The Black Tent

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The Black Tent
"The Black Tent" (1956).jpg
British theatrical poster
Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst
Produced by William Macquitty
Earl St. John
Written by Bryan Forbes
Robin Maugham
Starring Donald Sinden
Anthony Steel
Anna Maria Sandri
André Morell
Donald Pleasence
Music by William Alwyn
Distributed by Rank Organisation
Release dates
March 1956
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office 1,351,181 admissions (France)[1]

The Black Tent is a 1956 British war film directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and starring Donald Sinden, Anthony Steel, Anna Maria Sandri, André Morell and Donald Pleasence.[2] It is set in North Africa, during the Second World War and was filmed on location in Libya.

During the British retreat through Libya, British officer Captain David Holland takes shelter with a Bedouin tribe and marries the sheik's daughter. After the war his younger brother, who had believed him to be dead, learns that he may be alive in Libya - prompting him to set out and search for him.


The film begins with a tank battle where blonde-haired Captain Holland (Anthony Steel) is sprawled unconscious beside his tank on the sand. When he comes to, he walks over the dunes until collapsing near a Bedouin encampment at an oasis. He is found by the sheik's daughter, Mabrouka (Anna Maria Sandri), who takes him to the camp which consists of several black tents.

The film skips forward to a point after the war when Captain Holland's brother, Colonel Sir Charles Holland (Donald Sinden), is guided into the desert by Ali (Donald Pleasence) in search of his brother. They were drawn by a promissory note that had been given by Captain Holland to the Bedouin for their help and eventually taken to the British embassy for payment. Sir Charles sets off to discover the fate of his brother and eventually reaches the Bedouin camp. He is entertained by the camp's chief, Sheik Salem ben Yussef (André Morrel) and sees a young blonde boy in the camp. Later, the Sheik becomes angry at Sir Charles's line of questioning about his brother, the boy, and note and asks them to leave. Before they leave, Mabrouka gives Ali a sock containing Captain Holland's diary which he gives Sir Charles. The film skips back in time to recount the story within the diary.

Captain Holland, having been tended by Mabrouka, recovers. He learns that Mabrouka is the sheik's daughter and is betrothed to Sheik Faris (Michael Craig) from another tribe. When a German reconnaissance vehicle arrives at the camp, Captain Holland hides in some Roman ruins. The senior German officer then finds Holland's service revolver in a tent.

Mabrouka and Captain Holland become romantically involved to the obvious annoyance of Sheik Faris. He colludes with the Germans who return to the ruins where Holland and Sheik Yussef kills them and Faris. The romance between Captain Holland and Mabrouka deepens and they marry.

Learning of the British victory at El Alamein, Captain Holland seeks to return to the British lines but finds that his wife is pregnant. A group led by the Sheik and Captain Holland travel toward the British lines but came across a column of retreating Italian vehicles. Captain Holland sustains a fatal injury rescuing the Sheik.

The film returns to the present day with the Sheik handing Sir Charles a letter with his brother's will bequeathing his estate to his son. Sir Charles discusses this with his nephew but the boy decides to remain with the tribe and burns the letter.


The ruins[edit]

The film used the site of the Roman ruins at Sabratha in Libya, which is by the sea, although the plot suggests that the camp is deep in the Libyan desert. This is a plot device to provide a bit of eye candy to the viewer and a reason for the Germans to visit in small numbers, like regular tourists.


  1. ^ French box office for 1956 at Box Office Story
  2. ^

External links[edit]