Steve McQueen in The Great Escape

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The Great Escape

The Great Escape written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, and directed by John Sturges is a famous 1963 World War II film, based on a true story about Allied POWs with a record for escaping from POW camps. more...

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The Nazis and Gestapo place them in a new more secure German camp, from which they promptly form a plan to break out as many as 250 men.

Hollywood vs. history

The story was inspired by an actual escape from prison camp Stalag Luft III in 1944. While the film condenses various aspects of time and place, a disclaimer claims it to be true to the original as much as possible. This includes all the real-life details of the plans, tunnels, successes and tragic outcome of the "great escape." Paul Brickhill, an inmate of the original camp, wrote an account of the escape under the same name, upon which the film was based. However, despite the presence of the film's high-profile American stars, few Americans were involved in the actual escape. The Americans present were actually serving in either the British or Canadian military (mostly the RAF or RCAF, but John Dodge was in the British army). The POWs were mainly British, Canadian and Australian. (Refer to the prison camp link for more historical details.)

Featuring an all-star cast—including Steve McQueen (whose motorcycle chase is the film's most remembered action scene), Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and Donald Pleasence—The Great Escape is regarded as a classic and frequently repeated on television. The march tune that serves as the film's main theme, written by Elmer Bernstein, has also become an easily recognisable classic.

Film plot

In the film 76 men are said to have escaped from the camp. Most of them are captured although only a few are shown.

The ones that get captured are:

  • Man who hitchikes his way on a truck finds out that the driver has taken him to a large squad of German army men.
  • Hilts (Steve McQueen) uses a wire across two fence posts to trap a German infantry man driving past on a motorbike. He then puts on the German uniform and rides the bike to the Swiss border, where he finds he cannot get past the guards. After a long motorbike chase, he is captured entangled in barbed wire on the border with Switzerland.
  • Hendley (James Garner) takes over a trainer plane and flies it towards Switzerland, but he is forced to crashland and is captured by German troops after Colin, his passanger, is shot.
  • Roger (Richard Attenborough) and 'Mac' (Gordon Jackson) manage to evade capture several times, because of their good spoken German and French. But as they are boarding a bus, they are asked to see their papers by a Gestapo officer who speaks English. He tricks Mac by asking him a question in English which he answers. They make a break, but Mac is captured. Roger initially gets away (again by pretending to be German), but is finally captured by an officer who recognises him.

Almost all of the fifty men recaptured are executed during a "rest break" as they are being returned to the camp. But a few other men are killed. These are:

Read more at Wikipedia.org


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