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Cast a Giant Shadow

film poster by Howard Terpning
Directed by Melville Shavelson
Produced by Melville Shavelson
Written by Ted Berkman (book)
Melville Shavelson (screenplay)
Starring Kirk Douglas
Senta Berger
Yul Brynner
Frank Sinatra
John Wayne
Angie Dickinson
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Aldo Tonti
Editing by Bert Bates
Gene Ruggiero
Studio Batjac Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 30 March, 1966
Running time 146 mins.
Country United States
Language English

Cast a Giant Shadow is a 1966 American war film, produced, written and directed by Melville Shavelson based on Ted Berkman's biography of Colonel Mickey Marcus. The film stars Kirk Douglas and Senta Berger, and features appearances by John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, and Yul Brynner.

Marcus (Kirk Douglas) served as an adviser and as the very first aluf in the war to establish the state of Israel in 1948. He falls in love with a female Israeli soldier, Magda Simon (Senta Berger) in Palestine. Filmed mostly in the Middle Eastern locations in which they occurred, Cast a Giant Shadow is not entirely historically accurate but is based on actual events. In addition to appearances by Wayne, Sinatra, Brynner, and Angie Dickinson, the movie also features Kirk's son Michael Douglas in his first small film role, as a jeep driver.

The film is also notable for its classic John Wayne scenes including a toast where Wayne says "L’chaim”. Footage from this film featuring Wayne as The General was used in a Coors Light commercial.


Plot Summary

Kirk Douglas headlines the cast in a fictionalised account of the experiences of a real-life Jewish-American military officer, Col. David "Mickey" Marcus, who commanded units of the fledgling Israeli defense force during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Early on in the film Marcus reveals to a superior that if he runs off to war one more time, his wife will have his belongings waiting for him at the front door upon return. This is told to Haganah military head that requests Marcus’ assistance in readying the Israeli troops for the upcoming conflict with neighbouring Arab states. Marcus makes it clear that following his most recent military campaign, he pledged to his wife that he would remain in one place.

At some point in the Second World War, Marcus parachuted into France to free the citizens from the Nazis and planned the relief mission for the first concentration camp liberated by the troops from the United States. General Randolph (John Wayne) criticises Marcus' actions. The General concludes with: “What are you trying to prove, Marcus?” This question begins to haunt Colonel Mickey Marcus.

Whereas Randolph feels free to address the colonel, Marcus’s wife Emma (Angie Dickinson) has reconciled herself to the fact that her partner prefers soldiering to starting a family. At one moment in the film she admits in tears that she is “…tired of being proud of you”. While lying in bed, smoking a cigarette, she confesses that her wish is that one day he’ll discover what he’s searching for in the combat zone; she hopes that he will then return to her so that they can live out the rest of their lives together.

Marcus join the Israeli side in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. At first, he is humiliated after the Israeli military does not place him in full control of operations. However, as soon as he triumphs over his pride and occupies himself with his work, he recognizes that the men under his command are disordered, their training is sub-par and the entire force is in need for more equipment.

Nevertheless, while fighting alongside his men Marcus recognizes that he’s not simply commanding them: he is one of them. He declares that he is now proud of being a Jew and that’s the reason he’s fighting. He becomes conscious of the fact that he has been fearful to acknowledge how in love he has forever been with his spouse. However, just when he chooses to alter the way he lives, the opportunity to do so is snatched away from him.


Further reading

Shavelson, Melville. How to Make a Jewish Movie, 1971. (ISBN 0-491-00156-8).

External links



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