Desert Fox, The (1951)
Directed by Henry Hathaway. Written by Nunnally Johnson from the book by Brigadier Desmond Young. Photography, Norbert Brodine. Editing, James B. Clark. Art direction, Maurice Ransford, Lyle Wheeler. Music, Daniele Amfitheatrof. Produced by Nunnally Johnson. Cast: James Mason (Field Marshall Erwin Rommel,) Cedric Hardwicke, Jessica Tandy, Luther Adler, Everett Sloane, Leo G. Carroll, George Macready, Richard Boone, Eduard Franz, Desmond Young, et al. A 20th Century Fox film. 88 minutes. B &W.
The legendary German commander of World War II is nicely chronicled: Rommel's troubles with Hitler, his leadership of the Afrika Corps, his eventual defeat, his disillusionment, his connection to the July plot against Hitler, the Fuehrer's revenge...
The movie starts well, with a futile British commando raid to kill Rommel, in North Africa, but then it disintegrates into an uneasy portrait: the man is a military genius, a great guy, neither a Nazi nor a traitor, etc. Beyond those bare facts and statements though, we really learn nothing about his real personality (which was both complex and naive) and his overall career.
Dramatically, the movie plays well, in spite of its being disconnected, sketchy, unstructured and padded with newsreel footage. Many films have been made of the North African campaign , e.g. "The Desert Rats" (with Richard Burton, and James Mason reprising briefly his Rommel), "Tobruk," " Raid On Rommel" (with Burton), and more. "The Desert Fox" is the movie that did the most for popularizing Rommel, but the stand-out among those pictures, also starring Burton, was Nicholas Ray's "Bitter Victory."