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April 16, 1965 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1965-04-16

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Amerman Company to


(Copyright, 1965. JTA, Inc.)

HOLLYWOOD — One of the
most ambitious motion picture
ventures of the current season is
the Mirisch-United Artists multi-
million-dollar production in wide
screen and color of "Cast a Giant
Shadow," from the biography by
Ted Berkman of David "Mickey"
Marcus and dealing with his ex-
ploits during Israel's War of In-
dependence. It will go before the
cameras on location in the Holy
Land on May 18, with writer-pro-
ducer-director Melville Shavelson
at the helm and Kirk Douglas por-
traying the West Pointer who be-
came one of the Jewish State's
leading military officers.
It was in August of 1950. during
an interview with Dore Schary,
then production head at M-G-M,
that I first heard about a contem-
plated movie about Colonel David
Marcus who had become the Vic-
tim of a tragic accident only two
years earlier.
Nothing happened with the
"Marcus Road" yarn after Schary
left Metro until Ted Berkman's
book, "Cast A Giant Shadow,"
was published in 1962. At that
time, M-G-M took an option on
the new biography, but dropped
the property after a while. At
which time, Mel Shavelson went
into action because he believed
in the subject matter, which. is
"something more important than
just making movies." In addi-
tion, Shavelson revealed he is
related to Marcus through mar-
riage and had known the much
older brigadier before World
War II while in New York City.
Shavelson couldn't enlist any in-
terest from major studios and de-
cided to buy the screen rights with
his own Llenroc company, write
his screenplay and then solicit co-
production deals. He then ap-
proached John Wayne who became
enthusiastic about the story that
sounded to him very much like an
heroic episode from the American
war for independence.
Wayne sees in Mickey Marcus
a United States patriot who wanted
to help establish the freedom of a
small country, the youngest demo-
cracy in the world — that con-
sistently looked only to the West
for support and not once voted
with the E astern bloc. John
Wayne's Batjac productions joined
with Shavelson's own organization,
and Michael Wayne (the film star's
son) became co-producer.
John Wayne pledged to make
a special appearance in the pic-
ture as an American general
who is a composite of Maxwell
Taylor, George Patton and other
prominent officers who figured
importantly in Marcus' life.
The Mirisch Corporation then
underwrote the project and United
Artists pledged to supply the fi-
nancing and worldwide distribu-
tion. Next. the screen play was
submitted to Kirk Douglas, who
had made the first U.S. picture,
"The Juggler," in Israel in the
early 1950's and only recently had
completed a junket to the Holy
Land for the State Department.
Douglas, who is infatuated
with the vigor of Israel, accepted
the role of Mickey Marcus im-
mediately to follow his assign-
ment in the anti-Nazi film, "The
Heroes of Telemark," currently
underway on location in Norway
with interiors to be photographed

in England.

