Sahara (1943 film)
- For other films with the same name, see Sahara.
|Directed by||Zoltán Korda|
|Produced by||Harry Joe Brown|
|Written by||Philip MacDonald (story)
John Howard Lawson (screenplay)
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Editing by||Charles Nelson|
|Running time||97 minutes|
Sahara is a 1943 war film directed by Zoltán Korda. Humphrey Bogart stars as a U.S. tank commander in Libya during the Western Desert Campaign of World War II. The movie earned three Academy Award nominations: Best Sound (John Livadary), Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) and Best Supporting Actor by J. Carrol Naish for his role as an Italian prisoner.
The story is credited to an incident depicted in the 1936 Soviet film The Thirteen (Russian: Тринадцать) by Mikhail Romm. Later, Sahara was remade by André de Toth as a Western with Broderick Crawford called Last of the Comanches (1953) and by Brian Trenchard-Smith as the Australian film Sahara, with James Belushi in Bogart's role.
In the movie it depicts events which point to the Battle of Gazala which was an important battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought around the port of Tobruk in Libya which Bogart makes reference to which occurred in May-June 1942. The battle had begun with the British stronger in terms of numbers and quality of equipment, and had received many of the M3 tanks, which was the tank used in the movie, and a small group of American advisors and crews had come to train them in use of the equipment. The British were routed and as shown in the movie, many tanks which were only damaged could not be salvaged because of the 8th Army's retreat. The British lost virtually all their tanks, although a number of damaged tanks could be evacuated.
Rommel pursued the British into Egypt, trying to keep his opponent under pressure and denying him the opportunity to regroup. As both sides neared exhaustion, the British were able to check Rommel's advance at the First battle of El Alamein which is were the radio report calls Bogart and tank crew to rally at in the movie.
The crew of an M3 Lee tank, commanded by U.S. Army Master Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) and nicknamed Lulu Belle, become separated from their unit during a general retreat from Erwin Rommel's forces. They salvage parts from another wrecked tank and get their M3 Lee tank running and hear on the radio to reorganize at a rally point but that the Germans have cut off the way east and are in the north and west, so they head south. Gunn's crewman are throughout the movie seen gamely waging bets on how Gunn will fix things or decide on what to do to get them out of the situation. At a bombed-out field hospital, the Americans pick up a motley collection of stragglers, among them British doctor Captain Halliday (Richard Nugent), four Commonwealth troops, and Free French Corporal Leroux (Louis Mercier). Gunn tells them he is heading south as the only way not blocked by the Germans, but the troops hesitate and declare they will follow their officer. Halliday, the only officer, cedes command to Gunn. Later, they come upon Sudanese Sergeant Major Tambul (Rex Ingram) and his Italian prisoner, Giuseppe (J. Carrol Naish), who knows the area and volunteers to lead them to a well at Hassan Barani. En route, Luftwaffe pilot Captain von Schletow (Kurt Kreuger) strafes the tank, hitting one of the British soldiers (Lloyd Bridges), but is shot down and captured. They take everyone on the tank but (Lloyd Bridges) dies on the way, then fight their way through a blinding sand storm to the next well.
Arriving at the well, they find it completely dry. Now running out of water, they are forced to detour to the desert well at Bir Acroma, guided by Tambul. They find it, but it is almost dry, providing only a trickle of water. They collect a few cupfulls of water and Gunn tells the men to only take a few swallows as it needs to be rationed till they can get more.
When German scouts arrive in a half-track soon afterwards, Gunn sets up an ambush and captures some of the Germans. Gunn finds out from one of the two enemy survivors that their mechanized battalion, desperate for water, is following close behind. He persuades the others to make a stand to delay the Germans, while Waco (Bruce Bennett) takes the half-track in search of reinforcements. The two Germans are released to carry back an offer: "food for water", even though there is barely enough for Gunn's men. When the Germans return in force, Gunn changes the deal to "guns for water".
The well has completely dried up by then. A standoff and battle of wills begins between Gunn and Major von Falken (John Wengraf), the German commander. Gunn keeps up the pretense that the well is full of water and negotiates to buy time. Eventually, the Germans attack and are beaten off again and again, but one by one, the defenders are killed. In one scene where Gunn is feeding the amunition to one of the soldiers manning the machine gun, Gunn goes to check on everyone and calls out the names of the soldiers. All answer except the Stegman who he was helping with the amunition. Gunn makes his way back to the trench where Stegman is and sees Stegman has been shot dead by a sniper.
During the fighting, von Schletow tries to escape to warn the German column that the well has no water left, killing Giuseppe when he tries to alert Gunn. Tambul chases him down and kills him, at the cost of his own life. After a second parlay, von Falken has his men shoot Leroux in the back before the Frenchman returns his own side, only to be killed himself by return fire.
The thirst-maddened Germans' final assault turns into a full-blown surrender as they drop their weapons and claw across the sand towards the well. To Gunn's shock, he discovers that a German shell that exploded in the well has tapped into a source of water. Gunn and Bates, the only other Allied survivor, disarm the Germans while they drink their fill. As they are marching their prisoners east, they encounter Allied troops guided by Waco. The movie ends with news of the Allied victory at the First Battle of El Alamein, turning back the tide of Rommel's Afrika Korps.
It was filmed on location in the Imperial County portion of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, near the Salton Sea, using soldiers and equipment of the U.S. IV Armored Corps, a training organization of the Army Ground Forces, as extras.
The German aircraft shown attacking the tank was in actuality an early model P-51 Mustang, painted in German markings. Unfortunately, there were no Sdkf-251 half-track nor MG-34 machineguns to figure in the scenes, so they used M2 American halftracks. The captured German halftrack used by Waco is a M2 with a M49 ring mounted with a Vickers medium machine gun.
I was running across the dunes when Tambul jumped on top of me and pressed my head into the sand to suffocate me. Only Zoltán forgot to yell cut, and Ingram was so emotionally caught up in the scene that he kept pressing my face harder and harder.
Finally, I went unconscious. Nobody knew this. Even the crew was transfixed, watching this dramatic ‘killing.' If Zoltán hadn't finally said cut, as an afterthought, it would have been all over for me.
- Humphrey Bogart as Sergeant Joe Gunn
- Dan Duryea as Jimmy Doyle
- Bruce Bennett as "Waco" Hoyt
- Richard Nugent as Captain Jason Halliday, from Dublin
- Lloyd Bridges as Fred Clarkson
- Patrick O'Moore as Osmond "Ozzie" Bates
- Guy Kingsford as Peter Stegman, from South Africa
- Carl Harbord as Marty Williams
- Louis Mercier as Jean "Frenchie" Leroux, formerly with the French Underground
- Rex Ingram as Sergeant Major Tambul
- J. Carrol Naish as Giuseppe
- Kurt Kreuger as Captain von Schletow
- John Wengraf as Major von Falken
- "The 16th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- Barr, p. 39
- Adam Bernstein (July 21, 2006). "Kurt Kreuger, 89, Actor Portrayed Nazis (obituary)". The Washington Post (on the New York Sun website). Retrieved 2008-02-16.
- Sahara at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Sahara at the Internet Movie Database
- Sahara at the TCM Movie Database
- Sahara at allmovie
- "War in the Sahara, Bogart-style", from Eve's Magazine