looking for anecdotes of first viewings of The Great Escape (1963)

Dana Polan Discussion

Also posted to Screen-l:

I am writing a book on the POW classic The Great Escape and looking for any anecdotes about viewings of it, especially ones that stayed with you. I myself saw it as a kid in the 1960s and was totally knocked out by it. I think I was unprepared for what I thought was going to be a gung ho celebration of adventure turning out so bleak and downbeat. I am looking for any anecdotes any of you might have about your own viewings of the film early on. You can email me directly at dana.polan@nyu.edu and you should let me know if I may use your name or if you prefer to remain anonymous. Here are the sorts of things I'd love to knowWhen and where did you first see the film? With whom? Did it impact you in any major way? Did you already know of the real story and did that in any way play into how you saw the film? Have you gone back to it since? To give you two examples of the sorts of anecdotes I'll be citing in the book: 1. a film studies friend of mine saw it multiple times as a kid with his sister as it kept coming back on double bills at their local movie theater. Whenever their parents would discipline one of them by sending them to their room, they'd look at each other and go "Cooler?" "Cooler" and then trudge off to their detention; 2. Several decades ago I went for a drink at a friend's who's a literary critic. His 8 year old daughter had seen TGE the night before and ironically renamed her pet snail (!!) "Steve" in honor of McQueen in the movie. Decades later when I asked her about this, she interestingly had no recollection of this at all. Anyway, if you have anything to contribute, I'd be most appreciative.