit one sided were clearly stated. Like Exodus in that way. One of the most moving scenes of the film was the announcement at the birth of Israel of the telegram from the American President Harry Truman announcing recognition of the new state accompanied with reverent singing of the Hatikvoh, Israel's national anthem. That same scene was also in Exodus, but both were done well.
Of course the climax of the film is when Luther Adler makes the American visitor the commander over all the forces on the Jerusalem/Negev front. As he says, the last man who held this title is found in the Old Testament of the Bible and his name was Joshua. That's the scene when Kirk Douglas finally realizes what his heritage truly is and it is moving.
Despite it's flaws, Cast a Giant Shadow is a wonderful tribute to the men and women who fought and still fight to maintain the State of Israel. Even though it does suffer in comparison to Exodus, it has plenty of merit on its own.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A truly remarkable figure in military history is given an alternately dignified and silly tribute in this nicely appointed biographical film. Douglas plays a U.S. Colonel who is approached to advise the military operations of the scattered tribes and groups that are about to form Israel. To his wife Dickinson's dismay, he leaves soon after the close of WWII and works to organize and stimulate the rather ragtag factions in place. In flashbacks, his previous exploits in the war (including his parachute jump into D-Day and his dismantling of the concentration camp at Dachau) are briefly shown. Once in Israel, he works alongside present leader Brynner, though they are occasionally at odds. He is assigned a curvy and attractive liaison in the form of Berger. The forging of Israel is a far more complicated and massive undertaking than seemingly possible and many lives are lost on both sides as a result. Finally, Douglas is able to help make it all happen, though ultimately he is unable to see the fruits of his labor. Douglas gives his typically solid, square-jawed performance, providing his character with guts, bravado and foresight. Dickinson barely bothers to get dressed in her thankless, clingy role. Most of the time she is in bed, getting out of bed or about to go to bed and spends the bulk of her screen time fretting about the fact that Douglas isn't around enough. The story is set in the forties, yet she is given a bouffant Mary Tyler Moore-ish flip (though they do stick a flower in it in one scene to capture the period detail!) Berger is luminous and exceedingly appealing, though she isn't given a chance to really show her bravery and heroism as other females in the Israeli army are. Given the circumstances, it's easy to see why Douglas is tempted by this (fictional?) woman. The film features rather flashy supporting roles by three big names of the day. Sinatra shows up late in the game as a pilot who pitches in to help the cause. He tosses off a zinger or two before trying to fight armed Arab jets with seltzer water! Wayne (billed as "The General"!!) seems like he's only going to show up briefly and toss around his heft, but he's actually in the film for quite a while and adds some dramatic weight to it. Brynner seems unduly subsidiary when one is used to seeing him as the King of Siam, ordering everyone around and getting it done! However, he does a nice job in his role. Topol is enjoyably hammy as an egotistical Arab sheik. The film is attractively shot and has some large scale action scenes along with some impressive crowd scenes (no CGI here, folks!) It also features a very rousing and beautiful score by Elmer Bernstein. In truth, the story should have focused more on the military and strategic accomplishments of its subject and less on his (supposed) melodramatic romantic entanglements. A sequence near the end involving the building of a road and the testing of it is a winner. The potential for it to be a deep and meaningful portrait are diffused somewhat by a script that calls for Douglas and others to make pithy, clever comments in the heat of tragedy. It winds up being a soapy, cartoonish sketch of a man who truly accomplished a great deal. Additionally, (**SPOILER**) - the real Marcus was shot by a guard in part because he was draped in a blanket, making him appear more like an Arab in the dark. Here, he's wearing his regular uniform and carrying a rose! How threatening is that? It was a senseless change for him not to be wrapped in a blanket, especially since he - in this version - had just come from a rendezvous with Berger.
The movie deals upon the birth of State of Israel. It's based on real
Here Mickey Marcus (Kirk Douglas) general of the WW2 helps the Jewish to build the State of Israel.
There are various flashbacks remembering exploits of Marcus during second world War. After that, he goes to Israel and he commands the troops.
Mickey is Kirk Douglas who does a first rate acting.
John Wayne plays as an American general, as always he is excellent.
Yul Brynner is a Jewish colonel who has the command of the army that
will defeat the Arabs.
The music from Elmer Bernstein is impressive and cinematography by the Italian Aldo Tonti is magnificent.
The flick will appeal to history buffs.
The motion picture is well directed by Mellville Shavelson.
Rating : Acceptable and passable, well worth watching.
Earnest, well-mounted but essentially dreary epic about the real-life
involvement of an American Jew in the post-war struggle for Israel's
independence thus sharing its theme with EXODUS (1960), and clearly
aiming (but failing) for a "Marcus Of Israel" feel!
