Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)





Director:  Melville Shavelson

Starring:  Kirk Douglas (Col. David 'Mickey' Marcus), Senta Berger (Magda Simon), Angie Dickinson (Emma Marcus), James Donald (Maj. Safir), Stathis Giallelis (Ram Oren), Luther Adler (Jacob Zion), Topol (Abou Ibn Kader), Ruth White (Mrs. Chaison), Gordon Jackson (James MacAfee), Michael Hordern (British ambassador), Allan Cuthbertson (Immigration officer), Jeremy Kemp (British Immigration senior), Sean Barrett (British Immigration junior), Michael Shillo (Andre Simon), Rina Ganor (Rona)

US Col. David "Mickey" Marcus goes to late-1940s Israel to reorganize its army


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

New York City, Christmas 1947.  Col. David "Mickey" Marcus is window shopping at Macy's with his lawyer partner Burt Harrison.  Mickey sees a fellow following them so they duck inside the Macy's store.  But the fellow walks up to them inside the store and introduces himself.  He is Major Safir of the Haganah, the underground army of the provisional government in Palestine.  On May 15 the British will withdraw from Palestine and Israel will become independent.  Six nations in the Middle East have promised to drive them into the sea.  For instance, King Ibn Saud said:  "There are 50 million Arabs.  What does it matter if we lose 10 million to kill all the Jews?  The price is worth it."  The major says:  "We are prepared to fight to the last child."  What they need is an experienced military advisor.  Mickey says he isn't really interested.  The major objects:  "But you're a Jew."  Mickey said he is an American.  Judaism is his religion.  Besides, the last time he was in temple was when he was thirteen years old.  The major's last try is to tell Mickey that they have had 6 million of their people murdered; would Mickey like them to try for 7 million murdered?

Mickey speaks with his wife Emma.  He tells her he is going to break a promise he made to her about staying home for awhile.  He is heading to Palestine as a military advisor.  He explains to Emma that somebody has got to help them fight back.  Emma tells him to aft least be honest with her.  He wants to go.  She adds:  "That's what you want.  Not me."  Mickey asks her if she is crying. She just says it is a case of dejavu. Mickey had to leave her behind before in the Second World War.

Flashback.  Mickey says WWII was a noisy war.  He arrived in England at the time nearing D-day.  He talks with General Randolph and tells him he need transportation to German-occupied France.  The General says he can go over in a ship like everyone else.  But Mickey has orders to get over to France ahead of the main push.  He suggests that since planes fly, he could go over in an aircraft.  This angers the General who now thinks that Mickey is an arrogant S.O.B. 

The General arrives in a plaza square.   Mickey has been in France for awhile now and he welcomes General Randolph.   The Generals asks him:  "What the hell are you doing here?"  Mickey answers that they missed their drop zone.  A German sniper shoots at him, but misses.  The American soldiers kill the sniper. Randolph tells his men to clear out every building on the square.  He then turns his attention to Mickey.  The General tells his men to arrest him and send him back to England.  He asks Mickey:  "What are you trying to prove, Mickey?"  Mickey answers:  "I wish the hell i knew, sir."   

Back to the present.  Emma suggests to Mickey that they get a divorce.  After all they haven't really had a marriage.  The couple don't have any children and Emma wants to have her husband's child.  After all, she might not ever have Mickey again.  Mickey does not want a divorce. 

Mickey goes to see General Randolph.  He wants to know about the official US policy in the Middle East.  The General says the policy has not really been worked out. The General tells Mickey that he is ordering him not to go.  Mickey says that's the best reason for him going.   

Lydda Airport, Palestine, February 2, 1948.  Mickey arrives in Palestine.  He is there as Michael Stone.  He tells the British official at the airport that he has come for pleasure.  He says he is going to Tel Aviv to be with relatives.  He is then greeted by a pretty young woman playing the part of his sister.  The British official lets Stone go through, but adds:  "Welcome to the promise land, Colonel Marcus."  Mickey is shocked that the fellow knew who he was.  Someone says:  "Probably, he's with us." 

The pretty young woman is named Magda Simon.  Her husband is an officer in the Palmach.  Traveling by bus, a bunch of young military kids, both male and female, get on the bus.  As they proceed the young people start pulling down metal protectors.  Arabs start shooting at the bus.  The people on the bus shoot out through slits in the metal protective shields.  A young girl named Rona has trouble putting her gun together and is none too pleased when Mickey show her how to do it.  Rona is wounded.  The bus gets through the gauntlet. 

A fellow named Asher talks with Mickey about the military situation.   In the Negev desert, Egyptian tanks, armor and artillery are ready to roll across the Palestine border.  In Jerusalem the Grand Mufti has 4,000 men attacking the city.  The Arabs are trying to close the roads to Tel Aviv.  In Jordan, the Arab Legion (British-armed and British officered) is ready for action.  In short, the Jews are outnumbered 60 to 1.  Asher gives Mickey some curt answers and Mickey tells him to take the chip off his shoulder.  They do have some factors going for them.  For instance, the Arabs don't trust each other.  Asher, now more conciliatory, says they need all the help they can get.  They have no guns and no uniforms. 

