The Desert Fox
Based on Desmond Young’s biography, the capable General Rommel is frustrated by Hitler’s incompetence and finally decides to turn on him.
In 1941 British commandos land on North Africa. They enter a large house and shoot German soldiers before retreating without getting Rommel.
In June 1942 British prisoners on a road are attacked and scatter. Desmond Young narrates the story of General Erwin Rommel (James Mason) based on his research.
On October 23, 1942 at El Alamein a plane brings ill Rommel back to the desert. General Fritz Bayerlein (George Macready) tells him they lack petrol. Rommel orders a tank attack on Montgomery’s army. After ten days Rommel learns that Hitler has ordered victory or death for his army. At Tunis the German Africa Corps surrenders, but Rommel returns to the hospital in Stuttgart. In his bed he tells Dr. Karl Strolin (Cedric Hardwicke) that Hitler is having officers shot. His wife Lucy Marie Rommel (Jessica Tandy) complains. Strolin suggests that Hitler could abdicate and warns Rommel that Hitler could turn on him.
In November 1943 Rommel inspects the Atlantic defenses and reports to Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (Leo G. Carroll) that French beaches are vulnerable. Rundstedt says that “corporal” Hitler has taken command, and he warns Rommel they are being watched.
Dr. Strolin visits Rommel and says that generals are plotting against Hitler. Rommel says that soldiers must obey. Lucy told Strolin how Rommel really feels about Hitler. Rommel says goodbye to Lucy.
On D-day the Allies invade Europe. Rundstedt tells Rommel that their troops are in the wrong place, and Hitler won’t let them move. Rommel suggests a coup and surrender, but Rundstedt says he is too old. On the phone he tells Field Marshal Keitel to make peace. Rundstedt expects Rommel to replace him soon.
Rommel approves the plot and tells Adolf Hitler (Luther Adler) that the end is near. Hitler says he is developing new weapons. Rommel’s car is strafed and overturns, injuring him. Three days later on July 20, 1944 generals meet with Hitler. Col. Klaus von Stauffenberg (Eduard Franz) puts a suitcase under the table and leaves the building. A bomb explodes, but Hitler survives and has 5,000 executed.
Rommel is isolated until October. General Wilhelm Burgdorf (Everett Sloane) comes to Rommel and hands him his treason charges. Rommel says he will answer them in court. Burgdorf says Rommel’s death would cover up the issue and offers him a painless drug. Rommel still prefers a trial, but Burgdorf says that his son and wife would suffer. Rommel asks Lucy to be brave and says he will take a drug. They kiss, and Rommel leaves. In the final narration Winston Churchill praises Rommel and says he came to hate Hitler.
This biopic skips over Rommel’s victories to portray the German decline and the effort to remove Hitler so that they could surrender to the Allies. The powerful lesson is that people must not obey a stubborn leader who continues to fight a useless and devastating war.