Col. Mickey Marcus (Kirk Douglas) had just returned home from WWII when David Ben-Gurion and the fledgling Jewish freedom fighters asked him to come to Palestine to organize their forces into a real army. Although he had a wife (Angie Dickinson) at home, Marcus missed the excitement and agreed to help. As the Palmach, Haganah, and other underground groups join forces to fight the Arabs bent on their destruction, Mickey becomes the first general of the new Israeli army.
This movie has the same romance-while-Israel-becomes-a-state plot as 1960's "Exodus," but isn't as successful. Douglas' Colonel Marcus is such a jovial, sarcastic, and über-confident charmer that he just doesn't seem to take the war seriously and makes it look like a walk in the park. Mickey's non-stop wisecracks left me wishing he would cut it out and just talk normally. The requisite battlefield love story with freedom fighter Senta Berger is too predictable and she doesn't have much range as an actress. Casting John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, and Yul Brynner doesn't help matters either as they look out of place and are distracting, although Wayne is likable as an American General who locks horns with Mickey and gradually comes to respect him. Topol plays the only Arab with a speaking part as a bumbling buffoon.
Partially filmed in Israel, the location does help to show the difficulties faced by the army. We see several battles that Mickey actually commanded; there are explosions and a lot of gunfire, but they are virtually bloodless. Col. Marcus was certainly an important, heroic man but this movie doesn't do him justice. 2.5 stars.
Sadly, the star power overshadows a good story.
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Part fact, part fiction, Cast a Giant Shadow powerfully dramatizes Israel's heroic 1947-48 struggle for independence. Both realistic war story and passionate romance, the film centers on the legendary David "Mickey" Marcus. Jewish-American general Marcus is called to the new state of Israel to build an army capable of withstanding its Arab foes.