The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) Poster

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history's mysteries
marcuswebb12 September 2003
Wonderful performances, first-rate script and direction (moving musical score in key places, as well), plus a well-structured theme about moral dilemmas of patriotic soldiers who realize they're obeying evil orders, make this a little-known gem.

Did Rommel really participate in the plot to kill Hitler? Hitler sure thought so. He had his favorite general poisoned; about that there is no question.

Did Rommel know Hitler before the war? Not sure when they became acquainted but Rommel ran AH's bodyguard unit for a while, then became one of Hitler's favorite generals when he helped sweep the British to Dunkirk in 1940.

Was Rommel aware of and morally responsible for the Holocaust? A recent award winning Rommel biography cites one scene I wish they could have included in this film: Rommel around 1941 advised Hitler that he was concerned by Allied carping on German anti-semitism. "Why don't we put some Jews into prominent leadership positions and shut them up?" Rommel suggested. Hitler told Rommel to stick to military matters and, after the general exited the room, told associates: "That fellow has absolutely no understanding of what we are trying to accomplish."

The movie does generally succeed in portraying the theme of a soldier so single-mindedly focused on the professional technique of his job that he only slowly awakens to the moral horror and self-destructiveness of the leader he serves.

The Churchill quote used at the film's ending is meant to address (and answer) the questions about whether it is morally proper to make a film that glorifies a Nazi general. If Churchill could say such magnanimous things about him...and it's an accurate quote...then so could Hollywood.

(Interesting historical note: British film audiences in the early 1950s were not in such a generous mood. The studio quickly churned out the much-inferior "Desert Rats" film, featuring Mason as a more-villainous Rommel, to mollify outraged critics.)

Where did the quote come from that is spoken in this film by von Reunstadt: "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan"? Yes, JFK used it, famously, after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Many newsmen of the time mistakenly credited the president with originating it, but JFK didn't claim credit for it. The line has since been traced back to some Italian count in the 1500s. His name was Ciano or something like that. But JFK was a big movie fan and, my guess is, probably learned this aphorism from "The Desert Fox" a decade before using it in his famous post-Bay of Pigs press conference!
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7/10
A sensational James Mason as the most popular German general
ma-cortes27 September 2006
The film is a Rommel biography written by Lt.Colonel Desmond Young and screenwriter Nunnally Johnson . It's based on true events and real characters . In WWII Field Marshal Erwin Rommel won reputation as Germany's most popular General but he played an important part in the invasions of central Europe and France . At the same time he was regarded by many Allied officers as a master of desert warfare and as a fair-minded professional . Erwin Rommel (James Mason) really achieved fame as the commander of the German Afrika Korps , operating against the British in North Africa and he captured Tobruk ,the key to the British defenses . Quick to see advantage and profit from it , he ran rings round the British for almost two years before being stopped at Alamein and then driven out of Africa by General Marshal Montgomery . Later on , Rommel was given command of Army in northern Italy to prevent an Italian defection and to counter an Allied invasion of Southern Europe . In 1944 he was transferred to command of an army group in northern France.On two occasions,Rommel and Von Rundstedt (Leo G.Carroll) saw Hitler and attempted to convince him that he should end the war while considerable German forces still existed.The pale and shaken Fuehrer met their frankness with angry diatribes.After the Allied invasion of Normandy (June 6,1944) , Rommel was severely injured when his automobile was strafed by a British plane,and he was sent home to Ulm to recover along with his wife Frau Lucie Marie (Jessica Tandy) , his personal assistant Capt.Hermamn (Richard Boone) and military son. By this time , he had become increasingly disillusioned not only by Hitler's unrealistic military leadership but also by the worldwide reaction to Nazi atrocities . He opposed the project assassination attempt on Hitler's life on the ground that this action would only create martyr . Rommel never took an active role in the July Plot executed by Colonel Klaus Von Stauffenberg (Edward Franz) , although the conspirators wanted him as Chief of state after the elimination of Hitler.However the plot failure ,one of the conspirators , before he died in agony on a meat hook , blurted out Rommel's name to his tormentors and his doom was sealed , offered the choice of a court-martial or reprisals against his his family or suicide.

In the film appears famous Nazi characters who are well interpreted by awesome actors , as Hitler featured by Luther Adler gives an excellent performance (but doesn't reach to Bruno Ganz in ¨The downfall¨) , Edward Franz as a magnificent Von Stauffenberg , Leo G. Carroll as Von Rundstedt , Everett Sloane (Gen. Wilhelm Burgdorf) , George Mc Ready (Gen.Fritz Bayerlein) , John Hoyt (Gen.Keitel) and of course Rommel's James Mason who displays a first-rate interpretation and he'll repeat role in ¨The Desert Rats¨ (1953) by Robert Wise . The motion picture was professionally directed by Henry Hathaway . Rating : Good , above average and well worth watching .
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7/10
Continuiously watchable
al-eaton8 January 2005
I cannot count the number of times I've seen this excellent film. It is endlessly watchable. James Mason plays a very believable Rommel (at least he looked the proper age unlike the actor who played him in PATTON). True, this is an idolized portrait of Rommel, whose reputation in history (after all he was Hitler's favorite general, an autocratic and egotistical warrior who served his Furher with skill and zeal) was salvaged because of his final opposition to Hitler, an action that caused his death on Hitler's orders. It would be interesting, as one reviewer wrote, to see a German filmmaker's take on Rommel's life.

