Exodus may be a film that you forgot about a long time ago – or that you haven’t even heard about. If either is the case, you might want to take another look. The film has more socio-political significance than simply the establishment of Israel narrative or its darker and more critical discourse about the horrors of British Colonialism. Not only was it the first film to allow screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to have an actual screen credit after the Hollywood Blacklist, but it was also the first film to actively hire two formerly blacklisted writers.
Want to watch Exodus again – or for the first time? Take a look at the trailer below and then stream for $3.99 on Apple TV. Don’t want to pay? Last I checked, you could stream it for free (with ads) on Amazon Prime.
What About Kurt Douglas?
If you’re a rabid movie buff, you may have heard that it was Kirk Douglas, a legend of the golden age of Hollywood, who played an instrumental role in helping end the Hollywood blacklist. But, according to Beverly Cinema, this would be wrong. They say:
There is no argument that Kirk Douglas was a badass and he did make certain that Trumbo got billing. But one cannot dispute history and cold hard facts. It was Otto Preminger with his balls of steel that insisted that Dalton Trumbo write Exodus. While Spartacus was released 2 months before Preminger’s beautiful Panavision work, the fight for Trumbo’s credit and billing went on with the United Artists Production before Douglas and co. got to it. Sorry, Kirk!
Haven’t seen the Roman spectacle Spartacus? The trailer is below. It’s $3.99 on Amazon Prime Video and it’s also on iTunes.
Trumbo, you might remember, was a member of the Hollywood Ten, a group of writers and directors cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. You can read more about Trumbo in Witch Hunts, a Cold War Studies post.
A January 20, 1960, article, headlined Movie Maker Hires Blacklisted Writer, appeared on the front page of The New York Times, publicizing Preminger’s announcement that blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo would receive full credit for the script of his film, Exodus. According to The Times, this was “the first open defiance by a producer-director of Hollywood’s ‘blacklist.'” (1)
Breaking the Blacklist
As discussed above, Trumbo was involved in two films in 1960, Spartacus, which came out in October, and Exodus, directed by Preminger and released in December. Thus, at the end of 1960, Trumbo’s name was on the screen twice for two hugely successful films. This feat provoked a slow weakening of the blacklist, but blacklistees returned to work in a trickle, not a wave.
As you’ve probably guessed, there was competition for which film would be the “first” to break the blacklist by hiring Trumbo. In actuality, producer and director Otto Preminger hired Dalton Trumbo to adapt the screen play for Exodus before he was hired for Spartacus.
Preminger announced his decision first and Douglas then followed. Spartacus was released first, on October 19, 1960. Exodus was released a month later, on December 20th.
If you like podcasts you will want to check this out. The site has lots of movie photos and a selected list of resources also.
Exodus: The 1960 Movie
Not interested in Hollywood and politics or behind the screen intrigue? Just want to know about the story of Israel and its founding? Well, Exodus is a terrific movie, but it’s not very factual. The film, based on the novel by Leon Uris, is a fictionalized recounting of the founding of Israel starring Paul Newman.
For a full synopsis of the movie click here. Meanwhile here are five interesting facts from IMDb:
- Paul Newman took the part of Ari Ben Canaan in honor of this father who was Jewish.
- Sal Mineo actively sought the role of Dov Landau despite being told that he didn’t “look Jewish.”
- When the filmmakers bought the ship that they used as the refugee ship, the ship’s owners were so thrilled that they delivered the ship with a fresh coat of paint. Since the ship was supposed to look old, fake rust had to be painted on.
- The movie has been credited with garnering support for Zionism and the state of Israel in the United States.
- There are important historical differences between the actual Exodus 1947 ship and the ship as presented in the novel by Leon Uris and in the movie.
Exodus, the movie and the novel, are sheer fiction. If you’re interested in the factual information about the founding of Israel you can refer to the following posts on Cold War Studies:
- Exodus was the first film to bear Trumbo’s name since Emergency Wedding in 1950. His uncredited work won two Academy Awards for Best Story: for Roman Holiday (1953), which was presented to a “front” writer, and Best Original Screenplay forThe Brave One (1956), which was awarded to a pseudonym used by Trumbo, Robert Rich. The Academy finally awarded Trumbo his Oscar for The Brave One on May 2, 1975. He was given full credit by the Writers’ Guild for Roman Holiday in 2011, nearly 60 years after the fact.