Sahara (1943): Zoltan Korda’s Oscar Nominated War Film, Starring Bogart

Set during WWII, Zoltan Korda’s “Sahara” centers on an American tank crew, which, after being cut off during the fall of Tobruk, is attached to the British Eighth Army.

As Sergeant Joe Gunn, Humphrey Bogart, well cast, leads a terrific all-male ensemble that includes Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish, who received a Supporting Actor nomination, Rex Ingram, Lloyd Bridges, and others.

Heading south across the Libyan desert to rejoin their5 command, Gunn and his team pick up five British strugglers, a Free Frenchman, and a Sudanese corporal with his Italian prisoner.  Attacked by a German plane, they shoot it down and capture the pilot.

In search of water, the crew is led by the Sudanese to an old fort, which turns out to be dry.  As they wait for supplies, they are overtaken by a German battalion.  They learn that the Germans too are in short supply of water.

Only Gunn and another British soldier survive the ordeal.  But what seems to be a final attack turns out to be surrender, when the Germans give up their arms in return fro water.  The ending is ironic, when a German attack hits directly the well and reopens it.

By today’s standards, the movie is too calculated in its careful ethnic composition of a Texan, a white Southerner, a black Sudanese, and a guy from Brooklyn.  The German characters are all narrowly defined as was the norm in other propaganda pictures during the War.

However, as an adventure, “Sahara” is well written (by John Howard Lawson and helmer Korda), expertly directed with some exciting action sequences, and particularly strikingly photographed by Rudolph Mate, who deservedly won an Oscar nomination; the winner, however, was Arthur Miller for “The Song of Bernadette.”

In 1943, Bogart became a huge movie star after the release of Casablanca,” which won the Best Picture Oscar.  It was a great year for Bogey, also having appeared in “Action in the North Atlantic” (see my review).

 

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 3

Supporting Actor: J. Carrol Naish

Cinematography (b/w): Rudolph Mate

Sound Recording: John Livadary

 

Oscar Awards: None

In 1943, the Supporting Actor winner was Charles Coburn for the comedy, “The More the Merrier,” the cinematographer winner Arthur Miller for “The Song of Bernadette,” and the Sound Recording winner Stephen Dunn for “This Land Is Mine.”

 

Cast

Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart)

Waco Hoyt (Bruce Bennett)

Giuseppe (J. Carrol Naish)

Fred Clarkson (Lloyd Bridges)

Tambul (Rex Ingram)

Captain Jason Halliday (Richard Nugent)

Jimmy Doyle (Dan Duryea)

Captain Von Schletow (Kurt Krueger)

 

Credits:

Columbia

Running time: 97 Minutes