In 1947, with only months remaining until the partition of British-administered Palestine, an American freighter captain smuggles European Jewish refugees ashore under the nose of the British authorities.
Cynical freighter captain Mike Dillon hopes to take the money and run after helping to smuggle Jewish refugees ashore in pre-Israel Palestine. But against his will, he's drawn into the escalating fight between British occupation forces and the founders of Israel. In a battle doubly terrible because the audience sympathizes with both sides, how long can Mike remain a bystander?Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jeff Chandler, a Jew whose real name was Ira Grossel, was extremely proud of his Jewish heritage. Kurta was the only explicitly Jewish character he ever got to play in his career. See more »
Col. Bruce Evans:
What an extraordinary people. Do they think we relish our position as policemen in this god-forsaken land?
Perhaps they prefer that we forsake it, Sir - and let God police it.
Col. Bruce Evans:
But we have agreed to leave, if they can reach an agreement with the Arabs on partition. But if we pull out before there's an agreement between them, the entire Middle East may go up in flames. And with it, the world. No, Stephens, this isn't a Jewish or Arab or British problem. This is the problem of all mankind.
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Sword in the Desert was a quickly made feature film trying to cash in on the headlines concerning the rebirth of the State of Israel. The hopes and dreams of millions of Jews around the world who for two generations sent in sometimes pittance contributions to the Jewish Committee who started BUYING land in Palestine from the Ottoman Empire in the hopes of carving out a homeland for displaced people finally was realized a year earlier.
The origins of Israel are always obscured by Arab propaganda about Zionist Imperialism. The nucleus of Israel is from land BOUGHT and then formalized by United Nations partition. When six Arab nations disagreed and attack Israel beat them back and acquired more than what she was originally intended for. That's also how they later got the whole of Jerusalem, when three nations attacked Israel again in 1967 in the Six Day War.
Dana Andrews plays a captain of a tramp freighter who's making a nice living smuggling Jewish refugees into Palestine. He's strictly a cash and carry operator, but one time he gets himself caught up with his cargo when the British find him with same. He gets rescued by the Hagannah along with the rest of the refugees. After living with the Hagannah and seeing what they're up against, he becomes a committed Zionist himself. Of course the Zionist cause was definitely helped by having the beautiful and shapely Marta Toren working on his conversion. To Zionism, not to Judaism.
The part of Kurta the charismatic Hagannah leader was the one that gave Jeff Chandler his first real notice. Chandler, who's real name was Ira Grossel was himself Jewish and one who felt his roots very deeply. Later on he made a well publicized trip to Israel in the late Fifties and expressed a wish to be buried there. When he died in 1961 his wishes were not carried out by his daughters and his ex-wife. Nevertheless, Chandler always treasured this film because of what it meant to him both professionally and personally.
Stephen McNally has a substantial role as Hagannah fighter David Vogel and Irish actor Liam Redmond plays a former IRA man who joins up with the Jews because the British are tilting their neutrality way over to the Arabs. A lot of former IRA men did join up with the nascent Israeli cause and died for the creation of the Jewish state. Ironic that later on another generation of the IRA sided with the Arabs.
Sword in the Desert was quickly put together and its hurried preparation does show. Still it's a good, but hardly a definitive story about Israeli independence. For that we would have to wait for Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow.
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