In 1923, at the age of 22, Mickey
Marcus won the Intercollegiate
Welterweight Boxing Champion-
ship. In 1924, he graduated near
the top of his class and turned
down a Rhodes Scholarship to re-,
main in the U.S., attending night
school while stationed as a 2nd
Lieutenant on Governor's Island
so he could become a lawyer. In
1927, he got his law degree, left
the Army for the Reserve and mar-
ried Emma Chaison. An Assistant
D.A. under Tom Dewey, Mickey
knocked down two gangsters who
tried to bribe him.
On Jan. 1, 1934, he was ap-
pointed Deputy Commissioner of
Correction of New York City by
Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Three
weeks later, he led a raid on Wel-
fare Island Prison in which he cap-
tured with his bare fists Joey Rao,
prohibition gangster, who was run-
ning a narcotics racket from his
luxurious quarters in the prison
hospital. It was Mickey Marcus
who then cleaned up corruption in
the New York prison system. When
Warner's made a movie about
:Nlickey's exploits entitled, "Black-
well's Island," (starring the late
John Garfield) the Deputy Com-
missioner came to Hollywood to
serve as technical adviser.
In 1936, Marcus, at 34, became
the youngest judge on the New
York bench filling a temporary
appointment to Manhattan's Fifth
District Court. In 1940, he was
sworn in as the City's full Com-
missioner of Correction. Later
the same year, Mickey rejoined
the army because he "didn't
want to wait for Hitler to come
over here"; his first assignment:
Judge Advocate and Headquar-
ters Commandant of the 27th
Division at Fort McClellan.
Later, he was given command
of Special Judo Corps and early
in 1943 became commandant of
Ranger Training School for jungle
warfare in Hawaii. Appointed a
full Colonel, Marcus was recalled
to the Pentagon on G e n e r al
Marshall's staff as Chief of Plan-
ning. Yet, in a surprise move, he
went to England in June of 1944,
secured permission from General
Maxwell Taylor to parachute with
the 101st Airborne into Normandy
on D-Day in the first wave of in-
vasion (his first parachute jump),
fought three weeks in the field
and returned to Washington for
In 1945. Mickey Marcus was
military adviser to President
Franklin D. Roosevelt at Dumbar-
ton Oaks. Quebec • and Yalta. He
also drew up the first draft of the
Italian Peace Treaty. Later in
1945, he was liaison officer on
General Patton's staff assigned to
the liberation of the Dachau and
Buchenwald concentration camps.
He received the Distinguished
Service Medal from Major General
John H. Hilldring in Washington.
As Assistant. Deputy Military Gov-
ernor of Germany under General
Lucius Clay. he was the only one
who, according to General Zhukov,
"knows how to drink." Appointed
Chief of War Crimes Branch of the
War Department, he helped organ-
ize the Nuremberg trials and later
the Japanese War Crimes tribunals.
In April of 1947, David Marcus re-
turned to civilian life and the prac-
tice of law in New York.
It was in December of 1947,
Shavelson reveals, that Marcus
was approached by Moshe Shar-
ett, Shlomo Shamir, Yakov Dori
and Yigael Yadin, to help find
a full-fledged American general
to organize the underground
forces of the Haganah and Pal-
mach for the dreaded attack by
six Arab armies to come on May
15, 1948, the day fixed by the
United Nations for the partition
of Palestine.
The motion picture will start at
the moment when Col. David Mar-
cus arrives in Palestine in Febru-
ary, 1948, to offer his own services.
Shavelson tells me that thus the
picture will have a complete unity
of locale. But the earlier life
story of Mickey is being revealed

Mel Shavelson discussed with
me the career of David Marcus, a
subject matter he has become an
expert on — during -his months
of research. The story of Colonel
Marcus, who served in Palestine
under the pseudonym of Michael
Stone, is so diversified and colorful
that it appears almost as fiction.
Born on the East Side of New York
"Mickey" Marcus was a star ath-
lete when attending high school
in Brooklyn. On the basis of his
physical prowess — in football and
boxing — he was appointed to the
U.S. Military Academy at West
Point when Douglas MacArthur
was its commandant. One of the
young man's classmates was the THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
56—APRIL 16, 1965
future General Maxwell Taylor.

of GA Afickey Marcus


in a series of flashbacks into the
past projected onto the screen in
vivid s t a c c a t o images, some of
which were photographed by
Shavelson and his assistant Jack
Reddish without actors in New
York earlier this month, such as
the Marcus family home in Brook-
lyn and scenes at Macy's and
Herald Square.
"Cast a Giant Shadow" shows
how Mickey Marcus started the
formation of a regular Israeli army
prepared to operate in coordinated
units — three months before state-
hood was declared. We will see
the aftermath of the dynamite
blast on Ben-Yehuda Street in
Jerusalem, the advance of the
Arabs. the official start of hos-
tilities on May 15, jeep forces roll-
ing into the Negev desert to halt
Egyptian tank advances; infantry
seen marching into the mountain-
ous region in scorching sun and
under enemy fire.
With Jerusalem under seine.
Prime Minister Ben-Gurion re-
called Marcus from the desert
campaign on May 28. 1948, to
make him Commander of au
forces on the Jerusalem front.
The picture will show how
Mickey Marcus vainly launched
attacks on the Latrun fortress
to open the route to Jerusalem.
When he first suggested to build
a "Burma Road" through the
desert at night, slicing across
the serpentines directly east-

