Stalag 17 (1953) starring William Holden, Otto Preminger
Cookie: I don’t know about you, but it always makes me sore when I see those war pictures… all about flying leathernecks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerillas in the Philippines. What gets me is that there never w-was a movie about POWs – about prisoners of war. Now, my name is Clarence Harvey Cook: they call me Cookie. I was shot down over Magdeburg, Germany, back in ’43; that’s why I stammer a little once in a while, ‘specially when I get excited. I spent two and a half years in Stalag 17. “Stalag” is the German word for prison camp, and number 17 was somewhere on the Danube. There were about 40,000 POWs there, if you bothered to count the Russians, and the Poles, and the Czechs. In our compound there were about 630 of us, all American airmen: radio operators, gunners, and engineers. All sergeants. Now you put 630 sergeants together and, oh mother, you’ve got yourself a situation. There was more fireworks shooting off around that joint… take for instance the story about the spy we had in our barracks…
Two worthy Academy Award® nominees from 1950’s Sunset Boulevard actor William Holden and director Billy Wilder reteamed three years later for the gripping World War II drama, Stalag 17. The result was another Best Director nomination for Wilder (his fourth), and the elusive Best Actor Oscar® for Holden. Holden portrays the jaded, scheming Sergeant J.J. Sefton, a prisoner at the notorious German prison camp, who spends his days dreaming up rackets and trading with the Germans for special privileges. But when two prisoners are killed in an escape attempt, it becomes obvious that there is a spy among the prisoners. Is it Sefton? Famed producer/director Otto Preminger tackles a rare acting role as the camp’s commandant; actor Robert Strauss won a Supporting Actor nomination for his role as “Animal.” Here’s Wilder’s powerful, acclaimed film classic — now packed with never-before-seen special features, including audio commentary and “behind-the-scenes” featurettes.
Cast of characters
- William Holden (Born Yesterday) as J.J. Sefton. The central character. The other prisoners suspect him of being a collaborator. As the audience sees, he’s not. But, he does have knack for making successful trades. Making him a “wealthy” inmate. Until the others beat him, and take his “ill gotten” goods, when they think he’s a collaborator.
- Don Taylor as Lieutenant James Dunbar
- Otto Preminger (Advise and Consent) as Colonel von Scherbach
- Harvey Lembeck (Jumping Jacks) as Stanislas “Animal” Kuzawa. A very funny performance, as one of the prisoners going sir-crazy.
- Peter Graves (Red Planet Mars) as Frank Price. The barracks’ security officer.
- Sig Ruman (A Night in Casablanca) as Sergeant Johann Sebastian Schulz. The barracks guard. Not vicious, but definitely a Nazi. “I’m your best friend here”. He’s receiving information from the collaborator.
- Neville Brand (Kansas City Confidential) as Duke
- Richard Erdman (The Stooge) as “Hoffy” Hoffman
- Michael Moore as Manfredi
- Peter Baldwin (The Ghost) as Johnson
- Robinson Stone as Joey
- Robert Shawley as “Blondie” Peterson
- William Pierson as Marko the Mailman
- Gil Stratton (Best Foot Forward) as Clarence Harvey “Cookie” Cook (Narrator)