Starring the iconic Humphrey Bogart, the 1943 war film Sahara, is an action-packed epic that revolves around the trials and tribulations of a U.S. tank commander during the Western Desert Campaign in WWII. Highlighting the Battle of Gazala, one of the most pivotal conflicts of the war, Sahara is an entertaining and cinematically advanced film that proves just how cruel and harsh war can be. The crew of a United States tank, commanded by Sergeant Gunn and nicknamed Lulu Belle, become separated from their unit during a retreat from German forces. They arrive at a destroyed field hospital they pick up a diverse collection of survivors, including a British doctor Captain Halliday, four soldiers, and the French Corporal Leroux.
1943, when this film was released, World War II was just two years away from its end. The American public was starting to loose hope and confidence in the war efforts and support of the 6-year war was waning fast. Sahara provided not only a glimpse into what war was really like while enduring hunger, dehydration, and fear, but also glamorized the war setting for the audience.
The harsh realities of World War II were realized by a civilian audience in the viewing of Sahara. Generally, propaganda for the war effort during this time exclusively glamorized the wartime conditions abroad. Sahara provided a more accurate view of what it was really like overseas for American troops. This fact-based representation of the war served to redouble American civilian efforts to send help/support overseas, which had dwindled in the last years of the war. This film made it clear that the soldiers didn’t have the supplies or materials for victory. Victory gardens, donating tin, and refraining from buying silk stockings so that silk could be used for parachutes instead were all necessary civilian actions to support the war effort over seas. Once the American people witnessed the reality and struggle on the part of the soldiers that was World War II, they were eager to help in any way they could.
Sahara also infused enough glamorization and romanticisation of wartime and the individual soldiers that the audience remained engaged and hoped for victory instead of retreat. Bogart’s character as the leader of the group is excellent example of a romanticisation of wartime personalities. He gave what many considered to be the most archetypal portrait of the truly “American” fighting man portrayed on the screen.
During World War II, the government was highly influential in making sure that the films produced during this time were patriotic, full of propaganda, and in favor of the war effort. This film clearly represents the U.S government’s political agenda through Hollywood films and the national necessity of civilian support for the war effort. Sahara managed to convey both the need for continued support overseas and unfaltering American power compared to other nations. This feat is what makes Sahara such a remarkable and influential wartime film.