The script is tight, giving the cast excellent opportunities to create intelligent and believable characters. To the film's credit, the historical events are generqally presented with fairly good accuracy. As a side note: the voice of British General Desmond Morris (upon whose biography the film is based and who gives a running narration throughout) was dubbed by actor Michael Rennie (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL), but who is not credited.

Despite flaws that mark all historical movies of any age, but especially biographies, I highly recommend THE DESERT FOX, especially for it's acting.
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7/10
If I may remind you, sir, here in the field, these men are yours, not his.
Spikeopath21 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Out of 20th Century Fox, The Desert Fox is directed by Henry Hathaway and adapted for the screen by Nunnally Johnson (also producing) from the biography of Erwin Rommel written by Brigadier Desmond Young. It stars James Mason as Rommel who in turn is supported by Cedric Hardwicke, Jessica Tandy, Luther Adler, Everett Sloane, Leo Carroll, George Macready & Richard Boone.

Possibly the first mainstream film to boldly humanise a German military leader, The Desert Fox is propelled by a mesmerising performance by Mason and backed up by Johnson's literate script. It condenses Young's biography into just an hour and half of film, but in that relatively short running time the makers have done enough to give decent insight into a man who the opposition had much respect for. The plot basically takes us on Rommel's journey from victories in North Africa, where he is loyally followed by the Afrika Korps, to his defeat at El Alamein (infuriating Hitler by disregarding orders), to French coastal defences, his role in the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler and his subsequent death by military command. Shot in a sort of semi-documentary style by Hathaway, with stock war footage flitting in and out of the film, it's credit to Hathaway that the direction is pacey and doesn't get bogged down by the necessary long passages of dialogue exchanges. The support cast all do fine work, with Adler's cameo as the Fuhrer particularly memorable, while the overriding satisfaction comes from finally seeing a Hollywood production capable of an even handed and sympathetic portrait of a opposition leader.

Good adult cinema. 7/10
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On some inaccuracies and trivia...
patrick.hunter4 June 2003
While a highly rewatchable war movie, with a corker of a performance from James Mason, this motion picture does have its inaccuracies--beginning with its memorable opening. In truth, British commandos did not sneak or charge in, outfitted in nightfighting fatigues; they simply walked in, disguised in Axis uniforms with fake ids. Though the covert mission proved a fiasco, Rommel, in true chivalrous tradition, had these would-be assassins buried with full military honors. However, cinematically-speaking, it's a gripping moment, and it's considered the first true pre-credit movie sequence, a trick one would see quite often in later movies, such as the Bond films and others.

The movie focuses largely on the Field Marshall's involvement with the attempted assassination of Hitler, but just how much (or how little) Rommel was involved is still arguable. Curiously, James Mason once mentioned how he was up for the part of Rommel and was competing with another Fox contract-player, Gary Merrill (best known as Bette Davis's love interest in ALL ABOUT EVE). Mason was impressed by how well Merrill marched and strutted, doing bits of military-like physical action that didn't come easily to the urbane Mason. Even though Mason ultimately won the part over Merrill, he self-critically felt he didn't fully do the role justice (though many, including myself, wouldn't agree with him). Perhaps the studio opted for Mason to bring out a sympathetic quality, because viewers do tend to forget the numbers of Allies who died directly because of the main character! Rommel was a great general for his energetic and ingenious tactics, not for (possibly) wanting Hitler killed.

Don't get me wrong; this movie is still a joy.
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10/10
Compelling
daddynowsir13 June 2006
It wasn't simply the way Mason captured the screen with a class that few if any actors could handle today. Sometimes, it only takes one scene to make a movie great. The scene between Rommel and Hitler (Mason and Adler) is that scene. You forget that these are actors and immerse yourself in the moment as Rommel becomes the one man who dares confront Hitler about his battle plans. He refuses to back down to the most evil man of our time and it makes this movie one of the best WWII movies ever made.

The makers of Pearl Harbor should take note: When you have the people like Rommel and Hitler (Or Roosevelt and Yamamoto) as your characters, you don't need to invent a silly story line. History is the best story teller of all. This movie is about history.
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6/10
Not A Fully Reliable Portrayal
sddavis6330 April 2010
This is a pretty solid attempt to portray a soldier's great dilemma - balancing loyalty to the state and obedience to orders with the higher calling of loyalty to what's right and just. Erwin Rommel was one of the great German generals of World War II (a hero in Germany and respected by the Allies.) In the end, he also became involved with the conspiracy against Hitler. The movie shows us some of that development, beginning with his incredulousness at Hitler's orders that the Afrika Korps stand and fight to the last man in Africa rather than withdrawing to fight another day. According to the movie, it was this "stand and fight to the last man" attitude of Der Fuhrer that finally pushed Rommel over the edge. That makes Rommel consistent with what I know of most of the leaders of the "resistance" (such as it was) to Hitler. The opposition wasn't political; it wasn't based on a rejection of Nazi ideology or distaste for Hitler's racial policies - it tended to be based simply on the belief that Hitler was leading Germany to defeat in the war. That's the overarching sentiment portrayed here. That being the case, Rommel may not have been the sympathetic character this movie makes him out to be - maybe he just had the smarts to realize that Germany was fighting a losing war. There's also no mention of his performance during the German invasion of France in 1940, in which Rommel - as a panzer commander - received some German criticism for both his tactics and his tendency to exaggerate his achievements.

