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Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) is the true-life story of the American soldier David "Mickey" Marcus. In 1949, the British pulled out of the newly formed country Israel, leaving it poorly defended. Marcus (played by Kirk Douglas) is asked to shape the untrained and disorganized Israeli army into a more potent force. (The real-life Marcus did notable duty in WWII, including parachuting during D-Day even though he wasn't trained as a paratrooper.) Over objections from his US commander (John Wayne) and his wife (Angie Dickinson), Marcus accepts. In Israel, he finds quite a challenge in negotiating the personalities and conflicts involved from an American daredevil pilot (Frank Sinatra) to a wise politician to an attractive freedom fighter. To top that off, Israel suddenly finds itself involved in a full-scale war, giving Marcus and his troops their toughest test.
Cast a Giant Shadow was the work of Melville Shavelson, who produced, directed and wrote the film. Shavelson had a fight with John Wayne during a film shoot a decade earlier but Wayne later sent a letter of apology and offered to help if there ever were a need. Shortly afterwards there was. Shavelson had the idea for this film but couldn't raise the money to make it. Wayne signed on, agreeing to co-produce and appear in a smaller role since he was a bit too old for the lead role.
The exterior scenes for Cast a Giant Shadow were shot on location in Israel but the interiors were done at the legendary Cinecitta studios in Rome. Though Wayne was in Rome only briefly, he and Sinatra made the most of it by checking out the local nightclubs, at least until Wayne injured himself during filming with a fall from a jeep. Speaking of jeeps, keep an eye out for one of the jeep drivers. That's Michael Douglas (Kirk's son) making a brief uncredited appearance that seems to be his film debut.
Director: Melville Shavelson
Producers: Melville Shavelson, Michael Wayne
Screenplay: Melville Shavelson, based on the book by Ted Berkman
Cinematography: Aldo Tonti
Editor: Bert Bates, Gene Ruggiero
Art Direction: Arrigo Equini
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Kirk Douglas (Col. Marcus), Senta Berger (Magda Simon), Angie Dickinson (Emma Marcus), James Donald (Major Safir), Stathis Giallelis (Ram Oren), Frank Sinatra (Spence Talmadge), Yul Brynner (Asher Gonen), John Wayne (General Mike Randolph).
by Lang Thompson