Kirk Douglas stars as Mickey Marcus perhaps chosen due to the character's similarities to another historical figure forced by circumstances into leadership, Spartacus, whom Douglas had portrayed in 1960. He's supported by an eclectic cast which includes Angie Dickinson as his neglected(!) wife, Senta Berger as the Israeli girl he falls for, Topol as an ill-tempered Arab sheik, Luther Adler as a local politician, a plethora of reliable British character actors and even guest appearances by Frank Sinatra (which doesn't amount to much), a glum Yul Brynner as a fellow freedom fighter, and John Wayne as a U.S. General whom Douglas initially falls foul of but the two eventually end up respecting one another (still, seeing Wayne at the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp is about as incongruous as his stint playing the Roman Centurion at Christ's crucifixion in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD !).
Despite a sharp script and good individual sequences, the film is compromised by its necessity to be both a spectacle and a message picture (the WWII flashbacks, for instance, are unnecessary and merely render the film overlong); unsurprisingly, it works best during the action highlights (complemented by a typically fine Elmer Bernstein score). Apparently, the events have been partially fictionalized I wonder whether these embellishments concerned the romantic complications and the Hollywood-style ironic ending. For the record, Shavelson had started out as a scriptwriter (and later director) of Bob Hope and Danny Kaye vehicles; this was his most serious effort a brave try, but not quite the 'giant' film he clearly intended...
I thought some of the battle scenes in the picture were very good,
especially the battle in which the Israelis attack the fort held by the
very professional Jordanians and are defeated, the shot where wave
after wave of attackers emerge from the standing wheat was very well
For what it's worth most of the weapons were realistic, the Jordanians were equipped with the proper British arms; SMLEs and Vickers and Bren guns. I'd liked to have seen Glubb Pasha.
The story goes back and forth between sappy and inspired. The scene where the Israelis declare their independence brought tears to my eyes but I'm notorious for the manly tear.
One of the greatest casts ever assembled for a single film including Kirk
Douglas, Michael Douglas, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Yul Brynner, Senta
Berger, Angie Dickinson and others was put completely to waste in this film
of unfulfilled potential. Sadly, despite a disproportionate amount of Jews
in influential positions in Hollywood, Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow remain
the only two major films on the subject of Israeli independence.
Clearly almost the entire budget was spent on a two minute cameo by John Wayne because even for 1966 the special effects were poor, the dialogue was flat, the plot was boring, many scenes made little sense, and every actor either seemed bored with his or her role or they overacted. For a movie based on actual events the filmmakers due an incredibly poor job of explaining how things actually come to pass in the movie, maybe the truth was just too boring. The film sends a message but it is poorly conveyed and in the end I simply am left unsatisfied with a desire to see a Longest Day type caliber movie about the Israeli War of Independence.
After service in World War II, assimilated Jewish-American lawyer Kirk
Douglas (as David "Mickey" Marcus), is offered a dangerous assignment
in Palestine. There, Allied victors and the United Nations are
supporting the formation of Israel through partition. Arriving, Mr.
Douglas finds himself on the ground floor of what will dominate the
remainder of 20th century in ways they couldn't have imagined in 1966 -
the Arab/Israeli conflict. Reluctantly, Douglas finds himself leading
"Cast a Giant Shadow" is well-named. First, it begins with giant shadow-casting footage of three larger-than-life figures - Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin (at Yalta). Second, it features "special appearances" by giant shadow-casters who normally star in features - Frank Sinatra, Yul Brynner, and John Wayne (as the General). Third, you have sexy shadow-casting Senta Berger (as Magda Simon), who helps Douglas get over still smokin' wife Angie Dickinson (at home).
This film is what you'd expect, considering the politics and time. Douglas is always a strength; his performance holds the film together through some tough times, and his varied selection of projects is appreciated. A couple of the big name supporting players, once you get over the initial distraction, present real characterizations. Director Melville Shavelson and cinematographer Aldo Tonti make attractive use of the locations. The real story is Douglas juggling Ms. Berger and Ms. Dickinson, not war.
***** Cast a Giant Shadow (3/30/66) Melville Shavelson ~ Kirk Douglas, Senta Berger, Stathis Giallelis, John Wayne
Excellent cast, intelligent script, heart-warming scenes of loyalty,
determination, re-discovered faith, sobering scenes of the cost of
freedom, wow! I was completely engrossed watching this film, the story
of General David "Mickey" Marcus (Kirk Douglas), who in 1948 became the
first Israeli general since Joshua of Biblical times. This film came
out when I was 14 and I have somehow missed seeing it all these years.
I had no idea what I was missing.
