The history of Hollywood ’s on-screen relationship with the State of Israel is often thought to have begun with Otto Preminger’s Exodus, an epic account of Jewish bravery in late-1940s Palestine released in 1960. This article takes an in-depth look at an earlier American movie about Israel, Edward Dmytryk’s The Juggler, released in 1953. The Juggler was Hollywood’s first film set and shot on location in modern Israel. Written by Michael Blankfort and produced by Stanley Kramer, The Juggler tells the story of a German-Jewish variety entertainer who has lost his family in the holocaust and is struggling to settle in Israel in the aftermath of its war of independence in 1948. The film starred Kirk Douglas, who thanks to his work on The Juggler became one of Hollywood’s biggest supporters. The article uses Israeli and American archival evidence to explore why and how the film version of The Juggler differs markedly from the novel on which it was based. It shows that The Juggler represented a particular phase in Hollywood’s relationship with Israel, one in which a group of political progressives sought to use film as a way of introducing Americans to a Zionism that was left of centre and grounded in the life of the kibbutz. The article examines how those progressive ideals were diluted from script to screen as commercial imperatives took precedence over political ideals. At the same time, the article demonstrates how The Juggler inadvertently ‘documented’ a living symbol of the Nakba, the ‘disaster’ of the Palestinian Arabs during the 1948 war.