|Directed by:||Melville Shavelson||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||1966||Running Time:||138 mins.|
|More Info:||Jewish Virtual Library; Many scenes in Cast a Giant Shadow were shot on the actual sites of the Arab-Israeli battles.||Category:||Feature Films|
Academy Award-winning actor Kirk Douglas leads an all-star cast in a war drama about the Jewish-American colonel who led the fledgling Israeli army in a victory against the surrounding Arab countries that no one thought was possible. A 1960s Hollywood classic, Cast a Giant Shadow tells the true story of Col. Mickey Marcus, who risked everything to change the course of history.
“If I leave home once more I’ll find my pajamas on the front porch,” Marcus tells the Haganah army leader who asks for Marcus’ help in preparing the Israeli army for what would become the War of Independence, explaining that after the last war he promised his wife he’d stay put. “Would you give up everything you love to fight some insane war for some little country that’s going to get its brains blown out in a couple weeks?”
With memorable performances from Yul Brynner, John Wayne, Senta Berger, Frank Sinatra, and Angie Dickinson, Cast a Giant Shadow tells the story of a man who ran towards the battlefield to run away from the simple but scary truths of his own life. Marcus’s unwavering determination and willingness to risk everything made him a celebrated leader, but his blind heart trapped him between the love of two beautiful women. The riveting, psychologically compelling film tells the story of the birth of the State of Israel through the dramatic life of one of the men who made it possible.
During World War II, Marcus parachuted into France to liberate the people from the Nazis and organized the relief project for the first concentration camp liberated by the American army. While his actions were admirable, his demeanor didn’t impress everyone. “If I were running the Pentagon, I’d have you stood up against a wall. Instead, they’ll probably put a medal on you,” General Randolph (John Wayne) scolds him. “A staff officer running around like a kid playing cowboys and Indians is an example that might cost us the lives of thousands.” His lecture ends with a question that haunts the colonel. “What are you trying to prove, Marcus?” the general asks.
While Randolph feels free to lecture, Marcus’s beautiful wife Emma (Angie Dickinson) has humbly resigned herself to the fact that her husband loves throwing his life on the line more than he loves the idea of starting a family and living quietly with her. “I’m just tired of being proud of you,” she admits tearfully. In bed, with a cigarette, she confides her hope that one day he’ll find what he’s looking for on the battlefield and return to her so that they can live out the rest of their lives together, peacefully.
Being enmeshed in Israel’s War for Independence does force Marcus to face uncomfortable revelations. For one thing, he is humbled when the Israeli army does not immediately put him in total control of operations, slighting his proud ego.
But as soon as Marcus conquers his pride and immerses himself in the challenges of the Israel’s fighting forces, he quickly realizes it’s unlike any army he’s ever encountered before. They’re unorganized, under-trained and ill equipped. But even more shocking, they’re not real soldiers. They’re just a group of determined men, women, boys and girls. Even though they’re naive in battle, they comprise an unstoppable force because, after the Holocaust and centuries of persecution, these Jewish soldiers are united in a willingness do die for their homeland.
As he fights alongside these brave soldiers, Marcus realizes that he’s not just leading them—he’s one of them. “I’m not fighting anymore because I’m ashamed to be a Jew,” he declares, “I’m fighting because I’m stiff-necked and proud of it.”
His epiphany comes around the same time that he realizes he’s been afraid to admit how in love he’s always been with his wife. But just as he recognizes how precious his life is and decides to change it, his chance to do so is taken from him.
A memorable film, Cast a Giant Shadow asks what it takes to be a hero, celebrating a complex man while exploring the personal sacrifices one must sometimes make in order to change the world.