After this film, James Mason would reprise his role as Nazi German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel two years later in The Desert Rats (1953), made also by the same 20th Century Fox studio and also being set in World War II North Africa.
Apparently, Erwin Rommel's widow, Lucie Marie Rommel acted as a technical consultant and adviser to this movie. She was played by Jessica Tandy in the film itself. Mrs. Rommel lent the production some of her husband's personal artifacts and liaised with Nunnally Johnson, the film's producer and screenwriter. As Frau Lucie Maria Rommel, Mrs Rommel later also acted as a military consultant to the film The Longest Day (1962) made by 20th Century-Fox, the same studio that produced this movie.
Several film reference books credit Dan O'Herlihy with playing the officer who leads the raid in the opening pre-credits sequence, but he does not appear in the film. The mistake is understandable since the actor playing the officer does bear a resemblance to O'Herlihy.
According to the Twentieth Century-Fox records collection of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts Special Collections Library, the script for this film was read and authorized by both the US State Department and US Commissioner for Germany, John J. McCloy, around the time of the early part of January 1951. Twentieth Century-Fox received harsh criticism both during pre-production and upon the release of the film for its sympathetic portrayal of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.
Kirk Douglas and Richard Widmark were considered to play the title role of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The 15 February 1950 edition of 'The New York Times' stated that the rights to Brig. Gen. Desmond Young M.C.'s book 'Rommel' had been acquired by 20th Century-Fox and "the title role will be offered to Kirk Douglas." Later, according to a February 1951 memo held in the AMPAS Library MPAA/PCA file for this film, "Richard Widmark has been chiefly mentioned as Rommel."
'The Hollywood Reporter ' announced in February 1950 and August 1950 that the 20th Century Fox studio planned to film background shots in North Africa where this picture is predominantly set. However, these plans fell through. However, background shots filming was shot on location by director Henry Hathaway in France, England and Germany according to editions of 'The Hollywood Reporter ' in January 1951 and March 1951.
Erwin Rommel was gaining his attack information from an American liaison at the British Embassy in Cairo whose messages the German secret service had decoded. He used the data from the liaison's messages to plan his attacks on the Allied troops, and in fact Adolf Hitler openly praised the fellow for giving the Germans information through his badly coded messages.
The movie was controversial upon its cinema release due to its sympathetic portrayal of Nazi German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The 'Hollywood Reporter' reported in December 1951 that there were protests about this film after this movie had been released in London, England. Moreover, 'Variety' in March 1952 reported protests after this film had been released in Italy and Australia and that publication also later reported negative reaction to the film in Argentina and Austria.
The 27 November 1951 edition of the 'Hollywood Reporter' stated that allegedly on the direct orders of studio mogul Harry M. Warner, the Warner Brothers exhibition theatre chain has "cancelled all bookings and even terminated some runs on 'The Desert Fox'".
This movie had its theatrical release in West Germany at the end of August 1952. Prior to this, there had been strong reservations about the film being released there. Both 'The New York Times' and 'The Hollywood Reporter' in November 1951 announced that reservations about this picture being released in West Germany were held by many American-Jewish organizations, some Western German Government officials as well as the US State Department.
Desmond Young questioned everyone " . . . from field marshals to Desert Rats". This is a reference to the nickname adopted by the British 7th Armoured Division of the "Desert Rats", derived from the jerboa image used as a unit badge. The term has been also applied to members of the British Eighth Army, though there is contention over their right to adopt this nickname.
Although he wears the shoulder insignia of a field marshal, von Rundstedt's collar insignia are of an officer below general rank - note the different collars of Rommel and other German generals. This is historically accurate - it was a strange affectation of von Rundstedt.