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James Mason

The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951)

DIRECTOR: Henry Hathaway

CAST:

James Mason, Jessica Tandy, Cedric Hardwicke, Leo G. Carroll, Luther Adler, Everett Sloane, William Reynolds, Richard Boone

REVIEW:

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was undoubtedly Germany’s most famous General of WWII and continues to be regarded as one of history’s great military commanders. Gaining fame in North Africa, where his outnumbered Afrika Korps divisions pushed the British back for two years and nearly drove them off the continent, the Desert Fox was held in awe even by those fighting against him, both for his battle prowess and for his famously strict adherence to the rules of war. Recalled back to Germany before the end in Africa, he did not share the fate of his captured men, although he would have been more fortunate if he had. His star never again reaching its former heights after the African campaign, he tried and failed to defend Normandy against the Allied invasion and died a few months later, officially of injuries suffered when his staff car was strafed by Allied planes little over a month after D-Day. Only after the war did both the Allies and the German people learn the more complex and dramatic truth: Hitler had forced his once favorite General to commit suicide when information regarding his involvement in or at least knowledge of the conspiracy to overthrow him reached his ears. While Rommel has been portrayed onscreen in a number of war films, by far the best-known and most extensive depiction came in 1951, only seven years after his death, in the form of Henry Hathaway’s The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel. That such a sympathetic—indeed, practically sanctified–portrayal of Rommel could be made so soon after the end of the war is telling of the high regard in which Rommel was held even by his enemies. Unfortunately, a disjointed and episodic narrative structure, stilted dialogue and performances, and an interminable amount of WWII stock footage results in a mediocre production that doesn’t really do its subject justice. Continue reading

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