Hotel Sahara – 1951 | 96 mins | Comedy | B&W
WWII comedy farce from an original story by George H. Brown and Patrick Kirwan. Played at a fast and frantic pace, this entertaining film is rather more amusing in concept than execution and the end result is essentially a jingoistic farce relying on Italian, British, German and French stereotypes. The wonderful cast is notably lead by the vampish Yvonne De Carlo as harried hotel owner Peter Ustinov‘s fiancée. Robust support comes from the redoubtable David Tomlinson and Roland Culver as stiff upper-lipped English officers and there are also comic turns from splendid character actors Bill Owen and Sidney Tafler.
Set during the WWII North Africa desert campaign, Emad (Peter Ustinov) is the owner of the isolated exotic Hotel Sahara and the territory around him falls in to the hands of a different occupying army on a weekly basis. Most of the hotel staff takes off as soon as war is declared but Emad, his tempestuous fiancée Yasmin (Yvonne De Carlo), her mother (Mireille Perrey) and servant Yusef (Mireille Perrey) remain and attempt top save the hotel by making each conquering force feel at home.
News breaks that the Italians have entered the war and the first troops to arrive at Hotel Sahara are Captain Alberto Giuseppi and his small band of soldiers. Emad springs into action by hanging a picture of Mussolini on the wall and hoisting the Italian flag – meanwhile Yasmin slips into an alluring outfit. The captain is enamoured by Yasmin and their stay remains peaceful. Next the British arrive, causing the Italians to quickly depart, and Emad finds himself tiptoeing through a minefield of loose loyalties, amorous officers and booby-trapped bathrooms.
Again Emad makes the necessary alterations by hoisting the Union Jack and hanging a picture of Churchill. Yasmin again slips into an eye-catching outfit and this time has to deal with the attentions of two officers competing for her adoration; Major Randall (Roland Culver) and Captain Puffin Cheyne (David Tomlinson). As before, Hotel Sahara becomes a scene of tranquillity until another army crosses the horizon – the Germans!
As always, the British flee and Emad hoists the German flag and hangs a portrait of Hitler, but Yasmin’s attempts to woo the disciplined German officer Lieutenant Gunther von Heilicke (Albert Lieven) fall on stony ground – that is until she performs a suggestive belly dance. Yet again another army nears the Hotel Sahara, and both the British and Germans hide amongst the dunes to see who the latest occupiers are – the French! Soon the German and British officers are shooting it out, blissfully unaware that hostilities in North Africa have ended… and yet another army arrives at Hotel Sahara!
Ken Annakin: Director
Ralph W Brinton: Art Direction
David Harcourt: Cinematography
Jack Hildyard: Cinematography
Jacqmar: Costume Design
Julie Harris: Costume Design
Alfred Roome: Film Editing
George Blackler: Makeup Department
Benjamin Frankel: Original Music
George H Brown: Producer
Patrick Kirwan: Script
George H Brown: Script
Betty Pierce: Set Decoration
Gordon K McCallum: Sound Department
John W Mitchell: Sound Department
Bob Wilson: Sound Department
Peter Ustinov: Emad
Yvonne de Carlo: Yasmin Pallas
David Tomlinson: Capt Puffin Cheyne
Roland Culver: Maj Bill Randall
Albert Lieven: Lt Gunther von Heilicke
Bill Owen: Pvt Binns
Guido Lorraine: Capt Giuseppi
Mireille Perrey: Mme Pallas
Ferdy Mayne: Yusef
Sydney Tafler: Cpl Pullar
Anton Diffring: German soldier