🎥 The Desert Fox – 1951

The Story …

In November 1941 a British commando unit deploys from a submarine off the North African coast. Its mission is to raid the headquarters of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and assassinate the “Desert Fox”.

There are heavy casualties on both sides, but Rommel is not among them. He is recovering from nasal diphtheria in a hospital in Germany.

A phone call from Adolf Hitler promptly returns him to his Afrika Korps command, with the British Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery poised to counterattack the Axis forces in the Second Battle of El Alamein …

Without adequate supplies, weapons, fuel, or men, Rommel is ordered by Hitler to hold fast and fight to the last man. He questions the outrageous directive, initially attributing it to the “clowns“ surrounding Hitler in Berlin, and demands it be re-transmitted again. Receiving the same message, he crumples it with the intention of disregarding the command.

Rommel again falls ill and is returned to Germany, where he is hospitalized. An old family friend, Dr. Karl Strölin, Lord Mayor of Stuttgart, visits him to request he join a group of dissidents plotting to overthrow Hitler. Rommel strongly resists.

After his recuperation, Rommel is transferred to Western Europe, where he is placed in charge of completing the Atlantic Wall. After inspection, he realizes its defenses are inadequate to protect against an Allied invasion. He and his superior, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, are handicapped by Hitler’s astrology-based belief that the real invasion will come at Calais. As a result, the D-Day landings at Normandy are successful, and a broad beachhead is secured. Hitler then compounds his error by refusing to release troops and tanks desperately needed to halt the Allies, and again forbids an orderly retreat to set up a strong defence in depth.

Rommel then risks broaching the topic of a conspiracy against Hitler with von Rundstedt. The older man refuses to commit, but wishes Rommel success with the plot, indicating he expects Rommel to be named his successor within 24 hours.

Immediately after, Rommel is seriously injured when his staff car is strafed by an Allied plane; once again he spends an extended recuperation at home.

On July 20 Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg plants a bomb at Hitler’s feet during a meeting of the general staff at the Wolf’s Lair. It detonates with severe casualties, but Hitler survives. Thousands suspected of complicity in the attack are tracked down and executed.

An official silence surrounds Rommel, but evidence of his secret participation is gathered. Soon after, General Wilhelm Burgdorf is sent by Hitler to charge Rommel with treason, instructed to offer the beloved national hero a choice between sure conviction, destruction of his reputation, and death by garrote, or an immediate but painless suicide (with his passing attributed to cumulative war wounds), along with the promise that his wife and son will be well looked after. The veiled threat to their welfare should Rommel insist on a public trial, cinches his decision.

He bids a stoic farewell to his wife, who promises to explain the choice to their son. Rommel then climbs into a staff car to meet his fate en route to Berlin.

A voiceover of an actor reciting a speech British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered to the House of Commons in praise of Rommel for his chivalry in battle, tactical genius, and courageous stance against Hitler leads to the credits.

Credits :

  • Directed by Henry Hathaway
  • Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson
  • Based on Rommel: The Desert Fox by Desmond Young
  • Produced by Nunnally Johnson
  • Narrated by Michael Rennie
  • Cinematography : Norbert Brodine
  • Edited by James B. Clark
  • Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
  • Colour Process : Black and white
  • Production Company : 20th Century Fox
  • Distributed by 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date : October 17, 1951

Cast :

  • James Mason as Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel
  • Cedric Hardwicke as Dr. Karl Strölin
  • Jessica Tandy as Frau Lucie Rommel
  • Luther Adler as Adolf Hitler
  • Everett Sloane as General Wilhelm Burgdorf
  • Leo G. Carroll as Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
  • George Macready as General Fritz Bayerlein
  • Richard Boone as Captain Hermann Aldinger
  • Eduard Franz as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg
  • Desmond Young as Lieutenant Colonel Desmond Young
  • Michael Rennie as the Narrator
  • Paul Cavanagh as Lt. Col. Caesar von Hofacker (uncredited)
  • John Hoyt as Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel
  • Walter Kingsford as Vice Admiral Friedrich Ruge
  • John Goldsworthy as General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel

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