Ice Cold in Alex is a British film made in 1958, directed by J. Lee Thompson, and based on a series of articles written for the Saturday Evening Post published in book form in 1957.
Starring John Mills, Sylvia Sims, Harry Andrews, Diane Clare and Anthony Quayle, the film was a prizewinner at the 8th Berlin International Film Festival.
Set in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, a British unit at Tobruk is attacked by the Afrika Korps and forced to evacuate.
Captain Anson (Mills), a transport officer suffering from battle fatigue and alcoholism, gathers two nurses – Diana Murdoch (Sims) and Denise Norton (Clare) along with Sergeant Major Tom Pugh (Andrews) – and together they escape across the desert back to British lines at Alexandria (‘Alex’) in an Austin K2/Y ambulance, nicknamed ‘Katy’.
As they depart they meet an Afrikaner officer, Captain van der Poel (Quayle), who shows Anson two bottles of gin in his backpack – enough to persuade Anson to let him join the crew. Anson motivates himself by contemplating the ice cold lager he will drink when they finally reach Alex.
The film follows their perilous journey, during which they must endure the unrelenting hostility of the desert, minefields, the death of a crew member and mechanical failures. They also encounter the advancing Afrika Korps, but are aided throughout the journey by van der Poel, who speaks fluent German…
When they reach Alexandria they make their way to a bar where Anson orders a cold beer, in one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.