The first full-length study of the iconic 1960s film The Great Escape and its place in Hollywood and American history.
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. Dreams of Flight 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.
Through breezy prose and pithy analysis, Dana 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. Dreams of Flight combines history with fan anecdotes and a close study of filmic style to bring readers into the film and its wide-reaching influence. Polan examines the production history, including prior adaptations in radio and television of celebrated author Paul Brickhill's original nonfiction book about the escape, and he compares the cinematic fiction to the real events of the escape in 1944. Dreams of Flight also traces the afterlife of The Great Escape in the many subsequent movies, TV commercials, and cartoons that reference it, whether reverentially or with humor.