James Mason was very good as Rommel. His portrayal was believable, although I wish there had been more exploration in the story of where Rommel came from rather than simply starting us abruptly in Africa. Made only 6 years after the end of the war, the movie is also somewhat courageous in presenting a German general (even one who was unsympathetic to Hitler) in such a sympathetic light. I didn't find this to be structured particularly well. There was too much narration involved, which seemed put an end to any flow the movie might have been trying to develop. Some scenes (particularly of the Allied landings on D-Day) featured a little too much patriotic American and British and French music as the troops went ashore (frankly, listening to the Marine Fight Song or The Marseillaise in a movie about Rommel seemed a bit silly.)

It's an interesting movie, but doesn't seem to completely capture the man it portrays.
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6/10
The Rommel Story
bkoganbing28 August 2006
Though The Desert Fox is good as far as it goes and James Mason is perfectly cast as Erwin Rommel, one would hope that a fuller biographical study might be done on the screen.

Erwin Rommel was one of a group of like minded military leaders in various countries who after World War I, rose to the top of their country's military establishment because they saw the value of the tank in any future war. Some of those people would be Charles DeGaulle in France, Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton in America, Marshal Tukachevksy in the Soviet Union and Rommel in Germany.

In 1942 Hitler as he was constantly doing sent Rommel in to bail out the Italians who up to that point had been running the desert campaign in North Africa. With less men and supplies, his tactical ability bedeviled the Allied command until The Second Battle of El Alamein.

The film starts with Rommel as desert warfare genius and then when he does become ill and is invalided out of North Africa, the Allies regain the initiative and beat his famed Afrika Korps. Rommel is then sent to Western Europe to supervise the defenses on the Atlantic.

There comes a point when Rommel does realize that his Fuehrer is destroying his country and becomes involved in the plot to kill him and overthrow the government. That is what most of the film deals with.

James Mason is a stalwart Rommel a perfect conception of the man they called The Desert Fox. In this mostly male film, Jessica Tandy has little to do but be loyal and supportive as Frau Rommel.

Luther Adler who among other parts he played in his long distinguished career was David Ben-Gurion. He goes the whole opposite way in his portrayal of a ranting and malevolent Adolph Hitler. How a man who took his Jewish heritage as seriously as Luther Adler did, prepare for the role of Hitler is beyond my scope. But then again, there were few actors as good as he.

Though Mason does a fine job given what limited material he had to work from, archives have been opened and we know a whole lot more about Erwin Rommel. Time for another biographical study.
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7/10
Fine Bio, but.....
tmills7771 May 2001
This is a fine biopic of a worthy and honorable opponent serving a despicable cause. Unfortunately, there is not enough North Africa Campaign in the film to satisfy a war film buff. When I first saw it in the theater, it did whet my appetite to learn more about this horrendous and costly war. I have been interested in it since. The acting is first-rate, and, unlike Enemy at the Gate, the British and American accents don't detract from the film, the British accents at any rate. As others have noted in their reviews of this film, Rommel probably wasn't anti-semitic. He deliberately ignored Hitler's orders to round up Jews during the invasion of France. He also never forgave Hitler for abandoning the Afrika Korps to their fate in 1942, not to Hitler's less than energetic attempts to keep the DAK supplied.
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6/10
A Good Docu-Drama
ross-h1 February 2001
As one very interested in the history of World War 2, I don't know how I missed seeing this before. I'm certainly not an authority on Rommel, but as far as I could tell (with a few exceptions, such as the DC3/C-47 made up to look like a German transport and the portrayal of von Runstedt as being more competent than is generally credited) it seemed to be historically accurate. This seemed to be one of the better docu-dramas, a type with a not-very-illustrious tradition. What I found particularly interesting was how a movie made 50 years ago could reflect what are considered to be "new" views today. I'm referring particularly to the statement that Hitler was seeking his own destruction (presented as new in the recent Ian Kearshaw biography "Nemesis") and the lack of total control by the Nazis over what Germans thought, said and where they went (also presented as a "new" view). This reflects well on Desmond Young's research and the film makers adherence to it.
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8/10
Good Film
gordonl567 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
THE DESERT FOX – 1951 James Mason is really top flight in this film about the WW Two German commander, Erwin Rommel. A very watchable film considering how little actual combat scenes are in the production.

