Stalag 17 (1953)

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    There are 17 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by WaynamoJim.

    • Stalag 17 (1953)

      STALAG 17


      Information From IMDb

      Plot Summary
      Set in a German POW Camp for enlisted American airmen, a spy is discovered to be living in one of the prison barracks after an escape attempt fails resulting in the deaths of two inmates. The prisoners at once suspect Sefton, an unscrupulous inside dealer who trades almost anything with the Germans for extra privileges. After Sefton is beaten up, he himself determines to find the real spy and the result is a mixture of intrigue and betrayal leading to a surprise ending.
      Written by Anthony Hughes

      William Holden ... Sgt. J.J. Sefton
      Don Taylor ... Lt. James Dunbar
      Otto Preminger ... Col. von Scherbach
      Robert Strauss ... Stanislas Kasava
      Harvey Lembeck ... Harry Shapiro
      Richard Erdman ... Sgt. 'Hoffy' Hoffman
      Peter Graves ... Price
      Neville Brand ... Duke
      Sig Ruman ... Sgt. Johann Schulz
      Michael Moore ... Manfredi
      Peter Baldwin ... Johnson
      Robinson Stone ... Joey
      Robert Shawley ... 'Blondie' Peterson
      William Pierson ... Marko the Mailman
      Gil Stratton ... Clarence Harvey 'Cookie' Cook (as Gil Stratton Jr.)
      Jay Lawrence ... Bagradian
      Erwin Kalser ... Geneva man
      Edmund Trzcinski ... Triz' Trzcinski
      and also a bit part for John Mitchum

      Writing credits
      Donald Bevan
      Edmund Trzcinski
      Billy Wilder
      Edwin Blum

      Produced by
      William Schorr .... associate producer
      Billy Wilder .... producer

      * The movie was shot in sequence (i.e., the scenes were filmed in the same order they're shown). Many of the actors were surprised by the final plot twist.

      * The uncredited soldier singing at the Christmas Party is Ross Bagdasarian, also known as 'Dave Seville' , the leader/creator/voice of 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' .

      * Stalag 17 was not the inspiration for the TV series "Hogan's Heroes" (1965), despite the presence of a character called "Sgt. Schultz" and a somewhat put-upon Kommandant. The creators of "Hogan's Heroes" were sued over this very issue and were victorious.

      * The role of Sefton was originally written for Charlton Heston. But as the role evolved and became more cynical, William Holden emerged as the director's choice. Holden was asked to see the play on which the movie was based. He walked out at the end of the first act. He was later convinced to at least read the screenplay.

      * William Holden's acceptance speech for Best Actor was the shortest in Academy history. He said only two words: "Thank You."

      * Charlton Heston was originally considered for the role of Sgt. J.J. Sefton, but when the script was altered to make the character less heroic, he was dropped in favor of someone more suitable for the role. Kirk Douglas stated he was next in line and declined the part, making William Holden the third choice.

      * William Holden did not like the part of Sefton at all as written in the script, thinking him too selfish. He kept asking Billy Wilder to make Sefton nicer and Wilder refused. Holden actually refused the role but was forced to do it by the studio.

      * Billy Wilder filmed the movie at a studio-owned ranch in Calabasas, California. He wore his best shoes and made sure cast and crew saw him with those shoes on in the mud. Wilder felt he could not ask his co-workers to work in the mud unless they saw him do the same.

      * This film was one of the biggest hits of Billy Wilder's career. He expected a big piece of the profits. The studio accountants informed him that since his last picture Ace in the Hole (1951) lost money, the money that picture lost would be subtracted from his profits on this film. Wilder left Paramount shortly after that.

      * Cameo: [Edmund Trzcinski] the P.O.W. who receives what is obviously (to everyone but him) a "Dear John" letter.

