Five Graves to Cairo (1943)

96 mins | Drama | 1943

Director:

Billy Wilder

Cinematographer:

John F. Seitz

Editor:

Doane Harrison

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegté

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The following written foreword opens the film: "In June 1942 things looked black indeed for the British Eighth Army. It was beaten, scattered, and in flight. Tobruk had fallen. The victorious Rommel and his Afrika Korps were pounding the British back and back toward Cairo and the Suez Canal." Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, perhaps the most widely known German general of World War II, was popularly known as the "Desert Fox" after he took command of the Afrika Korps in 1941 and led his troops to decisive victories in North Africa. Rommel has been the subject of numerous books and been a character in many films, the most famous of which was the 1951 Twentieth Century-Fox film The Desert Fox , directed by Henry Hathaway and starring James Mason as Rommel.
       The Paramount Collection contained at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: Simone Simon was tested for the role of "Mouche;" the filmmakers originally intended to set the story in the Egyptian town of Sidi Barani, which was the site of actual fighting during World War II, and was captured by Rommel in 1941 and recaptured by the British in 1942; some scenes were shot on location at the Salton Sea and at Camp Young in Indio CA, where, with the cooperation of the Army Ground Forces, a battle sequence was staged, and in Yuma, AZ; the British Embassy assigned Major David P. J. Lloyd of the British Army Staff to act as the picture's technical advisor, due to his "firsthand experience and knowledge of desert tank warfare in Libya."
       A HR news item reported that in Nov 1942, David ... More Less

The following written foreword opens the film: "In June 1942 things looked black indeed for the British Eighth Army. It was beaten, scattered, and in flight. Tobruk had fallen. The victorious Rommel and his Afrika Korps were pounding the British back and back toward Cairo and the Suez Canal." Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, perhaps the most widely known German general of World War II, was popularly known as the "Desert Fox" after he took command of the Afrika Korps in 1941 and led his troops to decisive victories in North Africa. Rommel has been the subject of numerous books and been a character in many films, the most famous of which was the 1951 Twentieth Century-Fox film The Desert Fox , directed by Henry Hathaway and starring James Mason as Rommel.
       The Paramount Collection contained at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: Simone Simon was tested for the role of "Mouche;" the filmmakers originally intended to set the story in the Egyptian town of Sidi Barani, which was the site of actual fighting during World War II, and was captured by Rommel in 1941 and recaptured by the British in 1942; some scenes were shot on location at the Salton Sea and at Camp Young in Indio CA, where, with the cooperation of the Army Ground Forces, a battle sequence was staged, and in Yuma, AZ; the British Embassy assigned Major David P. J. Lloyd of the British Army Staff to act as the picture's technical advisor, due to his "firsthand experience and knowledge of desert tank warfare in Libya."
       A HR news item reported that in Nov 1942, David O. Selznick had agreed to lend Ingrid Bergman for this film. Paramount borrowed Anne Baxter from Twentieth Century-Fox. This film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Cinematography (black & white), John Seitz; Art Direction/Interior Decoration (black & white), Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegté/Bertram Granger; and Film Editing, Doane Harrison. Lajos Biro's play was first filmed by Paramount in 1927 and 1939 under the title Hotel Imperial . The 1927 version was directed by Mauritz Stiller and starred Pola Negri (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.2597); and the 1939 version was directed by Robert Florey, and starred Isa Miranda and Ray Milland (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2007). Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 13 Dec 1943. In 1951, United Artists released Hotel Sahara , which also was based on the Biro play and was directed by Ken Annakin and starring Yvonne DeCarlo. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jun 43
p. 215.
Box Office
8 May 1943.
---
Daily Variety
4 May 43
pp. 3, 7
Film Daily
4 May 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 1942.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 43
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
8 May 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 May 43
p. 1301.
New York Times
27 May 43
p. 21.
New York Times
30 May 43
p. 3 (sec 2).
Variety
5 May 43
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Extra asst dir
Extra asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
3rd asst cam
Op cam
2d cam
Asst to 2d cam
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set drs supv
Props
2d props
Prop asst
Prop asst
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hair supv
PRODUCTION MISC
British tech adv
Dial coach
Unit mgr
Asst unit mgr
Location mgr
Scr clerk
Scr clerk
Grip
STAND INS
Stand-in for Franchot Tone
Double for Franchot Tone
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Színmü négy felvonásban by Lajos Biro (Budapest, 1917).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
New York and New Orleans premieres: 26 May 1943
Production Date:
4 January--20 February 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 May 1943
Copyright Number:
LP12111
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
96
Length(in feet):
8,699
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9090
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In June, 1942, in Egypt, the British Eighth Army is severely beaten by General Rommel's Afrika Korps. John J. Bramble, the sole survivor of his British tank crew, struggles out of the tank, which is roving aimlessly across the desert, and crawls across the sand dunes until he reaches the desolate town of Sidi Halfaya. The town has been nearly destroyed by bomb blasts, but the Empress of Britain Hotel is still standing. John, now suffering from hallucinations, believes he is at Divisional Headquarters and "reports" to the Egyptian hotel owner, Farid, and the French chambermaid, Mouche, that the Royal Tank Regiment has been destroyed. Farid is unable to bring John to his senses, and when John collapses, he hides the unconscious soldier behind the desk, as German troops are overtaking the town. German lieutenant Schwegler informs Farid that his officers will use the hotel as their headquarters, and installs Field Marshal General Erwin Rommel in the best room in the hotel, and an Italian general named Sebastiano, in the worst. John revives and, with his wits fully restored, dons the clothing of a clubfooted hotel waiter who was killed in the cellar during an air raid. John successfully impersonates the waiter, and manages to hides his surprise when he is given a personal audience with Rommel because the waiter was actually a Nazi spy. Mouche hates John on principle because she feels that the British forces abandoned the French army at the battle at Dunkirk, where her brother was captured. She goes along with his impersonation until she hears his plans to kill Rommel, because she wants to approach Rommel and plead ... +