Most of the film deals with his growing dislike of Hitler and his mob. It suggests that Rommel was involved in the plot to kill Hitler. From what I've read on the subject, there seems to be little solid proof either way.

The failure of the assassination, lead to the death of several thousand of those involved. Rommel was forced to commit suicide in order to save his family.

Mason keeps this one rolling with help from Cedric Hardwicke and a great bit by Luther Adler as Adolf Hitler. Veteran director Henry (True Grit) Hathaway handles the story with a nice even pace.

It is really about time that someone made a film about his World War one battles that won him the Blue Max. Or something on his dash to the coast in the Battle of France as well as his early battles with the Afrika Korps.

Having said that, don't let that stop you from watching this one. It is a film well worth the time investment.
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5/10
Rather Mythical And Disappointing Biography
Theo Robertson27 June 2005
Even today the name Erwin Rommel conjures up visions of a superlative soldier and a complex man . In short Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was an enigma , a member of the Nazi party and an admirer of Hitler but who fought the cleanest campaign of the war in North Africa . Compare the conduct of both sides in that particular conflict then compare it to say the Eastern front or the Pacific campaign . As BAND OF BROTHERS shows it wasn't uncommon for either side to execute prisoners even if practical necessity wasn't involved

So Rommel was respected as both a soldier and a human being but THE DESERT FOX is a disappointment . It's a Hollywood movie that was made just six years after the end of the war so in some places the producers don't want to praise the subject matter too much which is understandable because an American audience wouldn't like a movie where the lead character has contemptible views of American servicemen after soundly beating them at The Kasserine Pass . But at other points in the movie Rommel is seen praising Hitler while describing other senior party members as " Murderers " ! There thankfully seems to be historical context to all this . Yes Erwin Rommel was an admirer of Hitler because Hitler solved many economic problems like hyper inflation and massive unemployment when he came to power in 1933 so for a German to admire Hitler in those days was the norm however objectionable this may seem with hindsight . Unfortunately once the war ended instantly revisionist opinions amongst the surviving Germans came to the fore where they bleated that they despised Hitler and the Nazis and their genocidal policies and we see this in umpteen movies like DAS BOOT , CROSS OF IRON and THE EAGLE HAS LANDED , so much so that you'd think that there was only a handful of Nazis in Germany from 1933-45 , so at least this movie deserves some credit for putting things into perspective

However once again bad history and factual errors creep in as Rommel is recruited into the plot to assassinate Hitler . Rommel may have been asked to take part in the plot to overthrow Hitler but this movie over states the case . Worse it also paints Gerd Von Rundstedt ( Possibly the Wehrmacht's greatest leader ) as knowing about the assassination plot against Hitler but casually refusing to take part . Despite being no fan of Hitler or his murderous stooges Von Rundstedt was as shocked and as disgusted as the most loyal party member upon hearing of the bombing of Hitler's headquarters so it's highly unlikely he'd have had prior knowledge of the assassination plot . The ending is somewhat moving as Rommel is arrested and led away on charges of treason but perhaps the most poignant thing is that in real life Rommel was as innocent as nearly every other person murdered by the Nazis since he took no part in the plot . The story goes that immediately after the plot Rommel's staff started criticising the fact that it would have been better if the plot had suceeded hence Rommel was falsely suspected being one of the ringleaders which sealed his fate

THE DESERT FOX: THE STORY OF ROMMEL is a very disappointing movie on one of the 20th Centuries most respected military leaders . It fails to show his life prior to 1941 when he ironically fought against the Italians in the first world war , of how he made his reputation as a military commander against the French in 1940 and how during the Normandy landings he and Von Rundstedt argued as to how best to use the panzer defences ( As Anzio showed naval firepower would wreak havoc on units close to the shoreline so Von Rundstedt was probably right ) but the movie shoots itself in the foot even more by including stuff that isn't correct and a film that I once enjoyed seeing as a child is now spoiled for me
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6/10
a good film spoiled by sloppy details
colfromkirk22 July 2009
I like this film despite its obvious flaws and I've always liked James Mason. I can't fault the acting as the cast were all good.

Two main points doubtlessly raised by other commentators.

a)The portrayal of Rommel as a good guy went a bit too far. True he became anti Hitler/Nazi in the end, but this seems to have been primarily due to having been abandoned in Africa and having his requests in Normandy turned down by Hitler, not due to any squeamishness about the Nazi state, who's brutality must have been self evident to him for many years or of Nazi aggression who he was all too willing to promote. Don't forget he was the mastermind Behind the Blitzkrieg in Holland France and Belgium in 1940 and saw no wrong in that campaign.

b) The use of incorrect stock footage, Such as a view of the Maginot line fortification to demonstrate the Normandy beaches. In the strafing attack we see a TMB Avenger transmute into 3 Spitfires who had gun flashes superimposed onto the incorrect section of their wings and also having the sound of whiny pre-war US fixed pitch radial engined planes dubbed over them as did the footage of the Beaufighter strafing. (something that still happens in films today - give em what they expect not what is real) and the tacky patriotic music. Probably taken from the first shelf in the effects room and couldn't be bothered to look any further.

