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The Desert Rats
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The Desert Rats (1953) More at IMDbPro »

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The Desert Rats -- Richard Burton plays a Scottish Army officer put in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the perimeter of Tobruk with the German Army doing their best to dislodge them.


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6.8/10   3,408 votes »
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Down 7% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Richard Murphy (written by)
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Release Date:
20 May 1953 (USA) See more »
They crawled their way across the blazing sands of Africa... to turn disaster into victory!
Richard Burton plays a Scottish Army officer put in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the perimeter of Tobruk with the German Army doing their best to dislodge them. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for Oscar. Another 1 win See more »
(2 articles)
Irish Actor Davis Dies
 (From WENN. 21 December 2009, 4:01 AM, PST)

Desert Rats Star Tingwell Dies
 (From WENN. 21 May 2009, 2:55 PM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Unusually well done war flick - well worth a look See more (26 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Richard Burton ... Capt. 'Tammy' MacRoberts

James Mason ... Field Marshal Erwin von Rommel

Robert Newton ... Tom Bartlett
Robert Douglas ... General
Torin Thatcher ... Col. Barney White
Chips Rafferty ... Sgt. 'Blue' Smith
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell ... Lt. Harry Carstairs (as Charles Tingwell)
Charles Davis ... Pete
Ben Wright ... Mick
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Patrick Aherne ... English Officer (uncredited)
John Alderson ... Corporal (uncredited)
Frank Baker ... British Officer (uncredited)
John Blackburn ... Sergeant (uncredited)
Robert Boon ... German Lieutenant (uncredited)
Frederic Brunn ... German Gunner (uncredited)
Arthur Brunner ... German Radio Man (uncredited)
Paul Busch ... German Orderly (uncredited)

Paul Cavanagh ... Colonel (uncredited)
Frank Chase ... Commando (uncredited)
Tony Christian ... German Sentry (uncredited)
Trevor Constable ... Ginger (uncredited)

Nicolas Coster ... Medic (uncredited)
Ashley Cowan ... Corporal (uncredited)
Gene Darrell ... Aussie (uncredited)
Noel Drayton ... Captain (uncredited)
Harold Dyrenforth ... Observer (uncredited)
Charles B. Fitzsimons ... Fire Officer (uncredited)
John Fraser ... Artillery Man (uncredited)
Arno Frey ... Kramm (uncredited)
Ray Harden ... Hugh (uncredited)
Charles Keane ... Sgt Donaldson (uncredited)
Lester Matthews ... Foreign Secretary (uncredited)
Clyde Morris ... British Communications Man (uncredited)
Gavin Muir ... Captain (uncredited)
James O'Hara ... Communications Man (uncredited)
John O'Malley ... Riley (uncredited)
Pat O'Morre ... Jim (uncredited)
Peter Ortiz ... Wireman (uncredited)

Michael Pate ... Cpl. Currie (uncredited)
Richard Peel ... Rusty (uncredited)
Guy Prescott ... Maj. O'Rourke (uncredited)
Jack Raine ... C.I.C. (uncredited)
Otto Reichow ... Gunner (uncredited)

Michael Rennie ... Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
Jerry Riggio ... Commando (uncredited)
Per Skavlan ... German Guard (uncredited)
Frederick Stevens ... German Major (uncredited)
Gilchrist Stuart ... Captain (uncredited)
Albert Taylor ... Jensen (uncredited)

John Wengraf ... German Doctor (uncredited)
Alfred Zeisler ... von Helmholtz (uncredited)

Directed by
Robert Wise 
Writing credits
Richard Murphy (written by)

Produced by
Robert L. Jacks .... producer
Original Music by
Leigh Harline 
Cinematography by
Lucien Ballard (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Barbara McLean 
Art Direction by
Addison Hehr 
Lyle R. Wheeler  (as Lyle Wheeler)
Set Decoration by
Fred J. Rode (set decorations)
Makeup Department
Ben Nye .... makeup artist
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Richard Maybery .... assistant director (as J. Richard Maybery)
Sound Department
Alfred Bruzlin .... sound
Roger Heman Sr. .... sound (as Roger Heman)
Visual Effects by
Ray Kellogg .... special photographic effects
Fritz Ford .... stunts (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Charles Le Maire .... wardrobe director
Music Department
Alfred Newman .... musical director
Edward B. Powell .... orchestration (as Edward Powell)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
88 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Argentina:13 | Australia:M | Australia:PG (Cable TV rating) | Australia:G (DVD rating) | Canada:G (video rating) | Netherlands:16 | New Zealand:PG | Sweden:15 | UK:U (passed with cuts) | UK:U (tv rating) | USA:Approved (PCA #16243) | West Germany:16 (f)
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

The character Bartlett (MacRoberts' former schoolmaster) is portrayed as an alcoholic whose drinking caused him many troubles. Sadly, this was actually the case for the actor playing him, Robert Newton. He became increasingly unemployable due to his drinking, was declared a bankrupt in absentia, and would die just 3 years after this film. The cause of death was announced as a heart attack but was widely believed to be alcohol-related causes.See more »
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): The uncredited general in command of Tobruk's garrison played by Robert Douglas is seemingly the 9th Australian Division commander Leslie James Morshead.See more »
Movie Connections:
The Campbells Are ComingSee more »


Chicago Openeing Happened When?
See more »
8 out of 9 people found the following review useful.
Unusually well done war flick - well worth a look, 24 October 2005
Author: chall-5 from United States

This is a really enjoyable movie. Burton and Newton do a fine job, as do a cast of familiar British character actors. James Mason in his first outing as Rommel is especially fun. He reprised the role in a later Rommel bio-pic (titled "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel").

Despite it's age, most of the attempts at special effects (artillery in the distance, explosions done via matte) come off well. As for the scenes where they really shoot off some pyrotechnics, they spared no expense! The overall portrait of the desert and army life looks very real and has the ring of truth. The plot is exciting and never drags.

The only problems are the over-patriotic script (I guess we should cut them some slack here, this movie was made much closer to the war than we are today!) and as noted elsewhere, the inappropriate German weapons. It's amazing that they used Thompson machine guns instead of MP40's, when for the next 30 years everybody from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." to James Bond would use the MP40 all over the place. In summary I think this movie was a bit better than I expected and holds up well to repeated viewings.

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