      * To improve the chances for commercial success in the West Germany Republic (at that time already an important market for Hollywood) a Paramount executive suggested to Wilder that he should make the camp guards Poles rather than Germans. Wilder, whose mother and stepfather had died in the concentration camps, furiously refused and demanded an apology from the executive. When it didn't come, Wilder did not extend his contract at Paramount

      * Albert William LaChasse Sr., had a bit part in the movie. He was hired by Paramount Pictures to be in several films after WWII. They bought him a SAG card and gave him a few lines in each film. Back then, there was no Screen Extras Guild. The real reason they made him an actor was a cheap way to use him as an Assistant Production Designer. He was actually a Prisoner of War for almost three years in Germany after being shot down in his B-17 by German Messcherschmidt Fighter pilot, Otto Peter Stammberger. The production depended heavily on his recollection of how the prison camp looked. He said it started out as a "B" movie, but after "New York" saw the dailies they gave Billy Wilder Carte Blanche.

      * Kirk Douglas claimed he was offered the William Holden role, but turned it down because he had not been impressed by the stage play on which the film was based.

      * The story takes place during the time of the "Battle of the Bulge" in Dec ,1944. The men learn about it on their secret radio before the Germans take it away.

      * Stalag 17 opened at the 48th Street Theater on May 8, 1951 and ran for 472 performances. Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Robert Shawley and William Pierson reprise their roles in the movie.

      * Incorrectly regarded as goofs: In at least two scenes, German solders are seen using US Browning 30 cal. machine guns; some still think of it as an error, but the use of captured enemy equipment was common by all sides in the war. A POW compound would be the ideal place to locate captured weapons, with a relatively limited ammo supply, while they still served to deter escape.

      * Continuity: Just before Sefton reveals the spy, he throws an open jackknife onto the table and says, "Here's the knife to do it with. Only make sure you got the right throat." The knife quivers and barely sticks in the table. Shortly after, the knife is stuck firmly in the table, more upright.

      * Audio/visual unsynchronized: As the last seconds the film begins to fade out, you see Cookie whistling "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again", but the audio is not in sync.

      * Continuity: Stanislas "Animal" Kasava is falling on his butt into the mud, but his white underwear isn't getting dirty. Two minutes later running to see the Russians girls, he falls again and then he's muddy all over.

      * Errors in geography: Its a week before Christmas. Every morning at 6:00 it's roll call for the prisoners of Stalag 17. Although in the middle of December in southern Germany the sun will never rise before 8:00 the roll call in the movie is in full daylight.

      * Anachronisms: The map of Germany in von Scherbach's office would in 1944 include not only Austria and Sudetenland but also Gdansk and the Polish Corridor, large parts of western Poland and the Saarland, all considered ethnically German by the Nazis and incorporated into the Reich.

      * Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): We learn from the escape plan in the beginning of the movie that the Stalag 17 prison camp is located on the river Danube near Linz, which is on the Austrian and German Border. Later in the movie, when the prisoners are watching the women in the Russian compound, Cookie claims that on a clear day, you could see the Swiss Alps with this telescope. Nobody could see the Swiss Alps with even the best telescope, from this point of view, because the Austrian Alps would definitely be in the way.

      * Factual errors: Schulz is identified as a Feldwebel or Sergeant but he is wearing the rank insignia of an 'Unteroffizier' or Corporal. The German Army's rank insignia were on the shoulder straps. A Feldwebel's insignia would be 'lace' that went around all edges of the shoulder strap plus a star or 'pip' on the strap. Schulz's shoulder straps do not have lace at the bottom of the strap nor do they have have stars; that is the insignia of an Unteroffizier.

      * Revealing mistakes: When Sefton is lying in his bunk with the back of his head to the guys that are marching around the chess table, he notices that the light cord is hanging lower, by its shadow. The problem is that at the moment he first notices it, the guys are all crowded together while marching around the chess table. He wouldn't have been able to pick out the light cord shadow amongst the shadow of all those guys.

      Filming Location
      John Show Ranch, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 3 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Re: Classic War Movies- Stalag 17 (1953)

      Stalag 17 is a 1953 war film which tells the story of a group of American airmen
      held in a German World War II prisoner of war camp, who come to suspect
      that one of their number is an informant. It was adapted from a Broadway play.

