Movie Review: The Desert Fox (1951)

The Desert Fox (1951)

4 out of 5 stars

I nearly jumped for joy when DirecTV announced the arrival of a ‘new’ HD channel to their line-up:  TCM (Turner Classic Movies).  I much prefer to watch ‘old’ movies when I get a chance.  Just like ‘old’ books, there are so many lost gems to be found, read (or watched).  I spent thirty minutes scrolling through two weeks worth of schedule, seeking the four and five star treasures among the chaff of late night B (or C) 1950s science fiction or horror films.  By the way, if you’re a Johnny Weismuller fan, you might want to check out this Friday’s Tarzan marathon. But I digress.

One of the first movies I flagged to record happened to be The Desert Fox.  I knew some of the highlights of Rommel‘s military career as a field marshal, especially in North Africa, and his mysteriously in congruent and quiet death late in World War II.  Released just six years after the war ended, 20th Century Fox took a risk in filming from the point of view of the enemy, albeit of a highly and widely respected man.

I thought the film held up well (being over sixty years old now).  Jessica Tandy gave a superb and convincing  portrayal of Rommel’s wife as well as James Mason as Rommel.  Actual vintage war footage appeared throughout the film, include a brief clip of Eisenhower addressing the troops, presumably on D-Day.

And speaking of D-Day, the musical score during the war footage flashback montage started off with the Air Force anthem, ‘Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder’ (when depicting the air raids), and switched to the Nay anthem, ‘Anchors Aweigh’ (when depicting the mighty guns of the battleships pounding the European coast).  I did not discern either the Army song or the Marine’s Hymn, but probably just lost track of the melodies amidst the bombardments.

I have added Desmond Young’s biography of Rommel to my ‘To Read’ list.  Unfortunately, it’s not yet available (and may never be made available) in ebook format, but my local library in Leavenworth has a hardcover print copy available and waiting for me on the shelf.  It seems to be surprisingly short (under three hundred pages), so would make a quick read on a weekend.  A bit of trivia as respects the movie, The Desert Fox: the author, Desmond Young, appeared in the film as himself.  He actually met Rommel, briefly, as a soldier in the Indian Army, when he became  a prisoner of war in the North African theater.