Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)

141 mins | Drama | 29 March 1966

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HISTORY

Title cards contain the following prologue: “The major events in this film actually happened. Some of them are still happening. The major characters actually lived. Many of them are still living. Although it was not easy.”
       Producer-director Melville Shavelson was a screenwriter when he paid $12,500 of his own money for the option on Ted Berkman’s 1962 book, Cast a Giant Shadow, which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had recently dropped. As Shavelson explained in the 24 May 1964 NYT, he wrote a treatment and made the rounds of Hollywood studios, but none of the executives, particularly Jewish executives, were interested in a story about Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, a Jewish-American who became Israel’s first general, in 1948. Shavelson ascribed the rejections to “the fear that permeates this industry,” partly because of the possibility that studio-owned theaters in Egypt would be appropriated, but also because “the pogrom mentality has not yet vanished from Hollywood.” Finally, he interested John Wayne in the project, and then went to Harold Mirisch, whose Mirisch Corporation was financed by United Artists, a studio that “had already turned down” Cast a Giant Shadow.
       The 27 May 1964 Var announced that the Mirisch Corporation, Shavelson’s Llenroc Productions, and Wayne’s Batjac Productions were preparing Cast a Giant Shadow as a “multimillion-dollar joint venture.” Location filming would take place in New York, Washington, D.C., France, and Israel, and the production had obtained permission to use several “world figures,” including President Harry Truman, George Patton, Maxwell Taylor, and David Ben-Gurion. Ultimately, however, no filming was done in Washington or France, and other than in documentary footage, none of the personages were portrayed in ... More Less

