Dana PolanJan 21, 2022
Dreams of Flight
'The Great Escape' in American Film and Culture
University of California Press 2021
Caught on film, the iconic jump of escaped POW Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) over an imposing barbed wire fence on a stolen motorcycle has become an unforgettable symbol of a disaffected 1960s America. Dana Polan's Dreams of Flight: 'The Great Escape' in American Film and Culture (U California Press, 2021) offers the first full-length study of The Great Escape, the classic film based on a true story of American and Allied prisoners of war who hatched an audacious plan to divert and thwart the Wehrmacht and escape into the nearby countryside. Polan centers The Great Escape within American cultural and intellectual history, drawing a vivid picture of the country in the 1960s. We see a nation grappling with its own military history; a society undergoing significant shifts in its culture and identity; a film industry in transition from Old Hollywood's big-budget runaway studio films to the slow interior cinema of New Hollywood. The book combines history with fan anecdotes and a close study of filmic style to bring readers into the film and its wide-reaching influence.
Joel Tscherne is an Adjunct History Professor at Southern New Hampshire University. His Twitter handle is @JoelTscherne.