Sword in the Desert is set in Palestine during World War II. Dana Andrews plays an American seaman engaged in smuggling European Jewish refugees into the Holy Land, despite the restrictions levied by the British occupation troops. Fifth-billed Jeff Chandler makes his movie debut as an Israeli rebel leader; his performance garnered so much fan mail that Chandler was given a seven-year contract at Universal.
Few of those letters came from Britain, where Sword in the Desert ran into distribution difficulties due to its blatant anti-British slant--especially as manifested in the underground radio broadcasts of leading lady Marta Toren. The principal complaint was that the British seemed to be the sole villains in the script, which virtually ignored the Arab resistance to the formation of Israel. Sword in the Desert represents a low-key warm-up to the blood-and-thunder excesses of Otto Preminger's 1960 Exodus.
As a Jewish girl who stings the British with her broadcasts on the underground radio, Marta Toren makes perhaps the most forceful and believable individual in the group.
Torn told the Saturday Evening Post that the film-
"allowed me to play a woman of depth and purpose and that Hadassah presented her with a scroll for her contribution to the understanding of the problems of the 'settlers'."
Here she was:-
And here is the real heroine, the secret radio broadcaster for the Lechi underground, Geulah Cohen:-
Woman of Violence 1943-1948, New York, Holt Rinehart Winston, 1966, Ed.: 1st, Pages: 275.
This is the passionate and moving story of Palestine's fight for independence by a member of the Stern Gang. This was originally written in Hebrew and now appeared for the first time in English. The author's memoirs explode with the ferocious intensity of her terrorist faith & her inflexible idealism. This is a portrait of a woman and the conditions that drove her underground to embrace a philosophy of violence and terror.
There's a new edition with David Ben-Gurion's letter of appreciation to her as well as British police documents and newspaper clippings entitled: Woman of Valor which I edited.
In the 1960s, she was a columnist for the Maariv and I found this:-
In an interview with Geula Cohen in the newspaper Maariv in 1963, Yitzhak Shalev, a writer with right-wing inclinations, complained that the "cease-fire lines have become our emotional borders, the boundary to our longings and desires." He lamented that no poem or tale had ventured further south in setting than Kibbutz Ramat Rahel (overlooking the old border south of Jerusalem) or further east than Mount Zion. His disapproval described the basic parameters: the parting from historical Eretz Israel was not just a political fact but had also been internalized as an existential experience by the Israel-bred generation of the State.
And, while we're at it, Geulah and I:-