ward over the mountain tops,
his officers told him that it
couldn't be done. Whereupon,
Mickey replied laconically, "We
made it across the Red Sea,
didn't we?"
"Cast a Giant Shadow" gives
credit to Shlomo Shamir for lay-
ing out with stone markers the
projected "Burma" path. After
which Mickey Marcus sent out a
radio message to Ben-Gui-ion ask-
ing top priority for bulldozers.
With the help of the civilian popu-
lation of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
the road was built to lift the siege
just before the truce which would
have frozen the front lines into
effect. (When I was in Israel in
1961 to attend the Eichmann Trial.
I went a dozen times by bus from
Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Every time,
the driver pointed with pride at a
now obsolete road strewn with
parts of blown-up tanks and rotten
equipment—towards a section of
"The Marcus Road" which saved
the independence of Israel.)
The picture climaxes with the
tragedy at the Monastery of Abu
Gosh, where on June 11, 1948,
David "Mickey" Marcus was ac-
cidently shot by his own sentry,
only seven hours before the
truce became effective. He was
buried at West Point and his
epitaph reads, "Colonel David
Mar cu 5, A Soldier for All
Melville Shavelson assures this
JTA correspondent that he will
treat the Marcus story with great
reverence. In addition to the Ted
Berkman biography, he has used
as his sources the private diaries
of Ben-Gurion and Yigael Yadin
and all the contemporary material
he could find. During three trips
to Israel, he nad long conferences
with Asher Hirshberg of the Bu-
reau for Encouragement of the
Film Industry in the Ministry for
Industry and Commerce in Jeru-
salem. He has the full cooperation
of the government, armed forces
and the people of Israel. Shavelson
will try to cast every Israeli with
native actors and only looks for
a European or Americah leading
lady to portray Mrs. Marcus. While
in Israel, his first assistant direc-
tor will be Shlomo .logrobi; all
technical crafts will be recruited

I in Israel except some key techni-
cians such as camera and lighting
director who either will come from
Hollywood, or London and Rome.
Mel is known in Hollywood as
a triple-threat among the creative
artists, developing his own screen (2,
treatment and writing his own
scenario, then proceeding to handle
all production chores and finally
going into directing a photo play
no one but the one who has written
it could know better. Shavelson
has always been inventive in his
work. A native of Brooklyn —
just as Mickey Marcus — he gradu-
ated with an A.B. from Cornell
University, became a Broadway
press agent and a radio writer de-
veloping such shows as "We, thp-
People" and later in Hollywoo
"The Bob Hope Show."
In 1943, Shavelson wrote his
first screenplay for Samuel Gold-
wyn, "Wonder Man," starring
Danny Kaye. Next "The Kid From
Brooklyn" for the same producer
and star. He then collaborated on
comedies such as "The Princess
and the Pirate," "Always Leave
Them Laughing," "It's a Great
Feeling" and "Daughter of Rosie
O'Gradie." In 1948, he joined Jack
Rose in writing for Bob Hope,
"Sorrowful Jones," one of the
comedians greatest screen suc-
cesses. For Cary Gran t, they
scripted "Room for One More",
for Doris Day, "On Moonlight Bay"
and "I'll See You in My Dreams,"
for Lewis and Martin, "Living it
Up;" for John Wayne, "Trouble_
Along the Way." When Shavelso/
and Rose formed their own con,„_)
pany, they wrote and produced
jointly with Shavelson also direct-
ing, "The Seven Little Foys";
"Beau James," an affectionate bio-
graphy of Jimmy Walker; "House-
boat" with Sophia L or en and
Grant; "The Five Pennies" star-
ring Danny Kaye; "It Started in
Naples" with the late Clark Gable,
Sophia Loren, Vittorio de Sica and
nine-year-old Marietta an Italian
youngster who also appeared in
Shavelson's war picture, "The
Pigeon That Took Rome" starring
Charleton Heston; and "On The
Double" starring Danny Kaye.
Alone, Shavelson last produced,
wrote and directed, "A New Kind
of Love."

