The Great Escape (film)
The Great Escape is a 1963 American epic war film starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough and featuring James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, and Hannes Messemer. It was filmed in Panavision.
|The Great Escape|
Theatrical release poster by Frank McCarthy
|Directed by||John Sturges|
|Produced by||John Sturges|
|Based on||The Great Escape|
by Paul Brickhill
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Cinematography||Daniel L. Fapp|
|Edited by||Ferris Webster|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$11.7 million|
The film is based on Paul Brickhill's 1950 nonfiction book of the same name, a firsthand account of the mass escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from German POW camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland), in the province of Lower Silesia, Nazi Germany. The film was based on real events but deviated significantly from the historical record, depicting a heavily fictionalized version of the escape, including numerous compromises—such as featuring Americans among the escapees—in order to boost its commercial appeal.
It was made by The Mirisch Company, released by United Artists, and produced and directed by John Sturges. The film had its Royal World Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London's West End on 20 June 1963. The film became very popular and emerged as one of the highest-grossing films of the year, winning McQueen the award for Best Actor at the Moscow International Film Festival, and is now considered a classic. The Great Escape is also notable for its motorcycle chase scene and famous jump scene, which is considered one of the best stunts ever performed.
In 1942, having expended enormous resources on recapturing escaped Allied POWs, the German armed forces move the most determined to a new, high-security prisoner-of-war camp supervised by Luftwaffe Colonel von Luger.
Prisoners try to escape almost immediately; USAAF Captain Virgil Hilts and Scottish RAF Flying Officer Archibald "Archie" Ives are both imprisoned in isolation in the "cooler" (solitary confinement block).
The prisoners' escape committee mount an audacious plan to tunnel out of the camp and break out 250 men, not only to escape, but so that as many troops and resources as possible will be wasted on finding POWs. Led by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, "Big X", and senior British officer Group Captain Ramsey, the men organise into teams. American Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley is "the scrounger" and blackmailer, who finds anything from a camera to identity cards. Australian Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick, "the manufacturer", makes tools like picks and bellows for pumping air into the tunnels. Flight Lieutenants Danny Velinski and William "Willie" Dickes are "the tunnel kings" in charge of digging. Flight Lieutenant Andrew MacDonald, Bartlett's second-in-command, gathers and provides intelligence. Lieutenant Commander Eric Ashley-Pitt of the Royal Navy devises a method of dispersing soil from the tunnels under the guards' noses. Flight Lieutenant Griffith is "the tailor", creating civilian outfits from scavenged cloth. Forgery is handled by Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe. The prisoners work on three tunnels simultaneously, calling them "Tom", "Dick", and "Harry". The work noise is covered by the prisoner choir led by Flt. Lt. Dennis Cavendish, the surveyor.
Hilts and Ives escape again, in vain. When Hilts is released from the cooler, Bartlett asks him to escape, scout the area immediately surrounding the camp and allow himself to be recaptured; Hilts refuses. Meanwhile, Hendley forms a friendship with German guard Werner, exploiting it to obtain travel documents and other needed items. Soon, Bartlett orders "Dick" and "Harry" sealed off: "Tom" is closest to completion. The prisoners are enjoying a 4th of July celebration arranged by the Americans when the guards discover "Tom". Despondent, Ives frantically climbs the barbed wire fence and is shot dead.
The prisoners switch their efforts to "Harry", and Hilts agrees to provide reconnaissance from outside the camp. The information he brings back is used to create maps to guide the escapees. Blythe discovers that he is going blind due to progressive myopia; Hendley takes it upon himself to be Blythe's guide in the escape. The last part of the tunnel is completed on the scheduled night, but it proves to be twenty feet (about 6 m) short of the woods due to faulty surveying. Knowing there are no other options, Bartlett orders the escape to go ahead. The claustrophobic Danny nearly refuses to go, but is helped along by Willie. Seventy-six prisoners get away, aided by an air-raid blackout. The escape is discovered when Griffith impatiently exits the tunnel in view of a guard.
