The Great Escape

Trivia: While Steve McQueen performed most of his own stunts, the only stunt he didn't perform was the 60 foot jump over the Austrian-Swiss border fence. The jump was performed by stuntman Bud Ekins, who later doubled for McQueen in "Bullitt."

Trivia: Paul Brickhill, who wrote the novel the film is based on, was a member of the X organization which planned the escape.

Trivia: In the scene following Hilts' theft of a German motorcyle, he rolls into a German town, where he is stopped by a police officer; the officer says something to Hilts, who then kicks him away and rides off. He was asked for identification papers he didn't have.

Trivia: Donald Pleasance is the only actor to appear in both this film and the 1988 TV movie "The Great Escape II: The Untold Story"; here he plays one of the would be great escapees, and in the sequel, he played a member of the S.S.

Trivia: Donald Pleasence was an RAF pilot and a genuine POW. His plane was shot down, and he was interned in a German camp. In an interview about The Great Escape he said that the film's producers weren't interested in hearing his suggestions about making the camp scenes more realistic, so "I simply learned to shut my mouth."

Jean G

Trivia: The actual camp site, which can still be visited, is in Zagan, Poland, which was, during the war, part of the Greater Reich.

Trivia: David McCallum, whose character is killed at the railway station while trying to escape, says that his daughter Sophie has never been able to watch this movie, "Because she cannot stand the thought of seeing her father shot."

Jean G

Trivia: The actor Steve McQueen was no stranger to "cooler life"; he had a criminal record as a youth and while in the US Marines spent 41 days in the brig.

Trivia: While it is implied the camp commandant was arrested for allowing the escape to happen, he was actually arrested for his involvement in a black market operation.

Cubs Fan

Trivia: According to the DVD liner notes, audience members at the preview screening were so affected by the claustrophobic scenes in the escape tunnels, many, if not all, of them were still gripping their armrests when the film ended.

Cubs Fan

Factual error: A convoy of open trucks arrive at the camp bringing the latest batch of prisoners, many of whom are carrying rucksacks and tote bags of clothing and other possessions. Where did they come from? Combat servicemen in World War Two did not carry overnight bags with them - a change of clothes or a handy supply of toiletries was the least of their concerns. A prisoner of war arrived in the camp with the clothes he stood up in and nothing else.

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: These prisoners were being transferred from other camps to this camp. As Big X said, "they are putting all their eggs in one basket." It's likely they are carrying possessions they've acquired during their time in captivity.

What "possessions"? Do you think they had Oxfam shops in POW camps during World War 2? They would be dressed in their combat fatigues and nothing else.

Prisoners of war would receive Red Cross parcels, and may have also scrounged, made or been issued a few other bits and pieces. In particular, they'd probably have a change or two of underwear, some toiletries and a few books or games at the very least.

They would have possessions as they would receive parcels from home and Red Cross parcels.

POWs acquired possessions by hand-making, scrounging, care packages, 'selling' watches and rings to guards or local civilians.

Agreed, there was always a bit of trading going on for little trinkets. As has happened in many wars.

Ssiscool Premium member

They were universally known for their trading and scrounging abilities. Remember these were the "worst of the worst" in offending.

stiiggy

Just to clarify. They weren't exactly the "worst of the worst" for bad or incorrigible behavior. They were the best at attempting to escape POW camps or otherwise subverting their German captors. The fed-up Germans decided to contain them all in one prison to stop the constant breakouts. They only succeeded in creating a POW "think tank" by pooling together the most talented escape artists who combined their skills and knowledge.

raywest Premium member

In international conflicts, in addition to prisoners regularly receiving Red Cross care packages, the Geneva Convention requires that captors treat all POWs humanely, and provide food, clothing, housing, medical treatment, and hygiene. As mentioned, these prisoners brought their belongings with them from other camps. International Red Cross inspectors monitor POW camps for compliance. Failure to comply with the rules constitutes war crimes. Germany was generally more compliant than Japan. POW camps were to detain captured soldiers and prevent them rejoining the war, not to punish them as criminals. Once the war was over, POWs were repatriated.

raywest Premium member

The Great Escape was from a POW camp specifically set up to hold trouble makers from other camps. Also, sometimes people expect to be captured and prepare to for it! Today, during funeral of John Lewis, speakers repeatedly mentioned that he was carrying a backpack with 2 books, an apple, an orange and a tooth brush. Which haven't been seen since his head was beat in. A least one German Fortress commander, sworn to defend his fort until he and all those under his command were dead, surrendered with multiple suit cases to make his incarceration more comfortable. Like the character Yossarian in Catch-22. [Spoiler alert: he makes elaborate preparations to the paddle in a life raft from Italy to Sweden.].

More mistakes in The Great Escape

Group Capt. Ramsey: Colonel Von Luger, it is the sworn duty of all officers to try to escape. If they can't, it is their sworn duty to cause the enemy to use an inordinate number of troops to guard them and their sworn duty to harass the enemy to the best of their ability.
Col. Von Luger: Yes I know. The men under your authority have been most successful. This man, Ahsley-Pitt for example. Caught in the North Sea, escaped, recaptured, escaped, recaptured. Archibald "Archie" Ives: 11 escape attempts. He even tried to jump out of the truck coming here. Dickes, William: known to have paticipated in the digging of 11 escape tunnels. Flight Lieutenant Willinski: four escape attempts. MacDonald: nine, Hendley, the American: five, Haynes: four, Sedgewick: seven. The list is almost endless. One man here has made 17 attempted escapes. Group Captain, this is close to insanity.
Group Capt. Ramsey: Quite.
Col. Von Luger: And it must stop!

More quotes from The Great Escape

Question: Why is Hilts the only prisoner out of the 11 or so who are returned to the camp after the great escape the *only* one to be sent to the Cooler? Shouldn't the other escapees be sent there, too?

Answer: The other escapees undoubtedly faced some sort of punishment - Hilts was singled out for the Cooler as he caused the most disruption while free.

Tailkinker Premium member

Answer: Hilts was a habitual prison camp escapee. No matter how many times he was recaptured and punished, he continued to escape, agitating the Germans. He was called the "Cooler King" because of how much time he spent in isolation. That is likely why his punishment was swifter and more severe than the other prisoners.

raywest Premium member

More questions & answers from The Great Escape

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