The Desert Song (1943 film)

The Desert Song is a 1943 American musical film. It was directed by Robert Florey and starred Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning and Bruce Cabot.[2] It is based on the 1926 operetta with music by Sigmund Romberg. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Charles Novi, Jack McConaghy).

The Desert Song
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Florey
Produced byRobert Buckner
Written byRobert Buckner
Oscar Hammerstein II
Otto A. Harbach
Frank Mandel
Laurence Schwab
StarringDennis Morgan
Irene Manning
Bruce Cabot
CinematographyBert Glennon
Edited byFrank Magee
Distributed byWarner Brothers
Release date
  • December 17, 1943 (1943-12-17)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,595,000[1]

This film version of the operetta was, like the 1929 film version, almost never seen after its original release due to Pre-Code content and copyright issues, which made the film hard to find or view. In 2014, it was remastered, restored and released on DVD by Warner Brothers.[3]

The film is more sophisticated technically than the earlier film due to its large budget and advances in both sound and color. This is the first film version to be made in full three-strip Technicolor. It tries to make the operetta topical in terms of World War II, by having the outlaw hero with a dual identity fight the Nazis as well as the Riffs. As in the 1953 film, the hero's name is changed to El Khobar, rather than the Red Shadow.

The 1943 Desert Song is perhaps the only instance in which a stage operetta of the 1920s has been updated to reflect topical concerns of the 1940s. In fact, the United States Office of War Information held up release of the film for a year because of the shifting political positions of Vichy France. It did well at the box office nonetheless, and was Warner Brothers' highest grossing film of the year.[4]


Box office

The film was Warner Bros.' most popular of the year, earning $2,561,000 domestically and $2,034,000 foreign.[1]


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 24 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. "NY Times: The Desert Song". NY Times. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
  3. "The Desert Song (1944) -". Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  4. You Must Remember This: the Warner Brothers story, Richard Schickel and George Perry, pg. 161
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