All 76 POWs flee through various parts of the Third Reich. Danny and Willie steal a rowboat and proceed downstream to a major port, where they board a Swedish merchant ship. Sedgwick steals a bicycle, then rides hidden on a train to France, where the French Resistance get him to Spain. Cavendish hitches a ride in a truck but is delivered to the authorities, discovering many other fellow prisoners recaptured. Hendley and Blythe steal a plane to fly over the Swiss border, but the engine fails, and they crash-land. Blythe is shot by German soldiers. As he dies, he thanks Hendley for getting him out. Hendley is recaptured. Hilts steals a motorcycle at a checkpoint, jumping a series of barbed-wire fences at the German-Swiss border to escape from German soldiers; he lands in the wire of the second fence and is recaptured. While waiting to pass through a Gestapo checkpoint at a railway station, Bartlett is recognized by Kuhn, a Gestapo agent; Ashley-Pitt sacrifices himself by killing Kuhn, and is shot and killed. Bartlett and MacDonald slip away, but MacDonald blunders by replying in English to a suspicious Gestapo officer. MacDonald is quickly apprehended, and Bartlett is recognized and recaptured by Untersturmführer Steinach, an SS agent.
In mid-transport, prisoners in one truck, including Bartlett, MacDonald and Cavendish, are invited to stretch their legs in a field, whereupon they are all shot dead on the pretense that they were trying to escape. Hilts, Hendley and ten others are returned to the camp. In all, 50 men were killed, 23 were caught and only 3 successfully escaped. Von Luger is relieved of command. Hilts goes to the cooler where he optimistically plans another escape, as he has done before.
- Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts "The Cooler King": one of three Americans in the camp, Hilts irritates guards with frequent escape attempts and an irreverent attitude, to the point that he is regularly confined in isolation in the cooler. He has a habit of bouncing a baseball against the cooler cell wall to entertain himself, as he plans an escape attempt.
- James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley "The Scrounger": a US citizen serving in an RAF Eagle Squadron. He is responsible for finding materials that will be necessary for the POWs on the outside.
- Richard Attenborough as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett "Big X": an ambitious RAF officer, himself a veteran escaper and a survivor of torture by the Gestapo, Bartlett is the principal organiser of escapes and is known as "Big X" of the camp escape committee and mounts an audacious plan to tunnel out of the camp.
- Charles Bronson as Flight Lieutenant Danny Velinski "Tunnel King": a Polish refugee who escaped Nazi-held Poland and went to England to join up in the fight against the Nazis. He suffers from claustrophobia and is fearful of tunnel collapses, primarily coming from his previous experience digging 17 escape tunnels.
- James Donald as Group Captain Ramsey "The SBO": the Senior British Officer and de facto commanding officer of the prisoners, he serves as an intermediary between the POWs and the Germans. Due to his disability (he walks with a cane), he is unable to participate in the escape.
- Donald Pleasence as Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe "The Forger": a mild-mannered and good-natured man with a love of bird-watching.
- James Coburn as Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick "The Manufacturer": an Australian officer who constructs objects necessary to implement the escape.
- Hannes Messemer as Oberst von Luger "The Kommandant": the Commandant of the camp and a senior Luftwaffe officer, von Luger is very civil with the POWs, and is openly anti-Nazi, especially embittered with the SS and Gestapo. When Gestapo agent Kuhn orders that Bartlett receive strict confinement, von Luger disregards the command with complete contempt, saying that Allied prisoners of war are the Luftwaffe's responsibility.
- David McCallum as Lieutenant-Commander Eric Ashley-Pitt "Dispersal": a Fleet Air Arm officer who finds an ingenious way to get rid of the dirt being brought up from the tunnels.
- Gordon Jackson as Flight Lieutenant Andrew MacDonald "Intelligence": Bartlett's second-in-command in planning the escape.