The British have spotted the ship Ashkelon.  They are heading to the beach to stop the immigrants from landing.  Magda says that her husband Andre is on the ship.  Mickey and the others head to Palmahim Beach.  The immigrants are rowing to shore in small boats.  The Palestinian Jews come out to help them.  Magda greets her husband.  This is the fourth ship her husband has helped bring in.  The British soldiers arrive.  The commander tells the immigrants that they will be sent back to await the permits.  This creates somewhat of a stand-off.  The stand-off is broken by hundreds of Palestinian Jews descending on the beach.  They mix in with the immigrants.  Then they changes clothes with the immigrants to further confuse the British.  The commander has his men shoot over the heads of the people on the beach.  He says he will fire at the crowd if the civilians don't leave by the count of ten.  The people wait for the count to reach ten and the British can't do anything.  The commander tells his troops to stand at ease.  A cheer goes up from the Palestinians. 

Magda's husband is up in the mountains.   Mickey and Magda pretend they are going  for a ride in the country on a weekend trip.  They are to speak to Madj El-Kurum and the rendezvous point is 10 km away.  Magda teases Mickey about having it easy.  She says you Americans even have clean, clean wars. 

Flashback.  While driving in a jeep, Mickey tells Gen. Randolph that he needs 500 trucks.  Randolph is not impressed.  So Mickey asks him to get out of the jeep for five minutes to take a look at some of the concentration camps they have been liberating.  The inmates have an average weight of 85 pounds.  Randolph gets out and goes with Mickey.  Mickey talks about the 3,200 corpses they found.  The Germans did not have time to bury the bodies.   Mickey gets his trucks from Randolph. 

Back to the present.  Mickey meets with Andre.  He meets the young man Ram Oren working with the Palmach.  At night the young warriors dance around the fires.  It is said that the Palmach has never lost an engagement.  Mickey obejects that the party hasn't really started yet.  Mickey and Magda join in the dancing. 

Mickey and Ram talk with a Bedouin chief  who might fight alongside the Jews.  The man's name is Saman Abou Kader.  The Bedouin asks Mickey why his people want to take away his home land.  But he says to Ram:  "I'll support you if you can prove you are strong like your father."  To prove Palmach is powerful, the Bedouin asks them to destroy the nearby Syrian supply base.  Mickey says they will destroy it within 24 hours. 

The Palmach launches a night attack.  Mickey thinks the one squad is for too few men.  Andre is fired upon and hit.  Ram is hit.  Mickey grabs a weapon and starts fighting.  He kills a Syrian soldier.  He then helps Ram get back to their lines.  The Syrian weapons stashes start going up in flames.  Magda learns that the unit lost three dead.  Among them is her husband Andre. 

Mickey speaks with the Minister of Defense of the provisional government of Palestine.  He tells the minister that the Jewish forces (Palmach, Haganah, Irgun and Sterngang) are not unified.  They need to be unified under one command where they can hit the enemy hard.  Mickey says that if he is to command he must have a free hand to consolidate all their forces.  He asks for absolute authority and the minister agrees to this.  Meanwhile, Mickey is to continue making his report and recommendations. 

The Negev Desert.  Mickey and Magda are in a convoy bringing supplies to Jerusalem. 

Back home Emma's mother  talks to her about the gossip that a young woman has been seen with her husband on numerous occasions.  Emma doesn't want to hear it.  She starts developing a terrible pain.  She tells her mother that she thinks she is losing the baby. 

Arab artillery in the mountains opens up on the convoy headed to Jerusalem.  A number of the trucks are knocked out.  Magda's truck goes off the road and gets stuck.  Mickey gets concerned when he doesn't see Magda's truck behind him.  Magda tries to move her truck with no success.  When Mickey gets his truck passed the reach of the enemy artillery he stops for Magda.  Magda is starting to panic.  She calls out for Mickey to help her.  Mickey runs back to her truck.  He is able to get it started and get the truck moving, while Magda continues to cry hysterically. 

Some of the trucks reach Jerusalem.  Mickey tries to get Magda some help, but her "hysteria" is given low priority compared to the physically wounded.

Mickey learns that his wife is in the hospital.  He decides to go home to visit her.  This upsets Magda a good deal.  Mickey arrives home to a happy homecoming party. The British embassy invites him to their embassy where they will present him with a medal.  Mickey learns that his wife lost the baby.  Emma tells him that part of her sickness was Mickey himself.  She wanted him back.  The British give Mickey the medal of Honorary Officer of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  The British Ambassador calls Mickey Mr. Stone.  Mickey says they gave him the medal so he would deliver a message to Israel.  Britain and other nations are loath to recognize their weak provisional government. 

Mickey returns to Palestine on the Panamanian Airlines bringing arms from Czechoslovakia with an American pilot named Vince Ramodi.  When he gets off the plane Mickey learns that the Arabs took Lydda Airport two days ago.  But there is good news. Palmach and Haganah accepted unification.  The Minister of Defense talks with Mickey about the threat of a possible bombing of Tel Aviv.  The provisional government is taking the stance that the original declaration of Palestine is irrevocable.  The people's counsel declares the establishment of the state of Israel.  A messages arrives from the United States saying that the USA is the first nation to recognize the new state of Israel. 

