The saga of the 1947 refugee ship SS Exodus, immortalized in the 1960 film by Otto Preminger, is set to return to the big screen, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The new version, produced by Crystal City Entertainment in collaboration with Chris Columbus’s company 1492, will be based on the memoirs of a little-known passenger on the ship, American minister John Grauel.
Grauel, who joined the crew of the ship following the deaths of his wife and child, published his autobiography in 1983.
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“Being able to show Rev Grauel’s ‘coming of age’ through this story makes for a compelling character that we are excited to share with audiences,” said Crystal City Entertainment co-founder Stuart Ari Savitsky.
Unlike the original film, which starred Paul Newman as the fictional American captain of the ship, the new version will be a true depiction of the ship's journey, as experienced by Grauel.
The SS Exodus carried post-Holocaust Jewish refugees from France to Palestine as part of the Aliyah Bet program of illegal immigration. Previously named the President Warfield, the dilapidated ship was bought by the Haganah in1947 and renamed the Exodus.
Retrofitted with barbed wire and other reinforcements, it set off from Marseilles with 4,515 passengers on July 11, 1947. It never made it to Palestine. Tailed by the Royal Navy from the start, it was eventually boarded by force and returned to France. The immigrants were then controversially returned to Germany.
The case was highly publicized and helped raise awareness about the plight of Holocaust survivors and the creation of the state of Israel. Grauel himself went on to campaign for unrestricted immigration into Palestine and testified before the United Nations on the issue.
“We’ve always been drawn to inspirational stories about selfless individuals who give of themselves for something greater and this story certainly has those characteristics,”Savitsky said.