- John Leyton as Flight Lieutenant William "Willie" Dickes "Tunnel King": Danny's best friend, who seeks to encourage Danny during his struggles with claustrophobia.
- Angus Lennie as Flying Officer Archibald "Archie" Ives "The Mole": a Scottish airman who has an intense desire to escape, leading him to the precipice of paranoia.
- Nigel Stock as Flight Lieutenant Dennis Cavendish "The Surveyor": a Flight Lieutenant who has an important duty for the building of the tunnel.
- Robert Graf as Werner "The Ferret": a young, naive guard, with whom Hendley forms a friendship, which he exploits as a means of obtaining his private documents, and then blackmails to get hold of other items needed for the escape.
- Jud Taylor as Second Lieutenant Goff: the third American in the camp.
- Harry Riebauer as Stabsfeldwebel Strachwitz, the senior NCO amongst the German guards.
- William Russell as Sorren
- Robert Freitag as Hauptmann Posen
- Lawrence Montaigne as Haynes "Diversions"
- Robert Desmond as Griffith "Tailor"
- Til Kiwe as Frick
- Heinz Weiss as Kramer
- Tom Adams as Dai Nimmo "Diversions"
- Ulrich Beiger as Preissen: a high-ranking Gestapo official, and an ardent Nazi. He has a condescending attitude and is the one who brings the captured Bartlett to the camp. He has disdain for von Luger and the Luftwaffe's honorable treatment of the prisoners, and believes the camp should be brought under the jurisdiction of the SS – the Gestapo in particular.
- Hans Reiser as Kuhn: a Gestapo agent and associate of Preissen. He accompanies Preissen when they bring the captured Bartlett to the camp. An ardent Nazi, he orders von Luger that Bartlett be kept under the most restrictive permanent security confinement, which von Luger refuses to do. Kuhn warns Bartlett that if he escapes again, he will be shot.
- George Mikell as SS Obersturmführer Dietrich: one of the SS agents who had Bartlett transferred to the camp.
- Karl-Otto Alberty as SS Untersturmführer Steinach: one of the SS agents who had Bartlett transferred to the camp.
In 1963, the Mirisch brothers worked with United Artists to adapt Paul Brickhill's 1950 book The Great Escape. Brickhill had been a very minor member of the X Organisation at Stalag Luft III, who acted as one of the "stooges" who monitored German movements in the camp. The story had been adapted as a live TV production, screened by NBC as an episode of The Philco Television Playhouse on January 27, 1951. The live broadcast was praised for engineering an ingenious set design for the live broadcast, including creating the illusion of tunnels. The film's screenplay was adapted by James Clavell, W. R. Burnett, and Walter Newman.
Steve McQueen's Virgil Hilts, "The Cooler King", was based on at least three pilots, David M. Jones, John Dortch Lewis, and William Ash. McQueen has been credited with the most significant performance. Critic Leonard Maltin wrote that "the large, international cast is superb, but the standout is McQueen; it's easy to see why this cemented his status as a superstar". This film established his box-office clout.
Richard Attenborough's Sqn Ldr Roger Bartlett RAF, "Big X", was based on Roger Bushell, the South African-born British POW who was the mastermind of the real Great Escape. This was the film that first brought Attenborough to common notice in the United States. During the Second World War, Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force. He volunteered to fly with the Film Unit and after further training (where he sustained permanent ear damage) he qualified as a sergeant. He flew on several missions over Europe, filming from the rear gunner's position to record the outcome of Bomber Command sorties. (Richard Harris was originally announced for the role.)
Group Captain Ramsey RAF, "the SBO", was based on Group Captain Herbert Massey, a WWI veteran who had volunteered in WWII. He is played by James Donald. Massey walked with a limp, and in the movie Ramsey walks with a cane. Massey had suffered severe wounds to the same leg in both wars. There would be no escape for him, but as Senior British Officer he had to know what was going on. Group Captain Massey was a veteran escaper himself and had been in trouble with the Gestapo. His experience allowed him to offer sound advice to the X-Organisation. Another officer who likely inspired the character of Ramsey was Wing Commander Harry Day.