I'm sure military vehicle/weaponry aficionados will have spotted some similar points about the MT/guns portrayed.

The scenes in the train and Rommel's house were authentic enough and seemed to have been filmed on location so its a shame they skimped on these other details.

One scene that did amuse me was when the Gestapo man followed the doctor out of the hospital and never shut the door properly behind him. Now this would have doubtless been re shot, in here the guard merely leaned over and pulled it shut.

Still a masterpiece of history when compared to 'Battle of the Bulge'
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8/10
A great, well-acted film, ruined somewhat by endless stock footage
Hancock_the_Superb17 December 2002
As a character drama, "The Desert Fox" is a superb film; well-written, intelligent dialogue, likeable and well-developed characters, and no ridiculous, hammy "foreign accents" by the film's mostly British and American actors (except for maybe Luther Adler as Hitler); I would've given this flick a nine, or maybe even a ten, if it hadn't been for the stock footage.

I know this wasn't meant to be a battle-heavy picture, but the continual use of stock footage to supplement for action (esp. the three and a half minute long stretch of D-Day footage) is grating. I had to take off at least a star for that.

Otherwise, this is a great film; well-acted, well-written, and realistic. Mason is good (if not terribly exciting) as Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, my second-favorite military hero in history (after Winfield Scott Hancock, from whom I got my screen name), and the supporting cast is superb as well, standouts being Leo G. Carrol as the somewhat cynical and humanistic yet rigidly loyal Field Marshall Von Rundstedt, and Luther Adler, who (in what is essentially a cameo) portrays Adolf Hitler perfectly - a man who is evil (by most everyone's standards) and flamboyant, with his exaggerated hand movements, eccentric military tactics, and his sudden fits of temper (his dialogue scene with Rommel before he decides to join the plot against Hitler for good) - but also a human side - he listens to his subordinates (though doesn't always agree with them), and he even gets to crack a joke about Herman Goering ("When you are fat you do not move so fast") - both Hitler and Goering had appealing senses of humor, though Goering was obviously the more public joker. You can sense, even in Adler's minimal screen time, how Hitler got to be so powerful.

I give this film eight stars for reasons stated above.
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An interesting film
JoeB13117 March 2010
Rommel has always been one of those figures that has gone against the grain of "Axis Evil/Allies Good" in WWII. A solid general who acted honorably and even impressed his enemies. His involvement with the attempt to assassinate Hitler was probably more peripheral than this film made it out to be.

This film tries it best to make Rommel into the elusive "Good German", the guy who knew Hitler was a jerkwad, but still tried to do his duty. The Good German was a myth. Those who turned against Hitler turned against him because Germany was losing the war. BUt it was a useful myth in 1951, when there was an attempt to turn the defeated Axis powers into valued allies. By 1951, Russia was the enemy, Germany was a friend, and a noble German to be praised was a godsend.
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8/10
A Soldier, Not a Politician.
Robert J. Maxwell6 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was a complicated man, both more and less than the romanticized figure that Desmond Young's biography and the movie based on it present us with. Like Oliver Cromwell, he should really be seen as he was, warts and all.

Rommel (James Mason) was vain, for one thing. He'd won the Pour le Merit in World War I and made sure he wore it. He was sensitive. His letters to his wife, Lucie (Jessica Tandy), are filled with admiration for the flowers that abounded in Libya during the Spring. He had a slight but distinct sense of humor. The Italian General Ettore Bastico became Bombastico in Rommel's lexicon. And a more thorough investigation of the man suggests he wasn't very political after all. He may not have even had a clear idea of the plot.

But the war in Northern Africa was a peculiar war from beginning to end. The chivalry shown by Rommel and Desmond Young at the beginning is thoroughly believable. The British managed at one point in the see-saw battle to capture an Italian aristocrat. When the Italian government offered money for the man's return, the offended POW refused to be released, claiming the offer wasn't high enough. I know. That has nothing to do with the movie but I thought it was pretty funny.

The story itself, at least as rendered here, is probably familiar to those with any degree of historical maturity. Rommel is "the desert fox," constantly outwitting the Allies in North Africa, until the Afrika Korps is bled white by lack of supplies. Back in Germany Rommel is contacted by conspirators in the plot against Hitler, the "July plot," including an old friend played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, he of the magnificent voice. Rommel reluctantly joins the plot, although exactly what his role was is never made clear. There is a reference to his "leadership," but apparently all he wanted to do was make peace with the British, French, and Americans in order to fight the Russians more efficiently. In any case, his involvement is discovered. (After the attempt on his life, Hitler had 5,000 people executed, some by hanging them from meat hooks and filming them while they strangled to death in nooses made of piano wire.) Rommel is permitted to take poison in order to preserve his reputation and insure the safety of his family.