Title cards contain the following prologue: “The major events in this film actually happened. Some of them are still happening. The major characters actually lived. Many of them are still living. Although it was not easy.”
       Producer-director Melville Shavelson was a screenwriter when he paid $12,500 of his own money for the option on Ted Berkman’s 1962 book, Cast a Giant Shadow, which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had recently dropped. As Shavelson explained in the 24 May 1964 NYT, he wrote a treatment and made the rounds of Hollywood studios, but none of the executives, particularly Jewish executives, were interested in a story about Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, a Jewish-American who became Israel’s first general, in 1948. Shavelson ascribed the rejections to “the fear that permeates this industry,” partly because of the possibility that studio-owned theaters in Egypt would be appropriated, but also because “the pogrom mentality has not yet vanished from Hollywood.” Finally, he interested John Wayne in the project, and then went to Harold Mirisch, whose Mirisch Corporation was financed by United Artists, a studio that “had already turned down” Cast a Giant Shadow.
       The 27 May 1964 Var announced that the Mirisch Corporation, Shavelson’s Llenroc Productions, and Wayne’s Batjac Productions were preparing Cast a Giant Shadow as a “multimillion-dollar joint venture.” Location filming would take place in New York, Washington, D.C., France, and Israel, and the production had obtained permission to use several “world figures,” including President Harry Truman, George Patton, Maxwell Taylor, and David Ben-Gurion. Ultimately, however, no filming was done in Washington or France, and other than in documentary footage, none of the personages were portrayed in the film under their own names.
       The 2 Mar 1965 DV noted that “background shooting” would begin the following day in New York City, and that principal photography would start 18 May 1965 in Israel. Shavelson told the 18 Mar 1965 DV that the Israeli Army had given him a price list of men and materials it would rent him during his eight weeks of exterior shooting. Per day, several tanks would cost $300 each, and 800 soldiers would cost $2 each. The production, Shavelson said, would cost $5 million, including interiors in Italy, and take seventy-four days to shoot. (Later sources placed the budget at just over $4 million.) He had already finished his one day of filming exteriors in New York City’s Macy’s Department Store and a house in Brooklyn where the real Mickey Marcus once lived.
       The 28 Oct 1964 DV reported that Italian actress Claudia Cardinale was flying into Los Angeles, CA, to discuss taking the starring role of “Magda Simon,” a fictional character created as Marcus’s Israeli love interest. Roughlyfive months later, the 8 Mar 1965 DV mentioned that Israeli actress Daliah Lavi had been “paged” for the same role. The 13 Jan 1965 DV reported that George Segal was scheduled to portray Mickey Marcus. According to the 28 Apr 1965 LAT, Carolyn Jones was forced to “turn down a starring role” in the picture because of a television commitment. The 11 Jun 1965 DV predicted that Diana Hyland “looks good to play Emma Marcus,” and the 16 Jun 1965 Var claimed that Richard Harris had joined the production. None of these actors appeared in the final film.
       According to a production list in the 21 May 1965 DV, principal photography began 17 May 1965 in Israel. The 1 Jun 1965 DV and 16 Jan 1966 LAT reported that after eight hours on the first day of shooting battle scenes, the rented Israeli soldiers and tanks were suddenly called away because of a “skirmish” between Israel and neighboring Jordan. Arab snipers killed five Israeli civilians within two blocks of the production, according to the 11 Jun 1965 DV. Filming mob scenes was a problem because, as Shavelson told the 9 Aug 1965 DV and 16 Jan 1966 LAT, the only available Israeli extras were newly-arrived, unemployed settlers, who came from many countries and spoke different languages and dialects. Not even Israeli police were fully able to control them.
       Among the filmed locations in Israel were Jerusalem, the Negev Desert, the village of Nazareth, Galilee, Palmachim Beach south of Tel-Aviv, and a fortress at Iraque Suidan, according to the 27 Jun 1965 LAT.
       Mickey Marcus’s American widow, Brooklyn schoolteacher Emma Marcus, visited the production in Israel, the 26 May 1965 DV noted. Shavelson told the 15 Mar 1965 LAT he asked if she was offended by his creation of a fictional love interest, Magda Simon, for her husband during his time in Israel. Mrs. Marcus reportedly replied, “I don’t know if anything like that happened, but it could have.” She added, “I have only one request: Don’t make him dull.”
       Shavelson told the 9 Aug 1965 DV and 1 May 1966 LAT that his film company was forced to leave Israel a week early, not because of hostilities between Jews and Arabs, but because the cast and crew’s Tel-Aviv hotel reservations expired, and there were no other rooms available to accommodate them.
       The production moved to Rome, Italy, on 19 Jul 1965 to film interiors at the Cinecitta studios, according to a 1 Sep 1965 Var production chart. John Wayne, who was scheduled to join the cast in Rome for “a week or two” to make a cameo appearance as a composite of two American generals, claimed he did not want star billing in Cast a Giant Shadow, because it would deceive his fans, the 4 Jun 1965 DV noted. One scene filmed at Cinecitta required an elaborate set of Macy’s toy department during the Christmas season in New York, the 9 Aug 1965 DV noted. To insure that the extras looked authentic, the production hired 250 Americans, including four of Kirk Douglas’s children, one of whom, Joel Douglas, portrayed “Santa Claus.” The oldest, Michael Douglas, who worked as an uncredited assistant director, was his father’s first choice to play the Israeli sentry who mistakenly kills his character, Mickey Marcus, at the end of the film, but Shavelson overruled the idea because the “gimmick” would most likely be publicized and, therefore, “detract from the story.”
       The production’s final night of shooting took place in the Alban Hills above Frascati, Italy, which stood in for the hills of Jerusalem during a battle between the Arab Legion and elements of the Israeli Army. The company had been unable to complete the scene in Jerusalem because of the aforementioned housing shortage.
       Shavelson told the 18 Nov 1965 DV that the Screen Extras Guild (SEG) did not oppose his use of non-members to provide “authentic” Israeli crowd noises and songs during the “additional dialogue recording” (ADR) phase of post-production in Hollywood, CA. He defended hiring members from a local Israeli student organization, saying that if “the SEG can come up with 140 extras who can speak and sing Hebrew, then we’ll be happy to use them.”
       A special “roadshow” premiere was set to be held at the DeMille Theater in Manhattan, the Fantasy Theater in Rockville Center, NY, and the Cinema 45 in Totowa, NJ—areas with large Jewish populations—on 29 Mar 1966, according to the 27 Jan 1966 DV and 30 Mar 1966 NYT. As explained in the 21 Feb 1966 NYT, “A roadshow film, like a Broadway play, gives 10 performances a week, with seats reserved and prices higher than for other films.” The idea was designed “to raise the prestige and profits” of theatrical films at a time when television was dampening attendance. A month before the three-theater premiere, the 28 Feb 1966 DV reported that advanced ticket sales had already passed $ 200,000. Two months later, on 20 May 1966, the film was set to open regularly on the West Coast at Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater, as noted in the 14 May 1966 LAT.
       Reviews were mixed. The 31 Mar 1966 NYT complained that Marcus “emerges as a contrived hero” in “a confusing, often superficial biography.” The 21 May 1966 LAT agreed, stating that Shavelson made the “all but incredible” Mickey Marcus “simply too hard to believe,” and, “in attempting to tell us too much, has not told us enough.”
       The 15 Jun 1966 NYT revealed that Cast a Giant Shadow got a “poor reception” the night before at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain, as “boos were mixed with cheers at the end of the showing.”
       The United Artists soundtrack album for Cast a Giant Shadow carried a disclaimer: “Frank Sinatra’s voice does not appear in album.”
       Cast a Giant Shadow was not the first film biography of Mickey Marcus. His exploits as a deputy commissioner who helped clean up New York City’s Welfare Prison in 1934 were fictionalized in Warner Bros.’s Blackwell’s Island (1939, see entry). Marcus served as technical advisor on that film.
       The copyright length of the film is 139 min. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Oct 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jan 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
21 May 1965
p. 9.
Daily Variety
26 May 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Nov 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1966
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
15 Mar 1965
Section C, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
28 Apr 1965
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jun 1965
Section N, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jan 1966
Section M, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
1 May 1966
Section P, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
14 May 1966
p. 21.
New York Times
24 May 1964
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
21 Feb 1966
p. 51.
New York Times
30 Mar 1966
p. 33.
New York Times
31 May 1966
p. 43.
New York Times
15 Jun 1966
p. 42.
Variety
27 May 1964
p. 2.
Variety
16 Jun 1965
p. 23.
Variety
1 Sep 1965
p. 18.
Variety
17 Nov 1965
p. 3.
Variety
30 Mar 1966
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Mirisch Corporation Presents
A Film by Melville Shavelson
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr/Israel
2nd unit dir/Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Co-prod
Prod mgr
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by, Wrt for the scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit cam
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
Cost des
SOUND
Re-rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Matte artist
Spec eff
Main titles
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Spec equip
Prod supv
Scr supv
Prod coordinator/Italy
Casting
Pub/Prod coord
Loc asst
Israeli Army tech adv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Cast a Giant Shadow by Ted Berkman (New York, 1962).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Next Year in Jerusalem," music by Dov Seltzer
"Lila Lel," Hebrew lyrics by Dan Almagor
"Love Me True (Theme From 'Cast A Giant Shadow')," music composed by Elmer Bernstein, lyrics by Ernie Sheldon, vocal by Vince Hill
+
SONGS
"Next Year in Jerusalem," music by Dov Seltzer
"Lila Lel," Hebrew lyrics by Dan Almagor
"Love Me True (Theme From 'Cast A Giant Shadow')," music composed by Elmer Bernstein, lyrics by Ernie Sheldon, vocal by Vince Hill
"Theme From 'Cast A Giant Shadow," choral singing by The Zemel Choir of London, director Dudley Cohen
"Hava Nagila," traditional Israeli folk song.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 March 1966
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 29 March 1966
Los Angeles opening: 20 May 1966
Production Date:
17 May--late August 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Mirisch Corp.
Copyright Date:
29 March 1966
Copyright Number:
LP32500
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®P
Duration(in mins):
141
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In late 1947 the British plan to withdraw from Palestine and the Arabs openly ignore the announcement of the United Nations to partition Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. While shopping for Christmas presents at Macy's Department Store in New York City, Col. David "Mickey" Marcus, West Point graduate, military adviser to Franklin Roosevelt, and D-Day veteran, is asked to reorganize the Haganah, the underground Jewish army. Despite the objections of his wife, Emma, and Pentagon officials, Marcus accepts the responsibility. Upon his arrival in Palestine, he is informed that the underground army is outnumbered 60 to 1, and that its striking force is weakened by internal differences. Aiding Marcus in his program is Magda Simon, a female soldier with whom he becomes romantically involved. Disturbed by news of Emma's ill health resulting from a miscarriage and the Haganah's reluctance to accept him as a leader, Marcus returns to the United States. While attempting to see whether the U. S. will be the first in the United Nations to recognize Israel, he becomes aware of his Jewish heritage and decides to go back and serve the new nation. He is reunited with Magda as the U. S. recognizes Israel. When word arrives that the U. N. has called for a cease-fire, Marcus is ordered to break through to Jerusalem before the truce takes effect. Several attacks fail until Marcus rallies the Jews to build a road through a mountain pass. As victory comes, Marcus receives a letter from Emma offering him a divorce. Realizing how much he loves her, he says goodby to Magda and strolls into a monastery courtyard. Unable to speak or understand Hebrew, he ignores ... +


