A common question asked about Stalag 17 is, “Did it come from a book?” No, it didn’t come from a book, but from a fairly successful play. But like many scripts that arrive in Hollywood, it received heavy rewriting. Perhaps the reason the movie envelopes audiences is the great care Billy Wilder took to make sure the authenticity of the camp was captured as accurately as possible. You can feel the texture of the shabby barracks with its weathered walls and mud-slogged yard. Your skin tightens with the thought of the cold the prisoners are huddled against. And very prevalent is the dark humor flowing from crass mouths struggling to find cheer in a cheerless environment. Wilder takes us to a situation so true-to-life that, when the story starts and character motivations are revealed, we’re also made prisoners of the stalag and unfolding events. He worked to keep an air of suspense amongst the cast as well by filming the movie chronologically. He hid a key plot element from most of the cast until the last few days of shooting. Wilder so masterfully maintained the illusion that more than half a century later, Stalag 17 can still take viewers back to a frigid WWII P.O.W. camp as effectively as when it was released. And just as effectively capture new audiences with its story. It remains one of the best prison escape stories of all time.
Won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.