Classic Film Recommendation: Stalag 17 (1953)

Here’s a classic film worth viewing especially if it’s for the first time: Stalag 17  (1953), the ingenious, witty, thrilling and compelling Oscar winning war film and starring William Holden (April 17th, 1918-November 12th, 1981)

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in his Academy Award winning role as the cynical POW Sgt. JJ Sefton who’s been accused of being an informer/Nazi spy for the German officers during a failed escape attempt by Manfredi & Johnson in which they were shot and killed; the real question is who committed the horrendous act by becoming a traitor to their fellow men and if found will it be too late to stop him…the answer lies in the film when you view it. In a way if it hadn’t been for the filmworks of Leslie Howard, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff, Holden’s film career would’ve been in the Top 3 list of actors worth watching always; the first time I’d seen Stalag 17  was on Cinemax which at times plays classic films from time to time but you have to catch it at the right time. Just like viewing Sunset Blvd, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity of seeing Stalag 17  which gave me the start to seeing Turner Classic Movies  all over again; watching Holden’s captivating performance was truly amazing yet at the same time complex and awe-inspiring because it was as if the viewers were in his shoes, trying to figure out what really happened and finding a solution to the conflicting problem. Adapted from a 1951 Broadway play under the direction of actor Jose Ferrer, the 1953 film adaptation was produced and directed by the critically acclaimed Oscar winning director Billy Wilder with Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck recreating their original Broadway roles onto the silver screen10

Along with Holden, Lembeck and Strauss were some of cinema’s stellar, supportive and talented actors from Hollywood’s Golden Era including future director Otto Preminger, Richard Erdman, Peter Graves, Don Taylor, Neville Brand, Gil Stratton & of course the inimitable German American actor Sig Ruman as the German guard Sgt. Johann Sebastian Schulz; this classic along with Force of Arms  (1951), The Country Girl  (1954) and Born Yesterday  (1950) just to name a few, have become some of my favorite films to star William Holden; there are other great films of Holden’s that are a genuine delight to view and I feel that Stalag 17 is one of those classics. I highly recommend seeing it and decide for yourself what your opinion is regarding the film; I read somewhere online that Holden was very modest when he won the Oscar stating selflessly that he felt Burt Lancaster depicted a much better role as First Sergeant Milton Warden in From Here to Eternity  (1953) that he did in Stalag 17. Still, seeing both films on TCM I can honestly say that Lancaster and Holden delivered Oscar worthy portrayals equally and with uncompromising cinematic brilliance; I do hope that you’ll have the opportunity to see this stellar wartime film directed by Billy Wilder because it’s something that, like all masterful classics, can be an imaginative, enriching, insightful, profound, informative & innovative experience treasured for many years to come.11

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