What I don't understand is the grumbling and complaining about what a "bad" film this is. Huh? I loved it! Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Yul Bryunner, Senta Berger and Frank Sinatra were perfectly cast in their roles. The script covered the highlights of the War of Independence during the brief time time Marcus was involved, and I don't know what more you could expect for a feature film. To tell the story of the war completely and thoroughly would take a miniseries of 20 hours or more. Yes, the special effects look dated now, but you can't fault something because it doesn't use technology that hadn't been invented yet. Also, learning that Senta Berger's character was fictional and apparently only inserted to make a good story, was a disappointment. However, her character was a wonderful metaphor for Marcus' newly found love for Israel and re-discovery of his faith, after living as a secular American Jew for his entire life. (At one point Marcus says he hasn't been to temple since his bar mitzvah).
Also, I must say that I think the person who complained here on IMDb about John Wayne's reaction to seeing the Dachau concentration camp in the World War II flashback is completely off the mark. Wayne, as Pattonesque American general Mike Randolph, struggles to keep his emotions intact as he looks at the horror of the camp his troops have recently liberated. He orders his adjutant to give Marcus whatever he needs to tend to the Dachau survivors and turns away, his back to the camera. He leans against a fence, head down, physically and emotionally overcome. What would you want him to do in such a situation? I suspect the objecting person just doesn't like John Wayne no matter what the film or what his role.
His son Michael Wayne was co-producer with the film's director and screenwriter Mel Shavelson, and Wayne's Batjac Productions is one of four production companies listed. Another reviewer here has cynically suggested most of the budget went to Wayne's salary and I say balderdash! I'm quite sure the Wayne family's interest and participation in this film was not merely financial. I'm equally sure they wanted to help tell this story of the Israeli struggle for freedom they thought the world should hear. Then and now, for that matter.
I want to thank the Showtime networks for airing this film in the USA on May 16, 2009, which happened to be two days after the 61st anniversary of Israeli independence day. Nice touch, and a terrific weekend to see this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not an epic, but certainly watchable. Douglas plays the part well. If I was Jewish I'd be proud of this film. The story (of their struggle to bring forth international support for a legitimately recognized nation) is presented straight-forwardly w/out propaganda and/or lecturing. The supporting cast is well-rounded w/ Brynner and Berger especially useful in moving the drama forward. Sinatra has an extended cameo and Wayne (for once) is watchable. The subplot about how Dickinson loses a baby and wants a divorce is unnecessary, but it does humanize Douglas' character although just his involvement in the cause for Israel makes him human enough. I didn't pay attention to the music score like some of the other reviewers have pointed out, but did enjoy the battle scenes (especially the assault on the Arab League's fort) and Douglas' scenes w/ Adler.
I don't know why this movie doesn't work, but it doesn't. I guess I'd
hold the writers and the actors responsible -- the direction is
efficient and the score good.
The script tells us things that most of us already know, without adding much that we didn't. Thankfully it avoid extensive shots of the death camps. If anyone needs to be told about that, he's hopelessly benighted anyway. That mass genocide was perhaps the most horrible expression of the baser impulses of human nature, and like any transcendental event should be treated with caution, not with an eye to the box office.
Still, the dialog is flat and ordinary. Giant closeups of faces telling us important things -- "For the first time, I've realized I'm a Jew" -- doesn't really help. It's like being hit over the head by someone wielding a crowbar and yelling -- "GET IT? GET IT?" Yes, we get it. Stop already.
Kirk Douglas isn't bad. In fact he's pretty good, outdone only by Topol as an Arab sheyk -- "I course your Faddair." Cheese, Topol is good. And so is his role. He plays "The Sheik of Arabie" on a Victrola and rolls his eyes with glee.
John Wayne's performance is perfunctory and so is Frank Sinatra's, but the latter's involvement is interesting. At one point in the film he protests, "Don't leave me alone -- I'm anti-Semitic." Far from being anti-Semitic he was, let's say, pro-Semitic. Like a lot of recent immigrant families in the Northeast his had a keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of ethnicity, and Sinatra plumped for the strengths in Judaism. He envied and admired Jews for their family values and their solidarity, and even learned to read a little Hebrew. A scene in which he spurts seltzer water at an attacking Arab fighter is beneath comment.
Overall the film is not a success because it doesn't spell out in any detail exactly what Mickey Marcus actually DID for the Israelies. It won't do to have two minutes of Marcus telling them "Attack! Attack!," when ten times that amount is spent on an unconvincing adulterous affair with Senta Berger -- not that having such an affair with such a magnificent woman would be a blot on anyone's escutcheon. (I could never spell that word. It means "shield".) I guess it's worth watching once, just to remind us of a part of history that some of us have not bothered to look into. As a film, (shrug).
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