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A young Israeli activist fights to set up a homeland for his people.
In 1947 on the British occupied island of Cyprus, American nurse and recently widowed Katherine "Kitty" Fremont witnesses the transport of Jewish refugees from the intercepted ship Star of David to a displaced persons camp in nearby Caraolos. Kitty visits Brig. Gen. Bruce Sutherland, a friend of her deceased news photographer husband, to learn details of his death. Kitty confides that after suffering a miscarriage and completing her duty with a public health organization in Greece, she remains unsure of her immediate future. Sutherland's aid Maj. Fred Caldwell arrives to complain that the arrival of the refugees has prompted a series of shortages. Sutherland asks Kitty if she would consider helping out at the camp infirmary, but Kitty declines, explaining that she knows nothing about the Jewish situation. When Caldwell escorts Kitty back to her taxi and makes a disparaging remark about Sutherland's penchant for helping Jews, Kitty abruptly changes her mind and declares she will assist at the camp. The next day, Caldwell takes Kitty to Caraolos where David Ben Ami welcomes her and introduces her to camp physician Dr. Samuel Odenheim. In the infirmary, Kitty is drawn to the calm maturity of fourteen-year-old orphaned German refugee Karen Clement Hansen, who is the only one able to contend with the bitter, distrustful teen Dov Landau, who is recovering from an escape attempt. The following afternoon in the nearby village of Famagusta, Ari Ben Canaan, a Palestinian-born agent of the Haganah underground military organization, his associate Reuben and David, meet with Cyprian businessman Mandria to request assistance in transporting six hundred Jews to Palestine. Ari explains that Jewish intelligence intends this bold operation as a symbolic act to coincide with the upcoming United Nations vote on the partition of Palestine to provide the Jews with their own state. That evening, Kitty attends a party at Sutherland's and expresses her interest in Karen and the general agrees to arrange for Kitty to take Karen out of Caraolos for a day. The next afternoon, Ari joins Mandria at the harbor to inspect a dilapidated freighter, the Olympia . Ari approves of the ship and asks Mandria to provide food, numerous radio speakers and a jeep in addition to several lorries. After spending a couple of days with Karen, Kitty informs Sutherland that she would like to take the girl to America, but later is disappointed when Karen asks for time to consider her offer. At Caraolos, Dr. Odenheim tells Kitty that Karen may not be an orphan and explains that the teen's father, Johann Clement, a well-known scientist, sent her to Denmark at the beginning of the war when she was six. After the war, Karen learned her mother and brothers had died in the Dachau concentration camp, but she could find no information about her father, whom she believes may be in Palestine. A couple of days later, disguised as British soldiers, Ari and a detachment arrive at the military base with forged orders to transfer the newly arrived refugees back to Europe. Through clever manipulation and playing to Caldwell's anti-Semitism, Ari gets the orders signed by the proper authorities. Later, Kitty visits Sutherland, who is meeting with Caldwell, to reveal anxiously that Karen has been included in the transfer. Sutherland soon realizes that the orders for the Olympia were falsified and that the ship is destined for Palestine. Moments after the Olympia 's departure, it is directed to return to dock, but Ari responds that the ship is wired with 200 pounds of explosives which will be detonated if it is boarded by the military. Informed of the threat, Sutherland prevails upon Kitty to board the Olympia under the pretense of speaking with Karen and try to find out as much as she can. Kitty is allowed on the Olympia , but Ari dismisses her concern for Karen, accusing her of caring about Jews "ten years too late." Although pleased to see Kitty, Karen is enthusiastic about going to Palestine to search for her father and explains that the Olympia passengers are her family. Sutherland arrives at the pier and assures Ari via radio that the ship will not be boarded, but the harbor will remain blocked. Ari announces the ship has been renamed the Exodus and tells the passengers that they were selected by Haganah to set an example. Led by Polish peasant Lakavitch, a group demands action over passivity and suggests the Exodus passengers go on a hunger strike to force their release. The passengers vote for the strike which instantly becomes world news and results in a delay of the UN vote on partition. After four days without food, several children on the Exodus grow weak and ill, and the next day, when Dr. Oddenheim collapses and dies from a heart attack, Ari reconsiders the situation. Upon hearing Ari's orders that all children under thirteen years of age will be returned to Caraolos, two women with young children meet with Ari to insist that returning children will only demonstrate to the British that they are unresolved. Ari subsequently agrees to let the children remain. Following Kitty's report to Sutherland, he departs for London to meet with government officials about the Exodus . Moved by the passengers' determination, Kitty offers to stay on board to help and declares she will also refuse food, which impresses Ari. The following day, the British pronounce official permission for the Exodus to sail to Palestine. Upon reaching Haifa, Dov immediately attempts to contact members of the underground militant group Irgun, but is captured by the British military police. Meanwhile, the young people from the Exodus are bussed out to Gan Dafna youth camp