DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY BILLY WILDER
DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY BILLY WILDER
Information From IMDb
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
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.
John Show Ranch, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
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