Flt Lt Colin Blythe RAF, "The Forger", was based on Tim Walenn and played by Donald Pleasence. Pleasence himself had served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. He was shot down and spent a year in German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft I.
Charles Bronson had been a gunner in the USAAF and had been wounded, but he had not been shot down. Like his character, Danny Valinski, he suffered from claustrophobia because of his childhood work in a mine.
Hannes Messemer's Commandant, "Colonel von Luger", was based on Oberst Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau. He had been a POW in Russia during World War II and had escaped by walking hundreds of miles to the German border. He was wounded by Russian fire, but was not captured by the Russians. He surrendered to British forces and then spent two years in a POW facility in London known as the London Cage.
The film is accurate in showing that only three escapees made home runs, although the people who made them differed from those in the film. The escape of Danny and Willie in the film is based on two Norwegians who escaped by boat to Sweden, Per Bergsland and Jens Müller. The successful escape of James Coburn's Australian character, Sedgwick (the manufacturer), via Spain was based on Dutchman Bram van der Stok. Coburn, an American, was cast in the role of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick who was an amalgamation of Flt Lt Albert Hake, an Australian serving in the RAF, the camp's compass maker, and Johnny Travis, the real manufacturer.
Tilman 'Til Kiwe' Kiver played the German guard "Frick", who discovers the escape. Kiwe had been a German paratrooper officer who was captured and held prisoner at a POW camp in Colorado. He made several escape attempts, dyeing his uniform and carrying forged papers. He was captured in the St. Louis train station during one escape attempt. He won the Knight's Cross before his capture and was the cast member who had actually performed many of the exploits shown in the film.
The film was made on location in Germany at the Bavaria Film Studio in the Munich suburb of Geiselgasteig in rural Bavaria, where sets for the barrack interiors and tunnels were constructed. The camp was built in a clearing of the Perlacher Forst (Perlacher Forest) near the studio. The German town near the real camp was Sagan (now Żagań, Poland); it was renamed Neustadt in the film. Many scenes were filmed in and around the town of Füssen in Bavaria, including its railway station. The nearby district of Pfronten, with its distinctive St. Nikolaus Church and scenic background, also appears often in the film. Many scenes involving the railway were filmed near Deisenhofen station and on the Großhesselohe – Holzkirchen line. The castle Hendley and Blythe fly by while attempting to escape is Neuschwanstein Castle.
The motorcycle chase scenes with the barbed wire fences were shot on meadows outside Füssen, and the "barbed wire" that Hilts crashes into before being recaptured was simulated by strips of rubber tied around barbless wire, constructed by the cast and crew in their spare time. Insurance concerns prevented McQueen from performing the film's notable motorcycle leap, which was done by his friend and fellow cycle enthusiast Bud Ekins, who resembled McQueen from a distance. When Johnny Carson later tried to congratulate McQueen for the jump during a broadcast of The Tonight Show, McQueen said, "It wasn't me. That was Bud Ekins." Other parts of the chase were done by McQueen, playing both Hilts and the soldiers chasing him, because of his skill on a motorcycle. The motorcycle was a Triumph TR6 Trophy which was painted to look like a German machine. The restored machine is currently on display at Triumph's factory at Hinckley, England.
The film's iconic music was composed by Elmer Berstein, who gave each major character their own musical motif based on the Great Escape's main theme.  Its enduring popularity helped Bernstein live off the score's royalties for the rest of his life. Critics have said the film score succeeds because it uses rousing militaristic motifs with interludes of warmer softer themes that humanizes the prisoners and endears them to audiences; the music also captures the bravery and defiance of the POWs. The main title's patriotic march has since become popular in Britain, particularly with sports such as fans of the England national football team. However, in 2016, the sons of Elmer Berstein openly criticized the use of the Great Escape theme by the Vote Leave campaign in the UK Brexit referendum, saying "Our father would never have allowed Ukip to use his music because he would have strongly opposed the party’s nativism and thinly disguised bigotry."
