One of the great British WWII films of the 1950s, J. Lee Thompson’s Ice Cold in Alex is a gripping thriller about Captain Anson (John Mills) – an ofﬁcer commanding a British Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) motor ambulance company – and his efforts to transport two nurses through treacherous, enemy-occupied North Africa after the fall of Tobruk to Rommel’s Afrika Korps in May 1942, not realising there’s a German spy in his midst.
Joining Anson – who is suffering from exhaustion, battle fatigue and alcoholism – are Sgt. Major Tom Pugh (Harry Andrews) and the two young nurses: Diana Murdoch (Sylvia Syms) and a very panicky Denise Norton (Diane Clare), who initially has to be restrained and sedated. The vehicle they drive across the desert back to British lines is a worn-out Austin K2/Y ambulance, nicknamed “Katy.”
When the group stops at a refuelling station they are joined by Captain van der Poel (Anthony Quayle), a tall and muscular Afrikaner South African Army ofﬁcer.
Shot in Libyan parts of the Sahara, particularly memorable moments include the group’s nail-biting traversal of a minefield, peril by quicksand, and the iconic final scene of the survivors sharing a cold beer in Alexandria (the “Alex” of the title) – possibly the most thirst-quenching drinks in cinema history.
Sister Diana Murdoch
Captain van der Poel
Sister Denise Norton
J Lee Thompson