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Cast a Giant Shadow

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cast a Giant Shadow
Directed byMelville Shavelson
Written byTed Berkman (book)
Melville Shavelson (screenplay)
Produced byMelville Shavelson
StarringKirk Douglas
Senta Berger
Stathis Giallelis
James Donald
Yul Brynner
Frank Sinatra
John Wayne
Angie Dickinson
Chaim Topol
Michael Hordern
CinematographyAldo Tonti
Edited byBert Bates
Gene Ruggiero
Music byElmer Bernstein
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • March 30, 1966 (1966-03-30)
Running time
146 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.5 million (est. US/Canada rentals)[1]

Cast a Giant Shadow is a 1966 American action film[2] based on the life of Colonel Mickey Marcus, and stars Kirk Douglas, Senta Berger, Yul Brynner, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Angie Dickinson.[3] Melville Shavelson adapted, produced and directed.[4] The film is a fictionalized account of the experiences of a real-life Jewish-American military officer, Colonel David "Mickey" Marcus, who commanded units of the fledgling Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

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Marcus is an Army Reserve Colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, who was recently released from active duty and is now working in New York City. He is approached by a Haganah agent, Major Safir, who requests his assistance in preparing Israeli troops to defend the newly declared State against an invasion by its Arab neighbors.

Marcus is refused permission by The Pentagon to go, unless he travels as a civilian. The Haganah gives him a false passport with the alias "Michael Stone". As "Michael Stone", he arrives in Israel to be met by a Haganah member, Magda Simon.

Marcus, who parachuted into occupied France during World War II and helped to organize the relief mission for one of the first Nazi concentration camps liberated by American troops, is initially viewed with suspicion by some Haganah soldiers. But after he leads a commando raid on an Arab arms dump and assists in a landing of illegal refugees, he is more accepted. After preparing training manuals for the troops, he returns to New York, where his wife has suffered a miscarriage.

Despite his wife's pleadings, he returns to Israel and is given command of the Jerusalem front with the rank of 'Aluf' (General), a rank not used since biblical days. He sets to work, recognising that, while the men under his command do not have proper training or weapons or even a system of ranks, they do have spirit and determination. He organises the construction of the "Burma Road", bypassing Latrun, to enable convoys to reach besieged Jerusalem, where the population is on the verge of starvation.

Many of the soldiers under his command are newly arrived in Israel, determined and enthusiastic but untrained. Dubbing them 'the schnooks', Marcus is inspired by them to discover that he is proud to be a Jew. But, just before the convoy of trucks to Jerusalem starts out, he is shot and killed by a lone sentry who does not speak English - the last casualty before the United Nations impose a truce. The coffin containing his body is carried down the "Burma Road" by an honor guard of the soldiers he trained and inspired.


Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner on set

Cameo roles (listed as Special Appearances Cast) include:

  • John Wayne as 'the General', Marcus's commanding officer in the Second World War and now a senior general officer at the Pentagon, who initially refused him permission to go, but later supports him.
  • Yul Brynner as Asher, a Haganah commander.
  • Frank Sinatra as Vince Talmadge, an expatriate American pilot who takes part in what becomes a suicide mission to bomb Arab positions.


Mel Shavelson first wrote a treatment about Mickey Marcus in 1948, but no studios were interested because of the film industry's reluctance to deal with Jewish subjects, as well as fear that theaters in Egypt might be expropriated. Shavelson also alleged a lingering "pogrom mentality" among some Jewish executives who did not wish to draw attention to the Jewish background in a New York Times interview. Shavelson acquired the film rights to Berkman's novel Cast a Great Shadow for $12,500 after it was dropped by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Shavelson enlisted the support of John Wayne, and with his help it was financed and distributed by United Artists.[5][6]

Originally George Segal was planned to be cast as Mickey Marcus alongside Diana Hyland as Emma Marcus and either Claudia Cardinale or Daliah Lavi as Magda Simon. Carolyn Jones and Richard Harris were also considered for roles in the film. The film was also meant to include depictions of Harry S. Truman, George S. Patton, Maxwell D. Taylor, and David Ben-Gurion. Originally a young Michael Douglas was intended to play the sentry who shoots Marcus at the end of the film, but this was cut because he was the lead actor's son and the idea was deemed gimmicky.[5]

Principal photography began on May 18, 1965, in Israel after several weeks of location shoots in New York City. Early planning also called for scenes to be filmed in France and Washington D.C., but this did not occur. Both Macy's Herald Square and Marcus's real-life house in Brooklyn appeared in the film. Shooting took place at Jerusalem, the Negev, Nazareth, Galilee, and Palmachim. Israeli Army soldiers were used as extras, and as a result the filming was frequently disrupted by the real-life Arab–Israeli conflict as they were called away to fight skirmishes against Jordan or Palestinian fedayeen. The final week of production took place in Italy, where some interior scenes were already being filmed, because of housing shortages in Israel and a mistake which led to the crew's hotel reservations in Tel Aviv expiring one week early. Filming took place at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome, while the Battle of Jerusalem scenes were shot at the Alban Hills in Frascati.[5]


The New York Times criticized the film, specifically the directing, calling it a "confusing, often superficial biography that leans a good deal on comic or extremely salty dialogues and effects." The reviewer said that In trying to fuse the many aspects of Marcus' life "into a titanic figure, what evolves, sadly, is an amalgam of all manufactured movie heroes."[7] It received a poor reception at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, where critics called the film "one more war feature with not much technical value."[8] A reviewer at the Louisville Courier-Journal called it "a phony and a noisy bore" featuring "the sorriest of film cliches, and the hollowest of romantic clap-trap."[9]

The New York Daily News gave the film four stars and called it a "rousing adventure picture" and a "drama of historical significance and of human interest."[10]

In 2006, Andrew Wolf from the New York Sun praised the filmmakers for the pro-Jewishness of the film, something he believes could not be done in modern Hollywood. However he referred to it as an "awful film," from a technical standpoint and heavily criticized the fictitious love interest subplot.[11]

It was released on DVD in early 2000s but went out of print. It was rereleased on DVD, and the 1st time on Blu-ray August 26, 2014.

Giving it a mild recommendation, DVD Talk said "the cast does work that is better than the script they've been provided."[12]

See also


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley (2009). "Cast A Giant Shadow - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2009-02-15. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  3. ^ "Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) Overview". TMC: Turner Classic Movies. September 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  4. ^ "Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) movie review". The New York Times. March 31, 1966.
  5. ^ a b c "Cast a Great Shadow". Archived from the original on 2021-12-07. Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  6. ^ Schumach, Murray (24 May 1964). "HOLLYWOOD 'SHADOW'; New Project Explores A Shunned Subject". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1966-03-31). "Screen: Paul Newman in 'Harper' Evokes Bogart:Detective Film Opens at 3 Theaters Here". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  8. ^ "Film Festival in Spain Cool To 'Cast a Giant Shadow'". The New York Times. Associated Press. 15 June 1966. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  9. ^ Mootz, William (28 May 1966). "Movie Review: 'Cast a Giant Shadow' is a Noisy, Phony Bore". The Courier-Journal. p. 15. Retrieved 7 February 2020 – via
  10. ^ Hale, Wanda (31 March 1966). "Mickey Marcus Film is Rousing". Daily News. p. 18. Retrieved 7 February 2020 – via
  11. ^ Wolf, Andrew (17 March 2006). "A Film They Could Not Make Today". The New York Sun. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  12. ^ "DVD Talk".

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 19 August 2023, at 18:16
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