- Intrada Records (release)
In 2011 Intrada, a company specializing in film soundtracks, released a digitized re-mastered version of the full film score based on the original 1/4" two-track stereo sessions and original 1/2" three-channel stereo masters.
|2.||"At First Glance"||3:07|
|4.||"If At Once"||2:31|
|8.||""X"/Tonight We Dig"||1:30|
|12.||"The Plan/The Sad Ives"||1:43|
|14.||"Hilts And Ives"||0:38|
|5.||"Released Again/Escape Time"||5:25|
|6.||"20 Feet Short"||3:06|
|8.||"At The Station"||1:33|
|9.||"On The Road"||3:27|
|10.||"The Chase/First Casualty"||6:49|
|12.||"More Action/Hilts Captured"||6:07|
|15.||"Three Gone/Home Again"||3:13|
|3.||"Cooler And Mole"||2:26|
|7.||"On The Road"||2:54|
The Great Escape grossed $11.7 million at the box office, after a budget of $4 million. It became one of the highest-grossing films of 1963, despite heavy competition. In the years since its release, its audience has broadened, cementing its status as a cinema classic. It was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival, where McQueen won the Silver Prize for Best Actor.
Critical and public response has mostly been enthusiastic, with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In 1963, The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote: "But for much longer than is artful or essential, The Great Escape grinds out its tormenting story without a peek beneath the surface of any man, without a real sense of human involvement. It's a strictly mechanical adventure with make-believe men." British film critic Leslie Halliwell described it as "pretty good but overlong POW adventure with a tragic ending". The Time magazine reviewer wrote in 1963: "The use of colour photography is unnecessary and jarring, but little else is wrong with this film. With accurate casting, a swift screenplay, and authentic German settings, Producer-Director John Sturges has created classic cinema of action. There is no sermonizing, no soul probing, no sex. The Great Escape is simply great escapism".
In a 2006 poll in the United Kingdom, regarding the family film that television viewers would most want to see on Christmas Day, The Great Escape came in third, and was first among the choices of male viewers.
In an article for the British Film Institute, “10 great prisoner of war films,” updated in August 2018, Samuel Wigley wrote that watching films like The Great Escape and the 1955 British film The Colditz Story, “for all their moments of terror and tragedy, is to delight in captivity in times of war as a wonderful game for boys, an endless Houdini challenge to slip through the enemy’s fingers. Often based on true stories of escape, they have the viewer marvelling at the ingenuity and seemingly unbreakable spirit of imprisoned soldiers.” He described The Great Escape as “the epitome of the war-is-fun action film,” which became “a fixture of family TV viewing...”
Awards and nominationsEdit
- Nominated Academy Award for Film Editing (Ferris Webster)
- Nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Picture
- Winner Moscow International Film Festival Best Actor (Steve McQueen)
- Nominated Moscow International Film Festival Grand Prix (John Sturges)
- Selected National Board of Review Top Ten Films of Year
- Nominated Writers Guild of America Best Written American Drama (James Clavell, W. R. Burnett) (Screenplay Adaptation)
- 19th place in AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills
On 24 March 2014, the 70th anniversary of the escape, the RAF staged a commemoration of the escape attempt, with 50 serving personnel each carrying a photograph of one of the shot men.
On 24 March 2019, the RAF held another event for the 75th anniversary of the escape. There was a screening of the film at London's Eventim Hammersmith Apollo, hosted by Dan Snow. The film was simulcast with other cinemas throughout the UK.
A fictional, made-for-television sequel, The Great Escape II: The Untold Story, was released in 1988, with different actors, directed by Jud Taylor (who played 2nd Lt. Goff in the 1963 film). The film is not a true sequel, as it dramatizes the escape itself just as the original film does, although mostly using the real names of the individuals involved (whereas the original film fictionalized them and used composite characters). It depicts the search for the culprits responsible for the murder of the 50 Allied officers. Donald Pleasence appears in a supporting role as a member of the SS.
