Leon Uris Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Leon Marcus Uris (YEWR-ihs) endures as one of the most popular—and controversial—American novelists. Born on August 3, 1924, in Baltimore, the son of Wolf William and Anna Blumberg Uris, he was educated in the Baltimore and Philadelphia city schools before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in 1942. He served with the Marines in the Pacific and in Northern California and was honorably discharged in 1946. In 1945, while stationed near San Francisco, he met and married Marine Sergeant Betty Katherine Beck, with whom he had three children: Karen, Mark, and Michael. To support his family while struggling to publish, he worked as a home delivery manager for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin. When he finally sold an article on football to Esquire in 1950, he decided to work on a novel about World War II because “the real Marine story had not been told.” That novel was Battle Cry, and its astonishing success in 1953 established him as a full-time writer. This realistic account of World War II introduced the formula that Uris would follow throughout his canon: rather stereotyped characters whose personal drama is played out against a background of international crisis.

The triumph of Battle Cry, made into a successful film in 1955 with a script by the novelist, was not to be repeated with Uris’s second novel, The Angry Hills. Published in 1955, it is a less ambitious and less appealing story of Greek resistance fighters during the Nazi Occupation. The novel repeated the Uris approach, however, being loosely based on the diary of an uncle who had fought in Greece as a volunteer in the Palestinian brigade. In the late 1950’s Uris’s fortunes soared once again. In addition to writing the screenplay for the successful Western Gunfight at the OK Corral, he published Exodus, a novel which not only stands as the author’s greatest literary accomplishment but also entered mass culture as the definitive popular work on the birth of modern Israel. This success, coupled with the equivalent popularity of the film, which starred Paul Newman, established Uris as the unofficial historian of modern Judaism. It is because of his treatment of Jews and Arabs that he has engendered...

(The entire section is 920 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Leon Marcus Uris was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to William and Anna Uris in 1924. His father, a paperhanger by trade, had immigrated to the United States from Poland after having spent a year in Palestine. The author once said of his father, “He went from failure to failure.” Leon Uris was a failure himself in high school, having failed English three times. He dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of seventeen.

Uris served in World War II as a radioman in Tarawa, Guadalcanal, and New Zealand. After his service, while recovering from malaria in San Francisco, Uris met the first of his three wives, Betty Beck. Uris used his war experiences extensively, especially in his first novel, Battle Cry. Before he became a successful writer, Uris was employed in California as a newspaper delivery driver for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin in the late 1940’s.

Battle Cry was written when Uris was twenty-nine years old, after he had a story published in Esquire and was encouraged by the editors to write a novel. After 1950, Uris was a full-time writer. Living in California, he also became a screenwriter, penning Gunfight at the OK Corral, a film directed by John Sturges. Uris could be a difficult man to work with, and he often found himself at odds with Hollywood directors, including Sturges. Later he fought with two directors who filmed adaptations of his novels: Otto...

(The entire section is 454 words.)