      Produced and directed by Billy Wilder, it starred William Holden, Don Taylor, Robert Strauss,
      Neville Brand, Harvey Lembeck, Peter Graves and Otto Preminger
      in the role of the camp's commandant. Strauss and Lembeck
      both appeared in the original Broadway production.

      The film was adapted by Wilder and Edwin Blum from the Broadway play
      by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski which was based on their experiences
      as prisoners in Stalag 17B in Austria. (Trzcinski appears in the film as a prisoner.)
      The play was directed by José Ferrer and was the Broadway debut of
      John Ericson as Sefton.
      First presented at the Edwin Burke Memorial Theater of The Lambs,
      a theatrical club, on March 11, 1951 (staged by the authors).
      It began its Broadway run in May 1951 and continued for 472 performances.
      The character Sefton was loosely based on Joe Palazzo,
      a flier in Trzcinski's prisoner-of-war barracks.

      The script was rewritten quite a bit by Wilder and Blum and the film was shot
      in chronological order (not the usual practice as that method is more expensive
      and time-consuming). In a featurette made later, members of the cast said
      that they themselves did not know the identity of the informant until the last three days of shooting.

      Peter Graves recalled the film was held from release for over a year due to
      Paramount Pictures not believing anyone would be interested in seeing a film #
      about prisoners of war.
      The 1953 release of American POWs from the Korean War led Paramount to release it on an exploitation angle.

      A great war classic directed by Billy Wilder,
      who's parents had died in concentation camps!
      William Holden, (third choice to Charlton Heston
      and Kirk Douglas,) scooped an Oscar,
      in his brilliant portayal as Sefton.
      His acceptance speech of

      Thank You
      being the shortest in Academy history!

      Otto 'In Harm's Way' Preminger, played a solid role,
      with the other supporting actors, turning in sturdy performances.

      One of the best of the P.O.W. movies.

      User Review

      A great film headed by a classic director and strong star William Holden
      4 August 2004 | by Dimonte (My House, Canada)

      user wrote:

      William Holden is always in the shadows in `Stalag 17', he's always behind the characters or off to the side of the camera. You see, despite Holden's character Sgt. J.J. Sefton being the film's main character, he is only seen through the eyes of his fellow POWs, rarely ever alone. When they start to think he's the spy so do we. Oh, sure, we know he isn't the rat (movies don't do things like that), but since the story is told by all of the POWs who think Sefton is the rat, we start to think like them too. That is the mastery of Billy Wilder's `Stalag 17', it takes the film's most interesting character and sets him apart from the rest for most of the film, letting us learn about him as the characters do.

      The story focuses on a group of POWs living in the American section of Stalag 17, supposedly the 's best POW camp. Among them are barracks chief Hoffy (Richard Erdman), Price (Peter Graves), Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck) and Animal Casava (Robert Strauss). They all have their own special job when their fellow prisoners try to escape, Price, for instance, is ‘security'. The film starts when two prisoners try to escape the barracks. Everyone inside is enthused, thinking the two will make it very far, except Sefton, who bets precious cigarettes that they wont make it past the outer forest. When he turns out to be right the POWs start thinking there's a rat and that rat is Sefton. And as the first hour passes we think so too, it's only logical, Sefton has any luxuries because of his deals with the s.

      The POWs start to bully Sefton, and once they beat him to a pulp he decides to discover who the real rat is (at this point, of course, we know he is ). His investigation isn't handled with dialogue though, we get this by seeing his facial expressions and his lurking in the shadows of the barracks.

      So, what starts as a light, `gung-ho' type war movie (there's lots of comedy in the first hour) turns into a dark, sort of gritty thriller with a twist that left me with my mouth open. I wont reveal it, but I'll just say that Sefton smartly solves the mystery and redeems himself to the rest of the barracks (I didn't spoil anything, come on, it's expected).

