The Desert Fox
is a 1951 film starring James Mason
as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
. The film shows the downfall of his career between fall 1942 and October 1944, from the Second Battle of El Alamein to his involvement in the July 20 Plot, resulting in his suicide. Unusual for a film released only six years after World War II
, the film is incredibly sympathetic to Rommel and other German officers, portraying them as professional soldiers who believe in their nation no matter who is in charge.
Tropes in this film include:
- Adolf Hitler: Makes an appearance, one of the best performances of the role. Ironically, he's played by a Jewish actor, Luther Adler.
- A Father to His Men: When Rommel arrives back in North Africa, he has a sneezing fit and when it's done, several officers offer up their handkerchiefs.
- As Himself: Desmond Young, who wrote the book the film is based on, plays himself in the scene in which he is captured in North Africa and meets Rommel, along with the scenes of him interviewing Rommel's family, and former German and British soldiers.
- Badass Grandpa: Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. While too old to join in the July 20 plot, he has the audacity to say to Keitel over the phone "Make peace, you idiot!"
- Child Soldiers: Halfway through the film, Rommel's teenage son Manfred joins the Luftwaffe.
- In real life, Manfred (who was 15 when his father killed himself) was eager to join the Waffen-SS, but his father refused to allow him. He did ended up manning an AA gun, and flak was indeed the Luftwaffe's business.
- Driven to Suicide: Rommel himself, who initially opts to be tried in the People's Court but reconsiders because it could end badly for his wife and son.
- Fat Bastard: While Goering does not appear, Hitler does make a fat joke about him.
Hitler: Where's Goering?
Officer: On his way now, sir.
Hitler: Oh, well, when you're fat, you don't move so fast.
- Frontline General: Rommel loves to get up close to the front, often to the annoyance of his staff.
Colonel Fritz Bayerlein: I wouldn't mind having a commander-in-chief with a touch of cowardice about him, have him report to his headquarters every now and then.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Rommel's veneration as a Worthy Opponent for the Western Allies is debatable. Though he had disagreements with Hitler's tactics and brutality he remained on good terms with Hitler personally. Further, most modern historians doubt that he was actually involved in the 20 July plot. In fairness, Rommel was more chivalrous and fair-minded than pretty much any of his peers, and he did end up believing that Hitler needed to be removed from office.
- Perhaps even more with Von Rundstedt. He and Rommel had at best a contentious personal relationship, and Rundstedt had no sympathy at all for the 20 July plotters, calling their efforts "base, bare-faced treachery." His disagreements with Hitler were purely tactical.
- My Country, Right or Wrong
- Old Soldier: Gerd von Rundstedt is accurately shown as this, with a comment that he is 70 now and too old to take part in a revolution.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: While not entirely unpleasant, there were a few better places for Rommel to be than supervising the construction of coastal fortifications he knew would not halt the Allied invasion.
- Staff of Authority: Just as in real life, Rommel gets one.