`Let All Those Who Are Hungry Enter'

Once upon a time, in the city of Odessa lived
an old man with a Jewish beard and a forehead
that had folded into wrinkles long before it was
meant to do.
His name would have been Gershon in He-
brew. For "ger" means stranger, and if there ever
was a stranger to Mother Russia, it was this unloved
native son.
Each year, at Passover, he and two cronies
would gather around the table to recount the
wondrous exodus from Egypt. Some years, they
would get a special chuckle out of the Hagadah:
Imagine, such a fuss over these slaves of old! They,
at least, had matzo!
Ah, but Gershon could not complain; in one
way or another, he had a piece of matzo for the
Passover. There are ways.
Yet, this Passover, he was alone. Meyer—
God rest his soul—had died this past winter in
his sleep, lucky fellow. David had come up with a
long-lost niece who suddenly decided to do right
by her old uncle and invited him to her seder in
Nu? What to do but carry on as best he could.
In other years, better times (Were there any?
Gershon couldn't remember), Golda would have
been there, and they would have had a seder for
two. But that was in the past, and Golda had long
been buried in the cold Russian earth.
Still, as he always would do until he lay by
her side, Gershon set a place for Golda at the table.
They would read the Hagadah, the two of them,
with no idle chatter from outsiders. He made the
simple preparations slowly, relishing each act as
though it were a priestly rite—the matzo (oh yes,
he had ways, though the supply would be sufficient
only for the seder nights), the egg (on what meal
had he skimped for that?), the bitter herb (the
native plant of my homeland, Gershon thought with
a thin smile), the wine (ah, just think of the vine-
yards in Eretz Yisroel!),
Once he would have hurried off to shul
while Golda saw to this woman's work. But noth-
ing was the same any more—only the way THEY
.treated you. That never changed, no matter who
had the office in Kremlin Square.
So Gershon stayed home. Finally, the pains-

• •

taking preparations over, he dabbed his face wit
cold water, ran his fingers through his beard;—/
donned his good jacket and settled himself into the
big chair Grandfather had used years ago for the
same occasion. Perfect; on this night, he would lean.
But what was this gnawing feeling of incom-
pleteness? Had he forgotten something? As Ger-
shon opened the Haggadah, he knew. "Let all those
who are hungry enter . . ." it said.
Of course! But did he dare? The thought
thrilled him and hung suspended over the shabby
room. Could he unlock his door in such times,
when any young hoodlum might come and—? He
shuddered. Even those who wrote the Haggadah
could not have foreseen such times. Still, the
Hebrew injunction teased his eyes: "Let all those
who are hungry enter . . ."
The old man arose and went to the door, un-
bolted the heavy latch and let the wind do the rest.
With a rush of air, the door flew open.
Gershon stood there, breathing heavily, his
heart hammering against his chest. He peeked
cautiously to the left and right, and with somf
relief, headed back to his chair.
Suddenly there was a noise behind him. He
wheeled around. A huge young . officer filled the
doorway, the badges and stars on his uniform

gleaming ominously in the moonlight.

"Yes?" Gershon trembled.
"Your door was open," came the voice of
government. "So I decided you must be' having

open house, and I am invited." (The sneer was

"Y-you see, it's a c-custom," Gershon explained,
his face white with terror. "I-it's our P-Passover."
"I know your custom. But I see no guests. Are
they hiding?"
"Oh, no." Gershon replied quickly, "I am alone.
You may search if you like. You will find no one.
I am alone."
"Alone on the Passover?" The voice softened.
"Ah, but I, too, am alone on the Passover—" He
stopped, and then, "Please, may I . . . may I join
you for awhile?"
Gershon could not answer. He nodded dumbly.
The stranger smiled and entered. "Thank you,
chaver," he whispered. "My name is Georgi. You
may call be Gershon."

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