The Desert Song is the third film version of the famous Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein Jr. stage operetta. Gordon MacRae plays the wimpish American tutor of lovely Kathryn Grayson, the daughter of a military officer stationed in Arabia. Under cover of night, MacRae assumes the identity of the Red Shadow, head of the Riffs, who fights against the oppression of a cruel local potentate (Raymond Massey). Circumstances force MacRae to kidnap Grayson and spirit her away to his desert headquarters, where she eventually sees the wisdom of his mission and falls in love with him. With Grayson's help, the Red Shadow thwarts Massey's plans to massacre all "foreigners" living in his domain. The story was old-fashioned even when Desert Song was first produced in the 1920s, but the songs, including One Alone, The Riff Song and the title tune, still retain their audience appeal. The only serious detriment to the 1953 Desert Song is the comedy relief of Dick Wesson as a wisecracking American reporter, a wearisome carryover from the stage original.
by Hal Erickson synopsis