Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)

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Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) Poster

In 1947, following the U.N. decision to split British Palestine into separate Jewish and Palestinian states, a former U.S. Army officer is recruited by the Jews to reorganize the Haganah.

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6.4/10
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  • Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas in Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
  • John Wayne in Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
  • Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner in Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
  • Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner in Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
  • James Donald and Danny Perlman in Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)

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15 July 2007 | Bunuel1976
6
| CAST A GIANT SHADOW (Melville Shavelson, 1966) **1/2
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 [1965]!).

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...

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