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The Desert Song

The Desert Song(1943)

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A notation in SAB indicates that producer Robert Buckner's name was not to appear on the screen as a writer. No one is given script credit on the screen, but CBCS attributes the screenplay to Buckner, while a modern biography of director Robert Florey credits him as co-writer. Actor Lynne Overman, who plays "Johnny Walsh" in the picture, died before the film's release. According to a May 14, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, much of the film was shot on location in Arizona and in Gallup, NM. According to a studio memo reprinted in a modern source, the backlot Moroccan street built for the film was later used in the 1943 film Casablanca. Modern sources indicate that the release of the completed film was delayed because of wartime restrictions. The OWI's Bureau of Motion Pictures objected to the film's unsympathetic presentation of the French, as well as to its depiction of French cooperation with the Germans as embodied in the character of "Colonel Fontaine." As a result, Fontaine was portrayed as unaware of the German backing of the railroad. Charles Novi and Jack McConaghy received an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration for a color film.
       The operetta The Desert Song was filmed for the first time in 1929 by Warner Bros. That film was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred John Boles and Carlotta King (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1920-31; F2.1286). Another version was planned as early as 1935, according to a November 13, 1935 Variety news item. At that time, it was rumored that Warner Bros. would re-cast Carlotta King, who played in the original screen version of the musical, as "Margot." According to an Los Angeles Examiner news item, Warner Bros. also considered using the musical to boost the career of singer James Melton. A November 21, 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that M-G-M was negotiating with Warner Bros. for the rights to the musical as a vehicle for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. The operetta was also the basis for the 1953 Warner Bros. film The Desert Song starring Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson and directed by Bruce Humberstone. On May 7, 1955, a television version of the production was broadcast over NBC, starring Nelson Eddy and Gale Sherwood and directed by Max Liebman.