The Great Escape

Character mistake: The scene in the outdoor Parisian cafe is incredibly daft. First, the cafe owners call James Coburn's bizarrely-accented Australian to the telephone to keep him out of the way as their accomplices assassinate three uniformed German officers seated in the cafe in a drive by shooting. They then toast the killings with cognac, and that is the mistake - not the shootings, not the luring away of Coburn - the mistake is that the cafe proprietors celebrate the assassination of the German officers in broad daylight, in the open, without even stopping to think that such an action would have them shot, because all of this is done in the direct view of passers-by in broad daylight. Do they think those three German officers were the only ones in Paris? How did they know Coburn wasn't an undercover Gestapo agent or a French collaborator? Don't they stop to consider that in an occupied city machine gun fire is going to draw some attention from the authorities, who might just wonder what a couple of bullet riddled corpses are doing lying about the place?

18

Character mistake: When Werner asks Hendley why, as an American, he fights alongside Britain, he mentions that the British burned down the U.S. capital in 1812. While it happened during the War of 1812, the burning of Washington actually occurred in 1814. (00:11:10)

Cubs Fan
1
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Suggested correction: The question was intended to demonstrate how far out-of-touch Werner was with United States history.

Charles Austin Miller

You misunderstand. Werner's question in and of itself is not the mistake; it's merely a point of contextual reference. The mistake is him giving the incorrect date of a historical event he claims to have read about; it's hard to believe that every book that he might have read on the topic are all wrong, so he must be remembering, and thus repeating it, incorrectly.

Cubs Fan

Character mistake: When Sedgwick is bringing the cement tunnel lid to Willy, somebody yells out "Hey Hendley" and Sedgwick answers "Hello boys". He was called by the wrong name.

Character mistake: When Werner goes to see Hedley for helping finding his "lost" papers, Hedley is playing chess. The chess set is set up incorrectly. When the men are set up properly, each player has a light colored square in the right-hand corner. In the movie, the game is set up so that the light-colored square is in each player's left-hand corner. This "beginner" mistake puts the king and queen in the wrong positions.

Factual error: Why is Hilts not wearing a uniform? A serving officer captured behind enemy lines in civilian clothing risked being shot as a spy. If a prisoner's uniform was too worn or damaged to wear, it was routine for the German authorities to replace it - a P.O.W. in civilian clothes is an obvious escape risk. He is wearing a pair of tan chinos, a cut off sloppy Joe sweatshirt, both ridiculously anachronistic - Sixties hipster fashions - and nowhere even close to a World War 2 uniform. He is also wearing Army Type III Service boots - something that would never have been issued to a fighter pilot.

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: The character of Hilts was based (in part) on the life of a British OSS agent who managed to pass as pilot by stealing a flight jacket (revealed in the DVD). We can only assume that since the Germans believed the camp was escape-proof, it didn't matter what Hilts was wearing, since he wouldn't be going anywhere.

Cobblers. Hilts is wearing casual clothing typical of the time the film was shot, not when it was set. No prisoner of war would be dressed the way he was. The posting is correct.

I've always assumed that the actor, Steve McQueen, insisted on the outfit so he would look hip per his image. He had a reputation for being a prima donna on set.

More mistakes in The Great Escape

Col. Von Luger: Group Captain Ramsey, in the past four years the Reich has been forced to spend an enormous amount of time, energy, manpower and equipment hunting down prisoner of war officers.
Group Capt. Ramsey: At least it's rather nice to know you're wanted, isn't it?

More quotes from The Great Escape

Trivia: The motorcycle used by Steve McQueen is the same motorcycle Henry Winkler used on "Happy Days."

More trivia for The Great Escape

Question: In the scenes in which the POWs use the bags inside their trousers to distribute tunnel dirt over the compound, how do they put the pins back into the bags? It seems like a pain in the butt to have to take the bags out, just to put them back in, just to take them back out, etc.

Cubs Fan

Chosen answer: The movie is based on a true story and depicts actual events. After dispersing the dirt, the POWs simply removed the bags from their pants, reinserted the pins, and put the filled bags back inside their trousers again. Of course it was a pain, but what other options did they have? Little or none. Carrying out a secret operation in a prisoner of war camp with few resources, they worked with what they had, and made what they had work.

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