In popular cultureEdit
- The films Chicken Run, Reservoir Dogs, the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, Top Secret!, Charlie's Angels, and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult all contain references or homages to the film.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Simpsons, Hogan's Heroes, Nash Bridges, Seinfeld, Get Smart, Fugget About It, Archer, Goodness Gracious Me, Shaun the Sheep, and Red Dwarf have all parodied or paid homage to the film.
- In "Escape From Stalag Luft 112B", an episode of Ripping Yarns, Maj. Errol Phipps (played by Michael Palin) is depicted as being the only prisoner of war never to escape from the camp.
- In the British television comedy series Mitchell & Webb, a sketch called "Cheesoid" features a scene where a character who has lost their sense of smell locates a clove of garlic deliberately placed beforehand on the floor, in the same way that Blythe places the pin on the floor in the film. Another sketch involving a German-language version of the gameshow Numberwang sees an English contestant tricked into revealing her nationality in the same way that MacDonald is tricked by the Gestapo agent.
- The 1986 video game The Great Escape for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and DOS platforms, shares a title and similar plot to the movie. The game follows an unnamed prisoner of war who has been interned in a P.O.W. camp somewhere in northern Germany in 1942.
- In the first of two Ford commercials in which Steve McQueen's likeness from the film Bullitt was used, McQueen parks his car in a studio apartment garage beside the Mustang from Bullitt and the motorcycle from The Great Escape.
- The 2003 video game The Great Escape for Xbox and PlayStation 2, is based on the film. The plot-line follows that of the film of the same name, except there are also levels featuring some of the characters' first captures and early escape attempts, as well as a changed ending.
- The 2004 video game Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which takes place a year after the movie was released, references the movie in a Codec transmission early in the game. Major Zero, who at the time was using the code name Major Tom, discloses in a conversation to Naked Snake that he chose the name based on what he thought was the tunnel the prisoners used to escape. He later learned that he chose the wrong one; the tunnel was Harry, not Tom.
- Bernstein's Great Escape theme tune has been taken up by the Pukka Pies England Band, a small brass band who have played in the crowd at England football team matches since 1996. They released an arrangement of the theme as a single for the 1998 FIFA World Cup and a newer version for UEFA Euro 2000.
- Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood features Leonardo DiCaprio, as lead character Rick Dalton, in a scene where Dalton almost lands the role of Steve McQueen's character, Hilts.
The film was largely fictional, with changes made to increase its drama and appeal to an American audience, and to serve as vehicle for its box-office stars. Many details of the actual escape attempt were changed for the film, including the roles of American personnel in both the planning and the escape. While the characters are fictitious, they are based on real men, in most cases being composites of several people. The screenwriters significantly increased the involvement of American POWs; the real escape was by largely British and other Allied personnel, with the exception of Johnnie Dodge, who was naturalized British but retained US citizenship. (He married an American.) He served in the Royal Navy, British Army and (by manipulating records) the RAF. A few other American officers in the camp initially helped dig the tunnels and worked on the early plans. However, they were moved away seven months before the escape, which ended their involvement.
The film omits the crucial role that Canadians played in building the tunnels and in the escape itself. Of the 1,800 or so POWs, 600 were involved in preparations: 150 of those were Canadian. Wally Floody, an RCAF pilot and mining engineer who was the real-life "tunnel king", was engaged as a technical advisor for the film.
The film shows the tunnel codenamed Tom with its entrance under a stove and Harry's in a drain sump in a washroom. In reality, Dick's entrance was the drain sump, Harry's was under the stove, and Tom's was in a darkened corner next to a stove chimney.
Ex-POWs asked film-makers to exclude details about the help they received from their home countries, such as maps, papers, and tools hidden in gift packages, lest it jeopardise future POW escapes. The film-makers complied.