Magda is very happy to see Mickey back.  An air raid siren sounds.  They kiss.  The Egyptian army is pouring tanks across Israel's borders.  They are being helped by five other Arab nations.  Mickey says it's time to surprise the enemy.  And he says that Israel cannot hold Jerusalem.  The Israelis, however, don't want to hear that.  Mickey decides to go in with a convoy of jeeps to see what can be done to stop the Egyptian tanks.  A big help to the Israelis is that they have broken the Egyptian code.  Mickey decides to divide the jeep forces into two columns to attack the tanks.  Mickey also gets the American pilot to drop seltzer bottles from the only available airplane, a piper cub.  They hope the bombing will have a big psychological effect on the enemy. 

The Israeli attack suffers quite a few casualties when many of the jeeps are knocked out by tank shells.  The tanks start to chase the jeeps.  Meanwhile, an enemy airplane knocks the piper cub out of the air killing the pilot.  On the positive side the Egyptian tanks fall into an ambush with the Israelis opening fire at close range with some artillery pieces. 

The Minister of Defense says that thing are not going well.  Mickey replies that thing aren't so bad.  The minister responds that the enemy has cut the only supply road to Jerusalem.  There is still no centralized leadership.  And half of Jerusalem has fallen to the enemy and the Jewish half of Jerusalem is starving.  And without Jerusalem there is no Israel!  So the Minister of Defense tells Mickey that he is giving him the title of Aluf, which means commander, leader.  Mickey will be the commander of the first army of Israel in the last 2000 years. 

Mickey is with Asher with a stuck convoy.  They attacked the enemy earlier and lost 600 men in the first assault.  They are trying to take Latrum, a police fortress occupied by the Arab Legion.  This gets Mickey thinking and he comes up with a battle plan involving four different actions happening simultaneously.  This won't be easy since some of the officers don't even have watches.  New troops arrive; men coming directly from the concentration camps.  Mickey jokes about the fellows getting their basic training on the buses.  The main attack heads across a giant wheat field.  The Israelis pop up and down in the field.  They also makes use of armored cars and flame throwers.  They get inside the outer wall sof Latrum.  But they have to retreat when the attack from the rear by the Palmach is very delayed.  Rona is one of the battle dead.  The 7th Brigade lost 200 and the 3rd lost 300 plus, but the new immigrants were hit the hardest.  

Mickey takes an approach made famous by Ulysses S. Grant in the American Civil War.  He tells his officers that they will regroup and attack as fast as possible..  Mickey then says that all his life he has been looking for somewhere he belonged.  He thinks he may have found it.  The Bedouin chief shows up at headquarters with lots of camels.  He says his camels can move the goods to Jerusalem.  He knows of another route to get to that city.  Asher, however, is very doubtful of the route.  He says they know of the route and it is much too narrow.  The Bedouin becomes very angry at Asher. 

Mickey and others go out to take a look at the alternate route.  Their chief engineer, a fellow from Scotland, says that a road over the blocking hill will take a year to complete.  But Mickey says they'll do it in a week.  They will do it with the help of civilians.  Hoards of men and women civilians volunteer to use picks and shovels to carve out a wider route.  At night they are discovered by an Arab Legion patrol, but they are able to silence the patrol which has to pull back. 

Mickey reads a letter from his wife.  Magda asks him about it and is not happy.  Mickey then says that his wife writes that she will give him a divorce.  Now Magda is happy and says she loves Mickey. 

UN officials show up at the road building site.  They tell Mickey if the road to Jerusalem is passable the siege of Jerusalem will be deemed broken.  So they shove a truck blocking the road over the side of the hill and then Mickey and a driver take a truck up and over the road.   Then all the trucks start heading up and over the hill.  At night, Mickey talks in English with a very young sentry named Chaim.  The truce will be coming soon.  Mickey walks over to meet Magda.  He tells her:  "I've fallen in love."  Magda replies:  "I don't want to listen."  He tells her that though he loves her he is going home for good.  He is going home to Emma.  Magda says:  "Shalom, Mickey,  You bastard."

While Mickey was with Magda, a new sentry replaced Chaim.  When Mickey heads back to his quarters, the sentry challenges him with words in Hebrew.  Mickey tells Chaim in English that it's just him coming back.  The sentry doesn't speak English.  He shoots Mickey.  A jeep carries Mickey's body down the big hill while trucks continue to head up the hill to Jerusalem. 

The Minister of Defense writes to Mickey's wife.  Mickey was the last casualty before the truce.  "His name will live forever in the annals of our people.  Emma, he was the best man we had."


Good movie.  A little long, but still a good film.  The acting was good all around.  It was interesting seeing just how weak the Jewish provisional government of Palestine was in those early days before the declaration of the new state of Israel.  They had to fight and fight they did.  It was also interesting to learn that an American (Jewish-American) Colonel became the supreme commander of the early Israeli forces. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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