where they are welcomed by Ari's father, Barak Ben Canaan, head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Barak encourages the newcomers to work hard to create a home, then introduces them to the muktar of the nearby Arab village of Abu Yesha, Taha, a childhood friend of Ari's. Verifying that Dov has arrived in Palestine legally, the British release him and he is picked up by Irgun member Yoav, who takes him to meet the organization leader, Akiva Ben Canaan, Barak's long-estranged brother. Dov undergoes grueling questions by Akiva about his experiences in the Warsaw ghetto and Auschwitz labor and death camp, where he became a demolitions expert. Under pressure from Akiva, Dov breaks down and admits he was forced to work as a "sonderkommando" for the Nazis, but reveals he was also abused by them. After his confession, Dov is sworn in as a member of the Irgun. A few days later, Ari arranges to meet Akiva, to argue with his uncle against Irgun's insistence on violence, but Akiva maintains that the British will never allow them a homeland through diplomatic negotiations alone. The next afternoon, Ari takes Kitty on a tour of the area, then introduces her to his parents, Barak and Sarah, and sister Jordana. In private, the couple admits their increasing attraction to one another. Visiting Karen at Gan Dafna later, Kitty is taken aback when the girl shows her a statue of the camp's namesake, Dafna, who was engaged to Ari in their youth before being brutally tortured and murdered by the Arabs. Uncomfortable with the growing awareness that she will always be an outsider in Palestine, Kitty tells Ari they should not become personally involved. Fulfilling a promise made to Karen, Ari locates her father and several days later meets Karen and Kitty at a Jerusalem hospital. Karen's excitement gives way to dismay, however, when Johann Clement, a devastated concentration camp survivor, remains unresponsive to her. As Karen, Kitty and Ari leave the hospital, they witness a distant explosion and when Ari realizes it is the British military headquarters at the King David Hotel he suspects Irgun. Soon after, the British arrest several Irgun members involved in the bombing, including Akiva, but Dov escapes. Akiva and his cohorts are quickly tried and sentenced to hang in two weeks. Learning of the sentences, Ari conducts a secret meeting with the top remaining Irgun members to suggest they unite with Haganah to free Akiva and the others from the grim Acre prison. Although suspicious, Yoav agrees to allow Dov to be captured to help coordinate the breakout from within. With assistance from Taha and the relatives of both Palestinian and Jewish prisoners, explosive material is smuggled into Acre and in a massive, synchronized assault, Akiva, Dov and dozens of prisoners escape. Evading a British military roadblock, Ari and Akiva are wounded and Akiva dies soon thereafter. Ari manages to reach Gan Dafna, where camp physician Dr. Lieberman performs emergency surgery on him before Taha smuggles Ari to a safe house, where Kitty nurses him. With political pressures mounting on Britain, the UN reschedules the partition vote and in December a majority agrees to the partition of Palestine, awarding a homeland to the Jews, with the British withdrawal set for the following May. A recovered Ari celebrates with Kitty, but Taha is despondent, lamenting that now his people are homeless. Despite Ari's opposition, Taha departs to meet with former Nazi, Von Storch, who is now advisor and messenger to the Arab Grand Mufti. Von Storch informs Taha that the Palestinian Arabs have agreed to make an assault on Gan Dafna and requests his aid. Taha returns to Ari at Gan Dafna to warn him to evacuate the camp in twenty-four hours, but asserts that he must remain with his people. That night, Ari leads a dangerous secret mission to transport the Gan Dafna children under thirteen to the safety of camp Beth Amal. With the Irgun now united with Haganah, Dov and several others guard the camp in Ari's absence and are joined by an armed unit of Jewish soldiers led by David. Karen slips out to visit Dov who tells her he will marry her when the conflict has ended. Unknown to anyone, on her way back to camp, Karen is seized by Arabs. The next morning, after returning from Beth Amal, Ari plans an assault to undercut the coming Arab attack. Realizing there has been no Islamic call to prayers from Abu Yesha, Ari takes a squad into the village and is horrified to find Taha hanged in front of his house with a star of David carved into his chest. Simultaneously, Dov is shattered to come upon Karen's body. The dead are taken to Gan Dafna and placed in a joint grave where Ari declares that the land on which Arabs and Jews have joined in death will one day be shared by them in peace and life.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||World premiere in New York: 15 Dec 1960; Los Angeles opening: 21 Dec 1960|
|Release Date:||1960||Production Date:||
EBX; UCLA has 16mm scanned print R-FH0000203364, M
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints), 70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints)||Production Co:||Otto Preminger Productions|
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User Ratings & Review
I believe Eva Marie Saint was indescribable in "On the Waterfront" and "Northeast by Northwest" but, she was not in good physical shape...
Jay Higgins 2009-10-25
A very well produced and quite a fine film. The performances are good, particularly Sal Mineo, Eva Marie Saint and Paul Newman. The direction is a little...
My feeling ashamed for being British
Alan Fleet 2009-07-04
I was astounded by this film in my sheer ignorance of these events. I'm ashamed for being British. I was brought up as a Cockney in the East End of...