The film omits to mention that many Germans willingly helped in the escape itself. The film suggests that the forgers were able to make near-exact replicas of just about any pass that was used in Nazi Germany. In reality, the forgers received a great deal of assistance from Germans who lived many hundreds of miles away on the other side of the country. Several German guards, who were openly anti-Nazi, also willingly gave the prisoners items and assistance of any kind to aid their escape.
The need for such accuracy produced much eyestrain, but unlike in the film, there were no cases of blindness. Some, such as Frank Knight, gave up forging because of the strain, but he certainly did not suffer the same ocular fate as the character of Colin Blythe in the film. In fact, no one in the film says that Colin Blythe's blindness is the result of eyestrain. He identifies his problem as “Progressive myopia” suggesting that he has not only heard of the condition but has also been diagnosed.
The film depicts the escape taking place in exceptionally fine weather, whereas at the time it was freezing, and snow lay thick on the ground.
In reality there were no escapes by aircraft or motorcycle: McQueen requested the motorcycle sequence, which shows off his skills as a keen motorcyclist. He did the stunt riding himself (except for the final jump, done by Bud Ekins). The movie shows the murders of the fifty prisoners as a single massacre; in reality, they were shot individually or in pairs.
In addition, the film says the three prisoners who escaped to freedom were British, Polish, and Australian; in reality, they were Norwegian (Jens Müller and Per Bergsland) and Dutch (Bram van der Stok).
In 2009, seven POWs returned to Stalag Luft III for the 65th anniversary of the escape and watched the film. According to the veterans, many details of the first half depicting life in the camp were authentic, e.g. the death of Ives, who tries to scale the fence, and the actual digging of the tunnels.
The film has kept the memory of the 50 executed airmen alive for decades and has made their story known worldwide, if in a distorted form.
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- "Inside Tunnel "Harry"". Nova: Great Escape. PBS Online. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- “Progressive myopia,” also known as degenerative myopia, is a specific condition that often begins in childhood. https://aapos.org/glossary/progressive-high-myopia
- The Great Escape, the Internet Movie Database. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0674407/
- Wade, Robert J. "The Great Escape." Radio Age 10.3 (April 1951). Available at https://archive.org/stream/radioageresearch195052newyrich#page/n103/mode/2up
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- Maltin, Leonard (1999). Leonard Maltin's Family Film Guide. New York: Signet. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-451-19714-6.
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- "'Mutiny' Director Find Make Deals: Bogarde in 'Living Room'; Du Pont Scion Plans Three" Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times, 2 March 1962: C13.
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- Vance 2000, p. 44: "Now sporting a huge, bushy moustache ... he set to work arranging the operations of the forgery department"
- DVD extra
- Carroll, Tim (2004). The Great Escapers. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84018-904-9.
- Rubin, Steven Jay (July 25, 2011). Combat Films: American Realism, 1945–2010, 2d ed. – Steven Jay Rubin – Google Books. ISBN 978-0-7864-8613-7. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
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- Riml, Walter (2013). Behind the scenes... The Great Escape. Helma Turk & Dr. Christian Riml. pp. 28, 44ff. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
- Whistance, Don J. (2014). "The Great Escape Locations Site". thegreatescapelocations.com. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
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- Rubin, Steve. – Documentary: Return to 'The Great Escape. – MGM Home Entertainment. – 1993.
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There's a chase sequence in there where the Germans were after [McQueen], and he was so much a better rider than they were, that he just ran away from them. And you weren't going to slow him down. So they put a German uniform on him, and he chased himself!
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Great Escape (film)|
- The Great Escape on IMDb
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- The Great Escape at AllMovie
- The Great Escape at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Great Escape at Box Office Mojo
- James Garner Interview on the Charlie Rose Show (See 30:23–34:47 of video.)
- New publication with private photos of the shooting & documents of 2nd unit cameraman Walter Riml
- Photos of the filming
- The Great Escape locations
- The Great Escape at Rotten Tomatoes