In June, 1942, in Egypt, the British Eighth Army is severely beaten by General Rommel's Afrika Korps. John J. Bramble, the sole survivor of his British tank crew, struggles out of the tank, which is roving aimlessly across the desert, and crawls across the sand dunes until he reaches the desolate town of Sidi Halfaya. The town has been nearly destroyed by bomb blasts, but the Empress of Britain Hotel is still standing. John, now suffering from hallucinations, believes he is at Divisional Headquarters and "reports" to the Egyptian hotel owner, Farid, and the French chambermaid, Mouche, that the Royal Tank Regiment has been destroyed. Farid is unable to bring John to his senses, and when John collapses, he hides the unconscious soldier behind the desk, as German troops are overtaking the town. German lieutenant Schwegler informs Farid that his officers will use the hotel as their headquarters, and installs Field Marshal General Erwin Rommel in the best room in the hotel, and an Italian general named Sebastiano, in the worst. John revives and, with his wits fully restored, dons the clothing of a clubfooted hotel waiter who was killed in the cellar during an air raid. John successfully impersonates the waiter, and manages to hides his surprise when he is given a personal audience with Rommel because the waiter was actually a Nazi spy. Mouche hates John on principle because she feels that the British forces abandoned the French army at the battle at Dunkirk, where her brother was captured. She goes along with his impersonation until she hears his plans to kill Rommel, because she wants to approach Rommel and plead for the life of her sole surviving brother, an amputee who has been interred in a concentration camp. Rommel has no interest in helping Mouche, however, so she turns to Schwegler, who promises to help her in exchange for sexual favors. When high ranking British prisoners of war are then brought in, John makes contact with the British colonel, who advises him not to kill Rommel. Rommel grants the officers a lunch and solicitously answers their questions about his battle strategies. Rommel's key strategy is preparation, and he reveals that in the 1930s, the Germans buried supplies all over Egypt in anticipation of the war. As the British officers leave, the colonel subtly relays to John that his mission is to determine the locations of the supply depots and send word to the British command. John already knows that the term "Five Graves" is the code word for the supply depots, and is led directly to the information when Rommel, still believing that John is a Nazi spy, shows him a map of Egypt, stating that the locations are so basic, he does not even need invisible ink. When Farid uncovers a 1930s newspaper article about German archaeological excavations, John recognizes a photograph of Rommel, and realizes that instead of excavating ancient sites, the Germans were burying supplies. John sneaks into Rommel's office and redraws his map on a piece of cheesecloth, identifying the locations of the depots as coinciding with the letters E-G-Y-P-T as printed on the map. An air raid ensues and Schwegler finds John in the room. Schwegler believes John's explanation that he was trying to save the maps until they are in the cellar and a blast uncovers the body of the real waiter. John escapes and, while everyone else takes cover during the air raid, kills Schwegler. Farid helps him hide the body and, knowing that Rommel plans to send John ahead to Cairo that night, arranges with Farid for the body to be discovered the next morning. Mouche refuses to cooperate further with John's deception, however, as Rommel has confronted her with telegrams apparently sent by Schwegler, which indicate that he was arranging for her brother's release. Mouche soon learns that the telegrams were fakes and that Schwegler had been deluding her. Later, Schwegler's body is found in Mouche's bed and Rommel accuses her of his murder. Experiencing a change of heart, Mouche accepts the blame, thereby freeing John to carry out his mission to Cairo. Before he leaves, John tells Farid to reveal that he was Schwegler's killer before the Nazis put Mouche on trial. John successfully reaches the British command, and on 1 July 1942, British forces destroy the German supply depots in El Alamein, and Rommel's troops never reach Cairo. In September, John purchases a parasol in Cairo that Mouche had longed for, and carries it with him in his tank when British General Montgomery's Eighth Army makes its counter-offensive. The British troops return to Sidi Halfaya in November, and take German and Italian troops prisoner. John learns from Farid that although Mouche was found innocent of Schwegler's murder, the Germans found her guilty of deception, and beat her to death as she cried, "The British will be back." With a broken heart, John places the parasol by her grave and, after paying tribute, rejoins his troops. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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