Adapted from Lajos Biro's play and directed by Billy Wilder, a British corporal spies on Rommel in North Africa and helps turn the campaign around.
In June 1942 Corporal John J. Bramble (Franchot Tone) struggles out of a moving tank in the desert and walks to a ravaged town. He deliriously reports to the absent British and faints. Farid (Akim Tamiroff) hides him behind the desk as German soldiers arrive. Lt. Schwegler (Peter van Eyck) establishes headquarters in the hotel. Bramble pretends to be the waiter Davos who died. French Mouche (Anne Baxter) resents Dunkirk and wants to turn him over but changes her mind. Bramble as Davos tells Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (Erich von Stroheim) that he will continue to work for the Germans. Italian General Sebastiano (Fortunio Bonanova) sings opera but is told to stop. Bramble hopes to kill Rommel. Bramble rooms with Mouche and admits that he lied about being married. Mouche takes breakfast to Rommel in bed and asks him to help her brother, who is in a concentration camp. Rommel tells her to write to the Red Cross or Quakers. Schwegler offers to help Mouche.
Bramble secretly talks to a British prisoner. Rommel teaches strategy to the British officers. He is aiming for Cairo and says they placed supplies secretly before the war. Bramble learns from Farid that an archaeologist must have done it in 1937. Bramble discusses the five graves with Rommel, who sends him to Cairo. Bramble sneaks in to steal the map. During an RAF raid they go into the cellar. Schwegler suspects Bramble and questions his story. Bramble tells Mouche that he killed Schwegler, and she complains again about Dunkirk and her brother. Rommel tells Mouche that Schwegler forged telegrams to fool her and asks about his death. Mouche castigates the Germans and Bramble. Rommel whips her and says she will be tried. Bramble tells Farid to give evidence how he killed Schwegler. Rommel's forces march as far as el-Alamein, but the British stop them in July and drive them back by November 1942. Sebastiano is a prisoner and is singing. Bramble brings a parasol for Mouche, but Farid tells him that Mouche was beaten to death for siding with the British.
This war-spy thriller exposes a rift between the English
and French in 1942, but the two symbolic characters cooperate
to stop Rommel's advance into Egypt while an Italian general is
portrayed as ineffectual.