Five Graves to Cairo (1943) - Rotten Tomatoes

Five Graves to Cairo (1943)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Five Graves to Cairo Photos

Movie Info

Billy Wilder's Five Graves to Cairo is the third take on Lajos Biro's theatrical tale of romance and espionage, +Hotel Imperial. This time, the action is transplanted from World War I Galicia to World War II Egypt as Rommel's Afrika Corps viciously forces the British Army to retreat towards Cairo. Protagonist John J. Bramble (Franchot Tone) is stranded in the Sahara, the lone survivor of a British tank crew. In shock and suffering from sunstroke, Corporal Bramble deliriously staggers across the desert searching for the nearest outpost. What he finds is the Empress of Britain Hotel in the Libyan border town of Sidi Halfaya. The city has been deserted and destroyed; no one remains but the Inn's owner, Farid (Akim Tamiroff), and the French chambermaid, Mouche (Anne Baxter). To the woman's chagrin, Farid conceals the English soldier as the Germans commandeer his hotel for the lodging of General Rommel (Erich Von Stroheim). Mouche is unsympathetic toward the plight of any Englishman. She feels the British had abandoned the French Army at Dunkirk, where one of her brothers was killed and another was captured. She has remained in Sidi Halfaya only to wait for the German Army and to bargain for her sibling's freedom, not to help the British. Despite Mouche's protests, Bramble assumes the identity of the hotel's deceased waiter, Davoss, who was crushed during an air raid. Surprisingly, the disguise affords him an immediate audience with Rommel. Davoss was, in fact, a top-secret Nazi spy. This access to Rommel, the invincible Desert Fox, inspires Bramble to remain at the Empress. It becomes his mission to steal the crucial secret of the five supply depots the Germans have buried from Tobruk to Cairo -- which gave them a fighting advantage -- and possibly turn the war in Britain's favor. Meanwhile, after being rejected by the General, Mouche is desperately reduced to "entertaining" Rommel's deceitful lieutenant in order to help her brother. She and Bramble inevitably grow closer as they each struggle to save what is dear to them. When the body of the real Davoss starts to emerge from the rubble in the Empress' basement, it becomes Mouche's fate to make the ultimate decision between saving one brother and saving many.


Franchot Tone
as Cpl. John J. Bramble / Paul Davos
Erich von Stroheim
as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Peter van Eyck
as Lt. Schwegler
Fortunio Bonanova
as Gen. Sebastiano
Konstantin Shayne
as Maj. von Buelow
Fred Nurney
as Maj. Lamprecht
Miles Mander
as British Colonel
Leslie Denison
as British Captain
Ian Keith
as British Captain
Bud Geary
as English Tank Commander
Frederick Giermann
as German Sergeant
Bill Mussetter
as Schwegler, Body Guard
John Royce
as German Technician
Otto Reichow
as German Engineer
Clyde Jackman
as Rommel's Orderly
Sam Waagenaar
as Rommel's Orderly
Peter F.U. Pohlney
as German Soldier
John Erickson
as 1st Soldier
Philip Ahn
as 2nd Soldier
Hans Maebus
as 3rd Soldier
Roger Creed
as 4th Soldier
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Five Graves to Cairo

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (4)

Director Billy Wilder handles the varied story elements, countless suspenseful moments and vivid portrayals in excellent fashion.

Full Review… | August 14, 2007
Top Critic

It has a little something for all tastes, provided you don't give a darn.

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

An impressive wartime espionage thriller.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A crisp spy thriller.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Intelligently told, excellently acted and superbly photographed wartime espionage thriller.

Full Review… | July 27, 2011
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Wilder and Charles Brackett keep the suspense consistently wry and barbed

Full Review… | December 20, 2009

Audience Reviews for Five Graves to Cairo


Superb early work by the all time great Billy Wilder, who handles this little play-like espionage flick with an already mature hand. It doesn't reach the same heights that even the very next film he made did (Double Indemnity), but you can see an already special talent at work here.

Garrett Cash
Garrett Cash

fun wartime espionage thriller set in the sahara. franchot tone makes a fine dashing lead, a british soldier stranded in the desert and overtaken by the nazi high command, with anne baxter as his haughty love interest, a french hotel maid desperate to make a deal with them. and how can one go wrong with erich von stroheim as field marshall rommel. akim tamiroff is a wee bit over the top but there's suspense, comedy, romance, really something for everyone. watch the first scene and see if you're not hooked

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

The Second Battle of El Alamein, which commenced October 1942, marked a major turning point for the allies in Northern Africa. The advancement of General Erwin "Desert Fox" Rommel's Afrika Korps were finally halted and repulsed in their bid to gain the rich oil fields of the middle east. Director Billy Wilder (who also co-wrote the screenplay) capitalized on this historic battle for his 2nd Hollywood film, FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO - which actually takes a fictionalized account of the behind-the-scenes events leading up to the actual battle itself. I think it's fascinating how the story in the film meshes with real life events and gives an added dimension to this wartime propaganda film...and as propaganda - the film succeeded in boosting morale of filmgoers at the time, I'm sure - but it's blend of drama, suspense and comedic moments ensure that moviegoers today will still find it a treat. Corporal John Bramble (Franchot Tone) is the lone survivor of a british tank crew. During the opening credits we see a lone tank rumbling over sand dunes, apparently with it's accelerator stuck and the crew either dead or passed out. A half-conscious Bramble manages to climb up to the top hatch only to be ejected from the tank as it crests a dune. Bramble wanders the desert until he comes to a town deserted by it's inhabitants for fear of the advancing Nazis. Delirious from heat-stroke, Bramble mistakes a deserted inn for British headquarters. Inn-keeper Farid (Akim Tamiroff) and his french-born maid, Mouche (Anne Baxter) hears the noisy intruder in the lobby and investigates. Farid is quick to render aid to Bramble...but not so Mouche - as she has grown to hate the British due to events stemming from the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Bramble passes out in the lobby just as the Nazis arrive in town and Farid does his best to hide for Mouche - she suggests they turn him over to the Nazis and be done with him - lest they face the firing squad for harboring an enemy. Representing the Nazis is Lt. Schwegler (Peter Van Eyck), a young and handsome Aryan who is General Rommel's top aide. Schwegler is in charge of setting up the inn as temporary lodging for the General and his staff. The ever-nervous Farid reluctantly welcomes the business...but Mouche has her own agenda regarding the Nazis. Erich Von Stroheim portrays General Rommel here. I think it's very interesting how Rommel has such a prominent role in this film. He isn't the stereotypical nasty Nazi as seen often in other wartime propaganda films. There is a bit of depth to his character here at least... Director Stroheim will team up with Billy Wilder again seven years later in the classic SUNSET BLVD. I really don't want to mention anything more about the story because the film does take some interesting twists along the way. You'll have to find out for yourself what the "Five Graves" are... 8.5 / 10

bernard anselmo
bernard anselmo

Five Graves to Cairo Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss Five Graves to Cairo on our Movie forum!

News & Features