8.0/10
50,433
164 user 97 critic

Stalag 17 (1953)

When two escaping American World War II prisoners are killed, the German P.O.W. camp barracks black marketeer, J.J. Sefton, is suspected of being an informer.

Director:

Billy Wilder

Writers:

Billy Wilder (written for the screen by), Edwin Blum (written for the screen by) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
Popularity
4,529 ( 1,857)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William Holden ... Sgt. J.J. Sefton
Don Taylor ... Lt. James Dunbar
Otto Preminger ... Oberst von Scherbach
Robert Strauss ... Sgt. Stanislaus 'Animal' Kuzawa
Harvey Lembeck ... Sgt. Harry Shapiro
Richard Erdman ... Sgt. 'Hoffy' Hoffman
Peter Graves ... Sgt. Frank Price
Neville Brand ... Duke
Sig Ruman ... Sgt. Johann Sebastian Schulz
Michael Moore Michael Moore ... Sgt. Manfredi
Peter Baldwin ... Sgt. Johnson
Robinson Stone Robinson Stone ... Joey
Robert Shawley ... Sgt. 'Blondie' Peterson
William Pierson ... Marko the Mailman
Gil Stratton ... Sgt. Clarence Harvey 'Cookie' Cook (as Gil Stratton Jr.)
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Storyline

It's a dreary Christmas 1944 for the American POWs in Stalag 17. For the men in Barracks 4, all sergeants, have to deal with a grave problem - there seems to be a security leak. The Germans always seem to be forewarned about escapes and in the most recent attempt the two men, Manfredi and Johnson, walked straight into a trap and were killed. For some in Barracks 4, especially the loud-mouthed Duke, the leaker is obvious: J.J. Sefton, a wheeler-dealer who doesn't hesitate to trade with the guards and who has acquired goods and privileges that no other prisoner seems to have. Sefton denies giving the Germans any information and makes it quite clear that he has no intention of ever trying to escape. He plans to ride out the war in what little comfort he can arrange, but it doesn't extend to spying for the Germans. As tensions mount and a mob mentality takes root, it becomes obvious that Sefton will have to find the real snitch if he is to have any peace and avoid the beatings Duke and ... Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Hilarious, heart-tugging! You'll laugh...you'll cry...you'll cheer William Holden in his great Academy Award role! (from reissue print ad)

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One day during an afternoon break in filming, William Holden "entertained" a young actress in his dressing room. Later that day, while shooting one of the final scenes with Don Taylor in the water tower, he looked down and saw his wife standing on the set with a stricken look on her face. Convinced she had learned about the dressing room incident, he climbed down, certain his marriage was over. He was greatly relieved when he realized she had only come to tell him she had accidentally wrecked their car. See more »

Goofs

The map of Germany in von Scherbach's office in 1944 would include, not only Austria and Sudetenland, but also Gdansk/Danzig and the Polish Corridor, large parts of western Poland and the Saarland, all considered ethnically German by the Nazis and incorporated into the Reich. This could simply be an obsolete map never discarded. See more »

Quotes

Shapiro: [new prisoners are brought into the Russian women's compound] Chow, Animal. Chow.
Animal: I don't wanna eat. I wanna go over there. I just wanna talk with them.
Shapiro: No, you don't, Animal. You don't wanna talk to any broads with boots on.
Animal: I don't care if they wear galoshes!
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Connections

Referenced in The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

When Johnny Comes Marching Home
(1863) (uncredited)
Written by Louis Lambert
Played during the opening credits
Played on a record and sung by the prisoners of war
Whistled a bit by Gil Stratton at the end
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User Reviews

A great film headed by a classic director and strong star William Holden
4 August 2004 | by NoArrowSee all my reviews

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.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German | Russian

Release Date:

10 August 1953 (Brazil) See more »

Also Known As:

Stalag 17 See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,661,530 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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