James Mason does pretty well by the role. Too well. A few years later he was to reprise the role but, after the criticism this earlier film received for treating Rommel too sympathetically, Mason reverted to the stereotype, a sneering Nazi with an atrocious accent. As his wife, Jessica Tandy, Broadway's first Blanche Dubois, has a face that combines plainness with nobility. She's a fine actress but isn't on screen that much. As von Runstedt, Leo G. Carroll is more grim and sarcastic than usual. Luther Adler as Hitler is plain hilarious. There must be more subtle ways of suggesting megalomania. George MacReady, a nice guy from Providence, Rhode Island, is a Prussian-looking man whether he likes it or not.

But it's pleasing to the eye to see so many actors strutting around in those great German uniforms -- the medals, the riding breeches, the leather boots. It must be wonderful to be a man like Rommel, who can enter a crowded office and crisply -- without even looking at him -- tell his aide to "clear this room." Who wouldn't love to be able to do that? I mean, to clear a room without using a gun.

Fun, too, to see the occasional news footage of artillery firing and tanks blowing up. By the end of the African campaign, the Afrika Korps was so short of fuel that, if they had a dozen tanks, they were draining half of them to keep the other half moving. There is nothing about Kasserine Pass and the American debacle there -- not in 1951 there isn't.

The director was Henry Hathway, "a man's director," who gave directions loudly and drank voluminously. The music follows Max Steiner's Mickey Mouse model. The action on screen is imitated by the score. Listen to it when the parachutists leap from their airplanes.

This movie really ought to be seen, especially by those unfamiliar with World War II or without perspective on any war at all. It raises interesting philosophical dilemmas. Okay, you're a soldier and you follow orders. But suppose the order are given to you by someone who is insane or close to it? It might be called "The Captain Queeg Problem." Anyway, it humanizes the enemy instead of demonizing him, which might prompt some viewers to think twice about killing those who disagree with us.
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8/10
Good But Antiquated Rommel Biography
zardoz-1320 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"True Grit" director Henry Hathaway tackled a controversial subject with his 1951 World War II biography epic "The Desert Fox" with British actor James Mason impersonating this highly regarded Teutonic tank warrior. When Twentieth Century Fox released this movie, many critics and moviegoers thought that what Hathaway and scenarist Nunnally Johnson had produced was nothing short of hero worship for one of Hitler's henchmen. Based on the biography by British officer Desmond Young, "The Desert Fox" devotes most of its concise 88-minutes looks to the last days of Rommel after a preliminary glance at his career with the Afrika Korps. Generally, the focus of this movie is the part that Rommel played in the 20th July Hitler bomb plot. Rommel is a soldier first but second he believes that Hitler has gone mad, principally because he demands life or death service to the Third Reich. Rommel refuses to waste the lives of his valiant men.

History reveals that Rommel played no part in the bomb plot. Here, Rommel does not play a major role but he supports the idea. Nevertheless, he tries to change the mind of Adolf Hitler and reasons with him in one scene. Luther Adler portrays Hitler as an infantile leader prone to temper tantrums of rage. Several other historic high-ranking German leaders appear in "The Desert Fox." Eventually, Rommel must commit suicide because he has been implicated in the bomb plot and wants to secure the safety of his wife and son. James Mason is, of course, outstanding and makes Rommel look like a kindly, sympathetic man with a high sense of morality.

No, "The Desert Fox" is not a battle-oriented movie with combat. Hathaway drew virtually all the battle footage from archival sources, with a glimpse of U.S. General George Patton in one scene. In other scenes, he relies on pretty obvious back projection techniques. In other words, most of "The Desert Fox" is about soldiers discussing orders, situations, and predicaments. Richard Boone, later of "Have Gun, Will Travel," plays an aide to Rommel. Apparently, the filmmakers felt that they could whitewash Rommel by his stand against Hitler. Hathaway spends at least five minutes on the details of the bomb plot and Hitler's survival. Rommel appears to have been a model husband and he never loses his temper, even when he disapproves of the subject of conversation.

The opening, pre-credit sequence where British commandos attack headquarters hoping to kill Rommel is the best action scene in the film. Such was the uproar that "The Desert Fox" spawned that Twentieth Century Fox produced a sequel "The Desert Rats," starring Richard Burton, wherein Rommel did not receive a sympathetic portrayal. Twenty years later, when director Henry Hathaway made "Raid on Rommel," he included a scene with the famous Field Marshall arguing with a British doctor about stamps. Hathaway did not direct "The Desert Rats." Instead, Robert Wise helmed that war adventure.

Indeed, there are many inaccuracies in "The Desert Fox." The planes that strafe Rommel's command car change between the first time that we see them and when they actually riddle his command car.
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10/10
Catching Up with the Fox --- 56 Years Later!
vitaleralphlouis9 July 2007
The promotional materials for this movie in 1951 as well as now might give the impression the movie glorifies the enemy commander in World War II and goes against the brave Americans who served in Europe a few years earlier. This was why some theaters in 1951 (including my own neighborhood theater, the SILVER) refused to show it. Take a harder look and you'll find the story concentrates on General Rommell and other Germans who conspired to eradicate Adolf Hitler, failed, and paid with their lives. It also takes a hard look at Hitler's awful judgment in military decisions nearing the end of the war.

