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Trivia & Fun Facts About THE GREAT ESCAPE

Thursday July, 12 2018 at 08:00 PM

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For the London premiere of The Great Escape, Sturges received the highest civilian honor from the British Air Force, Friend of the RAF. Five RAF bands paraded in front of the Strand Theatre at the opening and jets buzzed in formation overhead.

The Great Escape was one of the top grossing U.S. films during its release in 1963.

The real-life escape on which the story is based took place on March 24, 1944. Steve McQueen was born on March 24, 1930.

Although in the movie it appears that the camp commandant, Colonel von Luger, is taken away by the Gestapo for having allowed the massive escape to occur, in real life the commander was arrested for his involvement in a black market operation uncovered during an investigation of the escape.

During production, Charles Bronson met David McCallum's wife, actress Jill Ireland, and joked to his co-star that he was going to steal her away from him. McCallum and Ireland divorced in 1967 and she married Bronson.

James Clavell, only one of two writers credited for their work on the script, was the author of a 1962 novel about a Japanese prisoner of war camp, King Rat, which took a decidedly darker view of the experience. The book was made into a film in 1965. Clavell also wrote the novels Tai-Pan and Shogun and the screenplays for The Fly (1958) and To Sir, with Love (1967).

The execution of the fifty recaptured escapees - which didn't happen as one mass murder as depicted in the movie - was one of the charges at the Nuremburg War Crimes trials of former Nazi leaders.

Donald Pleasence's character, the forger Blythe, is said to have been based in part on British-born John Cordwell, who later became a prominent Chicago architect and proprietor of the city's Red Lion Pub. Other stories claim the forger in the real-life "Great Escape" was James Hill, who became a writer, producer and director (Born Free, 1966).

In an interview about the production, director John Sturges said McQueen and Garner later made a racing film together. Actually, both made movies about racing but never acted in a film together again. McQueen made Le Mans in 1971 and Garner starred in Grand Prix in 1966.

The men executed after the escape were commemorated with plaques placed near the site of the camp close to Sagan, in what is now Poland.

Charles Bronson worked with John Sturges three times previous to The Great Escape; in Bronson's second (uncredited) film role in The People Against O'Hara (1951), Never So Few (1959) and The Magnificent Seven (1960), both of which also featured Steve McQueen. Later, Bronson worked with Sturges on a European-made Western, Valdez, il mezzosangue (1973) aka Chino.

Sturges directed James Garner again in Hour of the Gun (1967), a return to the Wyatt Earp story Sturges had explored earlier in his Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).

The Oscar®-nominated editing on The Great Escape was by Ferris Webster, who also received Academy Award nods for his work on The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Blackboard Jungle (1955).

The cinematographer of The Great Escape was Daniel L. Fapp, who won an Academy Award for West Side Story (1961) and was nominated six other times, including his work on Sturges's film Marooned (1969).

Memorable Quotes from THE GREAT ESCAPE

COL. VON LUGER (Hannes Messemer): There will be no escapes from this camp.
CAPT. RAMSAY (James Donald): 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.

VON LUGER: Are all American officers so ill-mannered?
HILTS (Steve McQueen): Yeah, about 99 percent.

BIG X (Richard Attenborough): I'm going to cause such a terrible stink in this Third Reich of theirs that thousands of troops that could well be employed at the front will be tied up looking after us.
BIG X: By putting more men out of this perfect camp of theirs than have ever escaped before.

BLITHE (Donald Pleasence): Tea without milk is so uncivilized.

HILTS: How many you taking out?
BIG X: Two hundred fifty.
HILTS: Two hundred fifty?!
BIG X: Yup.
HILTS: You're crazy. You, ought to be locked up. You, too. Two hundred fifty guys just walking down the road, just like that!

HILTS: American moonshine. Don't smoke right after you drink it.

ASHLEY-PITT (David McCallum): See you in Picadilly.

VON LUGER: It looks after all as if you will see Berlin before I do.

Compiled by Rob Nixon