In late 1947 the British plan to withdraw from Palestine and the Arabs openly ignore the announcement of the United Nations to partition Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. While shopping for Christmas presents at Macy's Department Store in New York City, Col. David "Mickey" Marcus, West Point graduate, military adviser to Franklin Roosevelt, and D-Day veteran, is asked to reorganize the Haganah, the underground Jewish army. Despite the objections of his wife, Emma, and Pentagon officials, Marcus accepts the responsibility. Upon his arrival in Palestine, he is informed that the underground army is outnumbered 60 to 1, and that its striking force is weakened by internal differences. Aiding Marcus in his program is Magda Simon, a female soldier with whom he becomes romantically involved. Disturbed by news of Emma's ill health resulting from a miscarriage and the Haganah's reluctance to accept him as a leader, Marcus returns to the United States. While attempting to see whether the U. S. will be the first in the United Nations to recognize Israel, he becomes aware of his Jewish heritage and decides to go back and serve the new nation. He is reunited with Magda as the U. S. recognizes Israel. When word arrives that the U. N. has called for a cease-fire, Marcus is ordered to break through to Jerusalem before the truce takes effect. Several attacks fail until Marcus rallies the Jews to build a road through a mountain pass. As victory comes, Marcus receives a letter from Emma offering him a divorce. Realizing how much he loves her, he says goodby to Magda and strolls into a monastery courtyard. Unable to speak or understand Hebrew, he ignores a sentry's warning and is accidentally killed a few hours before the truce takes effect. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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