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Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Leon Uris

SPCA Thrift ShopI know I was aware of Leon Uris and his books long before I first read anything by him. It was one of the joys of living close to the public library, reading six, seven, eight books a week and spending large amounts of time wandering through the stacks looking for something new. I think I was 11 or 12 before I first picked up one of Uris’s books to read. Battle Cry was his first and it was also my first of his to read:

This is the story of enlisted men – Marines – at the beginning of World War II. They are a rough–and–ready tangle of guys from America’s cities and farms and reservations. Led by a tough veteran sergeant, these soldiers band together to emerge as part of one of the most elite fighting forces in the world. With staggering realism and detail, we follow them into intense battles – Guadalcanal and Tarawa – and through exceptional moments of camaraderie and bravery. Battle Cry does not extol the glories of war, but proves itself to be one of the greatest war stories of all time.

After reading Battle Cry, I then read The Angry Hills, Exodus, Mila 18, and Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin although not in that order. I’m pretty sure Exodus was the second book of his that I read but after that, I don’t know the order I read the others until after I had read these first few books then I know I read Topaz, QB VII, Trinity, and The Haj in their publication order.

I think it would be difficult to overstate just how influential Exodus was, even though it is a novel. In the wiki for the book there is discussion on the book’s origins with some contention that Uris was paid to write a propaganda piece though it is also denied. My guess is that Uris was probably naturally sympathetic to Israel due to his Jewishness and knowing his family had spent some time in Palestine prior to emigrating to the US. FWIW, The Haj covers some of the same ground as Exodus, from the Arab/Palestine perspective.

Uris has nine IMDB writing credits. He wrote the screenplay for Battle Cry. Exodus was a blockbuster movie, directed by Otto Preminger with screenplay by Dalton Trumbo. The Angry Hills starred Robert Mitchum. Topaz was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and one of the stars was a pre-Animal House John Vernon. QB VII was a two part TV miniseries in the early ’70s, starring Ben Gazzara and Anthony Hopkins.

The most surprising (to me) part of Uris and his IMDB credits is the credit ha has for the screenplay for Gunfight at the OK Corral starring Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday.

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