      As I said, there's lots of comedy in the first hour and some in the second, mostly from Strauss and Lembeck's characters. Some of the comedy is key in showing how these characters cope with their nearly hopeless situation, handled well by Wilder and the actors (Strauss' performance even gained him an Oscar nomination) but some of it just seems tacked on and out of place, like when a drunken Strauss thinks that Lembeck is a hell.

      But that is a small qualm, and the rest of the film is excellent. The direction and writing are great in showing us a war film, a mystery, a thriller and a dark comedy all at once. I'd have to say I like the acting the most though, Holden (who won a leading Oscar for his work in this) is suave and charming, as well as mischievous and cynical, he creates a real `cool' character without trying too. And the rest of the cast - Graves, Otto Preminger - are admirable as well. The POWs aren't clichés or caricatures, they're all their own separate people.

      `Stalag 17' is great as a war movie, a mystery, a thriller and a dark comedy. It's a classic film, for all who appreciate good cinema, 8.5/10.
      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 1 time, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Re: Classic War Movies- Stalag 17 (1953)

      Stalag 17, another timeless classic I never tire of watching. The whole cast was great in it. This is another I have probably seen at least 50 times-over the years. Nobody could beat Sig Ruman as Sergeant Schultz.
      Es Ist Verboten Mit Gefangenen In Einzelhaft Zu Sprechen..
    • Re: Classic War Movies- Stalag 17 (1953)

      One of my favorites, great cast. "anima" and harry....those moments were magic. Preminger did have a solid performance as the kommandant and Holden, always one of my favorites shone. I couldnt picture anyone else in the role as Sefton however, not even the Duke himself.

    • Re: Classic War Movies- Stalag 17 (1953)

      I quickie since the damned computer-or website messed up on me again today.

      The authors explanation for the differences between the Germans ranks for Corporal and Sergeant are misleading. What he does not say is that in the German Army, the rank of Unteroffizier-which literally means: Underofficer-is NOT solely a rank of Corporal-which are: Gefreiter, Obergefreiter and Stabsgefrieter-Lance Corporal, Corporal and Staff Corporal) and depends also on years of service. An Obergefreiter and Stabs Gefrieter are actually the same rank only the Staff Corporal has at least 6 years experiance and the Corporal does not.

      The rank of Unteroffizier IS equal to Corporal (Obergefreiter) and also to Feldwebel (Buck Sergeant) because of the various jobs that they did. Sergeants ranks are: Feldwebel, StabsFeldwebel, HauptFeldwebel and Der Spiess or-Sergeant Major.

      The usage fro Unteroffizier and it's exact rank meaniings depends on the soldiers job. The differences of German ranks can be very confusing and to be a Feldwebel-one does NOT have to have a Silver rank pip on his Shoulderboard-not Shoulderstraps or Epaulettes. A Feldwebels boared-the end facing the arm-would be closed off by a line of tresse.

      Their WWII ranks can be confusing-for instance-their words for Captain.

      Hauptmann and Rittmeister are used ONLY by their Army (Heer) and Air Force (Luftwaffe) Kapitan zur See is their Kriegsmarine (War Navy) rank for Captain. SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer was only used by the Waffen SS (Armed SS)
      Es Ist Verboten Mit Gefangenen In Einzelhaft Zu Sprechen..
    • Re: Classic War Movies- Stalag 17 (1953)

      Hi Jay, ha ha ha, that's a good possible answer ;-D I'm a collector of their rank insignia, and IM confused. You think you have seen it all, and wallah, you see something new almost everytime.
      Es Ist Verboten Mit Gefangenen In Einzelhaft Zu Sprechen..
    • Re: Classic War Movies- Stalag 17 (1953)

      I just watched it again about 2-3 days ago. This is another one i'll never get tired of. Pretty soon i'll rewatch all of my Gregory Peck war classics of: Twelve O'Clock high, The Guns of Navarone, The Sea Wolves, Pork Chop Hill and MacArthur.
      Es Ist Verboten Mit Gefangenen In Einzelhaft Zu Sprechen..