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Shooting Rommel: the Desert Fox (1951) and Hollywood’s public-private diplomacy

Major, P. (2019) Shooting Rommel: the Desert Fox (1951) and Hollywood’s public-private diplomacy. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 39 (2). pp. 209-232. ISSN 0143-9685

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/01439685.2018.1522791


The Desert Fox (Henry Hathaway, Twentieth Century-Fox; US, 1951) was one of the first war films to be produced by Hollywood after World War II. The article traces the screenwriting process through the papers of Nunnally Johnson, held at Boston University, and his correspondence with the author of the biography on which the film was based, Desmond Young, but also the studio's head of production, Darryl F. Zanuck, held at USC. The main focus of the piece is the film's reception in the Federal Republic of Germany, and the political concerns of the US State Department which tried to block its release there. This was the most politically controversial film for US diplomats at a time of great sensitivity during West German rearmament, and has left more of a paper trail than any other war film dealing with the Germans of the 1950s. The paper suggests that the film touched raw nerves both among leftwing pacifists and rightwing army sympathisers, as well as generating negative echoes behind the Iron Curtain. The author has also compared the English-language print of Desert Fox with the German-language print of Rommel der Wüstenfuchs to show that important changes were made to the script as a form of post-censorship.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:73017
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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