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Rope of Sand

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Rope of Sand
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Dieterle
Screenplay byWalter Doniger
Additional dialogue:
John Paxton
Story byWalter Doniger
Produced byHal B. Wallis
StarringBurt Lancaster
Paul Henreid
Claude Rains
Peter Lorre
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byWarren Low
Music byFranz Waxman
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 4, 1949 (1949-08-04) (New York City)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,250,000[1]

Rope of Sand is a 1949 adventure-suspense film noir produced by Hal Wallis, and directed by William Dieterle. Set in South West Africa, the film stars Wallis contract star Burt Lancaster and three stars from Wallis's Casablanca - Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Peter Lorre. The film introduces Corinne Calvet, and features Sam Jaffe, John Bromfield, and Kenny Washington in supporting roles.[2] Desert portions of the film were shot in Yuma, Arizona.


Hunting guide Mike Davis (Burt Lancaster) came across a cache of diamonds in a mining area located in a remote region of South West Africa. He was caught by the mine's police but refused to reveal the diamonds' location, even under torture at the hand of the diamond company's security chief, Vogel. He left South Africa for some time.

Davis returns to get the diamonds which he still expects will be at the spot where he found them. The mining company's owner, Martingale (Claude Rains), tries to find out where the diamonds can be found by guile rather than force. He hires a beautiful prostitute, Suzanne Renaud (Corinne Calvet), to seduce Davis and get him to reveal the secret location. Davis plans an illegal entry into the diamond mining area to retrieve the diamonds and plans to escape to Portuguese Angola. Meanwhile, Vogel is attracted to Suzanne and offers to marry her. But Suzanne is attracted to Davis who is more interested in his diamonds than Suzanne. Davis finds the diamonds but Martingale threatens to kill Suzanne unless Davis gives him the diamonds. Davis gives up the diamonds and ends up leaving the country with Suzanne, discovering that he loves her more than the diamonds.



According to the Paramount Collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) library, the desert sequences were shot in Yuma, Arizona.[3]

Paul Henreid was blacklisted from major studios at the time but says he was cast because Dieterle was an old friend of his and Hal Wallis was supportive of the actor being cast. Henreid said the role was a departure for him but "it had the greatest lines in the script and I had a lot of fun doing it."[4]


Critical response

Film critic Glenn Erickson reflected on the background of the film and how it was received when first released, "A polished production on all technical levels, the gritty Rope of Sand was filmed from a screenplay purchased by producer Wallis specifically for Burt Lancaster in 1947. Although William Dieterle's direction is capable, the script works too hard to introduce an overly familiar collection of stock thriller types ... Critics generally liked Lancaster's performance, even if they slighted the work of Claude Rains and Peter Lorre and saved the bulk of their praise for Paul Henried's nasty villain. Lancaster's own assessment of the film was unprintable, but he was quoted at a time when he was itching to move on to more interesting roles.[5]




  1. ^ "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
  2. ^ Rope of Sand at IMDb.
  3. ^ TCM Movie Database. Notes Section (TCM web site in collaboration with the American Film Institute). Accessed: July 21, 2013.
  4. ^ Henreid, Paul; Fast, Julius (1984). Ladies man : an autobiography. St. Martin's Press. p. 194.
  5. ^ Glenn Erickson Glenn Erickson. DVD Savant, film/DVD review, March 27, 2011. Accessed: July 21, 2013.

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