Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller

By Ira B. Nadel | Go to book overview
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4
HOLLYWOOD

Every novelist should go to Hollywood…. Sure
it’s a rat race. Life is like that anywhere.

—LEON URIS, 1955

ALL BALTIMORE SEEMED to turn out for the world premiere of Battle Cry on 1 February 1955. The 2,800-seat Stanley Theatre was sold out. The mayor, the marines, city dignitaries, movie stars, and the screenwriter, the Baltimore-born author of the novel, arrived to much fanfare on Howard Street, where excited crowds were blocked off by the police. Inside, the evening began with a marine reserve band rising from the orchestra pit to play the national anthem. Al Ross, a disk jockey, then introduced the mayor, who introduced Uris to great acclaim and a standing ovation, presenting him with a scroll proclaiming him “an honored and outstanding” citizen of the city. Posters plastered downtown had, in fact, announced the premiere of “Battle Cry by our own Baltimorian Leon Uris.” Many in the audience were old school mates from City College, his Baltimore high school.

The film star Dorothy Malone, whose mother was from Baltimore, appeared next, and then “the high point in the evening, Tab Hunter who sent several hundred teenagers into a state of delirium. His remarks were punctuated with perpetual small squeals from the audience”; the applause for Raoul Walsh, the director of the movie, was “pale in comparison,” wrote a reporter.1 After more flashbulbs, the guests, including Tab Hunter, left, and so, too, did the teenagers. At eight thirty the next morning, Hunter appeared at the Paramount Theatre in New York, handing out nylons to the first one hundred women who attended the first showing of the film.

The filming of Battle Cry had begun once the script and cast were approved. Van Heflin (Major Huxley), Aldo Ray (Andy Hookans), Mona Freeman (Kathy), James Whitmore (Mac), Dorothy Malone (Elaine Yarborough), Raymond Massey (General Snipes), Anne Francis (Rae), and Tab Hunter (Danny For

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