DESERT FOX was made by Hollywood's top talent. Written by Nunnally Johnson (the finest screenplay writer of the era) and directed by the always excellent Henry Hathaway, 20th Century-Fox not only gave this their finest, but followed it a year later with the Robert Wise directed DESERT RATS which told of the incredibly effective English and Australian units that held Rommell in check and prevented him from capturing either Cairo or the Suez Canal.

This was a patriotic Hollywood staffed with real men of character, many of whom were World War II heroes in private life. It stands in sharp contrast to the girlie-men linguine-spine cowards in Hollywood today. Now we have PEARL HARBOR --- which "justified" the Japanese attack --- and Steven Spielberg's god-awful SAVING PRIVATE RYAN --- which took the heroic true story of the Sullivan Brothers and turned their great deeds into spineless liberal mush.

Similarly, the SILVER, which declined to show an alleged anti-American film in 1951 is now under American Film Institute ownership and can be relied on to play every anti-American movie that comes on the market, while regularly downplaying or ignoring pro-American classics.

Both DESERT FOX and DESERT RATS are recent DVD releases. Good movies, deserving your attention.
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Could have been more accurate and more detailed in terms of what made him a force to be reckoned with but still an interesting and entertaining film
bob the moo28 June 2005
Based on the book by General Morris, this film looks back at the career of Rommel – better known as the Desert Fox for his sterling military manoeuvres in North Africa. We join his story after his many victories against the Allied Forces, at a time when the war has started to turn in the latter's favour and Hitler refuses to acknowledge this in his orders. Rommel tries to do his duty in the face of what he considers madness but soon his frustrations begin to take him in a different direction.

It is unlikely that, if Rommel had not turned against Hitler towards the latter stages of the war, we would have seen a film praising his ability as a commander made less than a decade later (or at all in fact). With this in mind I watched this film with a big pinch of salt and certainly not as a historical piece of cinema mainly because he is presented in such a glowing light. Aside from this, the film is still an interesting introduction to the man, but no more than that because, although we are told about his prowess, we are never allowed to see it. I was interested in the end of his career and life but I would have liked a bit more detail on the battles and skirmishes that he was famous for – not necessarily re-enactments but some way of showing his intelligence other than pointing at a few maps or having other officers comment on how great he was. However the film is still engaging and makes for an interesting watch (unless you actually know something about Rommel, in which case it will be frightfully basic), mainly thanks to one main factor.

In the title role, Mason is great. I'm not sure about accuracy but he does a good job at producing a character that is intelligent, courageous, loyal but not blindly so. It may have been a bit glowing and brushed over the fact that he did actually fight for Nazi Germany at a very high level but his performance suited the film. Support is roundly good from people like Tandy, Carroll and a nice ironic Hitler from Adler, however the film is very much Mason's and he takes it and dominates it by the power of his performance.

Overall this is no more than a starting point at understanding why Rommel was so highly considered during the war and saluted by Churchill himself in the House of Commons. Without any military detail the film focuses on the fact that he came to hate Hitler and he is presented as loyal, brave but thoughtful as a result. Perhaps not accurate but certainly an interesting watch thanks to the commanding (sorry) lead from Mason.
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7/10
A soldier has but one function in life! To carry out the orders of his superiors.
sol3 August 2005
Highly talkative and somewhat inaccurate movie about the life and times of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, James Mason, the commander of the legendary WWII Afrika Corps.

Completely passing over General Rommels achievements in France and North Africa we first get to see Field Marshal Rommel during the battle of El Alamein in October 1942. Where the British launched their great offensive against the German/Italian troop that within seven months, in May 1943, cleared the continent of Africa of a Nazi military presence with the surrender of some 300,000 axis soldiers.

We never get to see in "The Desert Fox" Rommels brilliant victories in the battle of France in the spring of 1940 and his successful hit and run attacks on the much larger British Army as well as his breakthrough, in the late spring of 1942, of the British lines: Rommels brilliant encirclement and capture of Tobruk, a town that held out for 242 days against the Afrika Corps the year before, taking 35,000 British troops captive at the cost of under 500 German and Italian casualties. The movie instead concentrates on Rommels involvement, or non-involvement,in the plot to kill the German Fhurer Adolf Hitler, Luther Adler.

Recovering from wounds that he suffered when his command car was strafed by the RAF Rommel is later contacted at his home by German generals Burgorf & Maisel,Everett Sloane & Do Dee Leo,and given an ultimatum to either commit suicide and die a hero or stand trial for treason.

Even though the movie tries very hard to paint Rommel as a reluctant but major player in the Generals plot to assassinate Hitler history proves otherwise showing Field Marshall Rommel as a loyal German soldier who followed the orders from his Fhurer almost without question. Rommel did have doubts about Hitler's military strategy but he let him know about it to Hitler's great displeasure. Rommells' low opinion of Hitler's ability to wage war was in no way comparable to actively trying to have him killed like what happened on July 20, 1944 in Hitler's military bunker, the Wolf's liar, in the East Prussian woods.

