“The Great Escape” turns 50

Behind the scenes of The Great Escape
Some of the coolest cats in cinema history.

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of seeing a gorgeous restored digital print of The Great Escape (1963) at the latest KCET Cinema Series screening at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Theater. I always love going there to pass the wonderful giant Emmy statue in the courtyard, and see the collection of bronze portrait busts of television and entertainment luminaries.

 The James and Paula Coburn Foundation supports KCET as one of its beneficiaries. We were celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Great Escape which stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and of course my father-in-law, James Coburn. He has talked about his experience on that film with fondness, staying laid back while watching the antics of some of his co-stars. A few years earlier when he first met Steve McQueen, Jim described him as “someone we knew was going to be a really interesting actor or die trying.”

The KCET Cinema Series is open to the public. Most screenings are at the Academy Theater in North Hollywood, but a few are at the Aero in Santa Monica – easy to get to but hard to find parking! The best part is the special guests who either introduce or answer questions about the films.

Not all the films in the series are classics. Last week we saw the enjoyable new release Philomena with  Judy Dench and Steve Coogan, who literally flew into town and dashed straight over for the post-screening Q&A about his screenplay, and working with Dame Judy.

The next in the series will be Saving Mr. Banks starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, with a Q&A with special guest director John Lee Hancock on Tuesday, November 19. Networking doesn’t have to be scary or difficult; going to screenings gives you an immediate mutually interesting topic of conversation.

*BTW: If you happen to know the photographer of the above image, I’d love to be able to credit that person and get the lowdown about it.