Very effective portrayal by James Mason as Field Marshall Erwin Rommel who was as chivalrous to his enemies in defeat as he was courageous against them in battle which may be why the film makers tried to make him out as one of the major conspirators against Hitler's leadership to the point of having him killed. The true facts about Field Marshal Erwin Rommel that's come out and surfaced since the end of WWII doesn't back up their conclusions at all, in fact Rommel considered the killing of the German leader an act of high treason.

The main reason for Rommel's death, by his own hand,had to do more with him not reporting those who wanted to recruit him into the plot to kill Hitler, which it seemed that he quite didn't fully grasp, then anything else. The fact that he didn't want to turn them over, those who approached him with the assassination plot, to the Nazi authorities and thus the dreaded Gestapo was his knowing that it would mean instant death for them and he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he did.
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4/10
should be a follow-up
adam-100924 January 2010
Perhaps it's just me, but this movie seemed more like sequel or follow-up than the separate project. Why? When it was filmed (just few years after the war) most of the viewers probably knew why Rommel was so famous, why his death was so important to Allied, why he was Hitler's favorite general, but now, 50 years later, it isn't so obvious anymore.

"Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel" is a decent war movie, but it's just isn't in any way explained how Rommel did get his nickname, what was he doing that Allied considered him as their best general, why their soldiers were so afraid of Afrika Korps? That's what is missing in this movie - we see his fame, his character, his way to treat soldiers and enemies, but f.e. we also see that Hitler was complaining about his achievements in Africa, calling him coward, etc. So, we're missing the big picture here - it is "The Story of Rommel", but unfortunately the "Desert Fox" part is missing.
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Superb Motion Picture
wlosch20 May 2004
I was reading the comments of another reviewer which are the same as mine. I noted with interest that the other reviewer remembered that we were taught to " hate the hun in school." I just finished reading a new book on World War One, and was truly amazed at the outright lying done by the British and American governments to demonize the German soldier of WW1. Both deliberately lied ( according to the author ) that WW1 German soldiers were "bouncing Belgian babies off their bayonetts." I now wonder how many lies that we have been told about the WW2 German soldier! General Rommel was a gentleman soldier, and I believe was highly respected by Winston Churchill!
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3/10
big disappointment
David Bogosian3 May 2007
I hoped to learn something from this movie, but I was disappointed. It is all about Rommel and lauds him as a great general, but at no time in this entire movie did we ever get an idea of why he was great. What made him so successful? Was it his drive, his unwillingness to accept defeat, his discipline with his men? I was looking for a Patton-like rendition that really gets into the character, but this fell way flat. Most of the dialog is contrived and sensationalized, and feels stale and artificial. There is some good action here and there, but not much. The tail end of the story, which discusses his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler, was the most informative part and probably the most interesting. But as a history lesson on Germany's greatest general, this was a failure.
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4/10
No fox that I can see
manuel-pestalozzi26 January 2006
For me this movie was a disappointment. Somehow I expected that it would explain the reason for General Rommel's popularity and his success as a military strategist in WW II. But there is none of that, it deals with the last year or two of his life and tries, in a way, to whitewash him. So I just have to suppose that Rommel was primarily an amoral and apolitical technocrat in the conquering and killing business, without any particular charm or notoriety in behaviour. Such real life people just do not make good movie material. I almost feel sorry for James Mason, really one of my favorite actors, who had to impersonate a pretty wooden character. Actually, a good director and a lot of great acting talent was wasted on this movie – with the exception of Luther Adler who gives a really memorable and weirdly naturalistic portrayal of Adolf Hitler.

There might also be a cultural problem for people like me who are part of the German speaking world. Famous British actors impersonating Germans are just not credible. Rommel, for example, is perceived here not just as a German but as a typical „Southerner" from Baden-Württemberg. You immediately think of a certain dialect, a certain kind of wit, a certain way of seeing the world (the total opposite of eg a Prussian „junker"). I also think that there are now mixed feelings about the assassination attempt of July 20th, many of those who were in on the conspiracy were not democrats and just wanted the German troops to join the Western Allies against the advancing Bolsheviks (thus prolonging the war forever).

The best movie portrayal of an intellectual, intelligent military mind is in my opinion still Patton (1970). Incidentally, General Patton can be glimpsed for a short moment in the ample documentary footing used for this movie, a low angle shot while he is inspecting passing vehicles. The open holster and the revolver with the mother of pearl grips are clearly visible!
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5/10
Let's Not Glorify Rommel All Together **1/2
edwagreen1 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Disappointing film, not because of the usually great James Mason, but more rather due than a completely lackluster script.

George MacReady was always known to be sinister in films but in this one we see no evidence of that. He is rather bland as a Nazi army officer.

Jessica Tandy was completely miscast in the role of Frau Rommel. She is rather droll and lacks sincere compassion at the end when her husband learns his fate.

Jewish actor Luther Adler is briefly shown as Hitler and he does a masterful job. The contortions on his face tell the whole story of an insane leader in desperation and denial by 1943.

The film lacks total excitement and even the plot itself is staged too quickly. We needed to see the preparation in the failed attempt to assassinate the German misery.
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