David McCallum will visit to mark 'The Great Escape' milestone - Omaha.com
go logo
article photo
article photo
David McCallum, of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” will be in Omaha for a screening of “The Great Escape.”(THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)


David McCallum will visit to mark 'The Great Escape' milestone
By Bob Fischbach / World-Herald staff writer


Kids today know him as medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on television's hit crime show “NCIS.”

But 50 years ago, just before Scottish actor David McCallum became a household name in the United States, he appeared in a 1963 hit movie, “The Great Escape.”

Now local film historian Bruce Crawford is bringing McCallum to Omaha as his special guest at a Nov. 9 screening of “The Great Escape” at Joslyn Art Museum, marking the 50th anniversary of the movie's release. Tickets, $22, go on sale today at Omaha Hy-Vee Supermarkets. Part of the proceeds will go to the Nebraska Kidney Association.

McCallum will sign autographs before and after the 7 p.m. screening and talk about the making of the film beforehand.

“The Great Escape,” based on a true story, is set in a German prisoner-of-war camp in 1944. The Allied prisoners hatch a plan to tunnel under the camp's barbed wire and free 250 prisoners.

The movie, made for $3.8 million, pulled in $11.7 million at the box office against stiff competition from “Cleopatra,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Tom Jones” and “How the West Was Won.” Crawford singled out Elmer Bernstein's score as praiseworthy.

The movie lifted the careers of many then-little-known actors in the ensemble cast, including Richard Attenborough as head of the escape plot, Charles Bronson as a lead tunnel digger, Donald Pleasence as a document forger with failing eyesight, James Garner as a resourceful procurer of needed items, James Coburn as a tool manufacturer and Steve McQueen as a rebellious escape artist distracting the guards.

McQueen's scene in which he flees on a motorcycle from pursuing Nazi soldiers and jumps the bike over barbed wire at the border has become iconic. He rode the motorcycle himself, with the exception of the jump. In fact, he was so skilled on a motorcycle that he also played one of his own German pursuers. The movie elevated him to superstardom. Oddly enough, the day of the actual Great Escape — March 24, 1944, was McQueen's 14th birthday.

McQueen, Coburn and Bronson had all appeared in “The Great Escape” director John Sturges' 1960 spaghetti western “The Magnificent Seven.” Sturges was known for action films, westerns and male ensemble casts, Crawford said. He notched a best-director Oscar nomination for “Bad Day at Black Rock” in 1955.

Crawford said “The Great Escape” was the movie that first got Attenborough, a British actor, noticed in the United States. Coburn soon snagged a role in “Charade,” and his career took off after that.

Perhaps the biggest career leap in the immediate wake of “The Great Escape” was McCallum's. A year later, he was cast as an introverted, enigmatic Russian-born secret agent, Illya Kuryakin, on the hit television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” which ran from 1964-68.

McCallum, with a Beatles-style haircut, became a sex symbol, mobbed wherever he went. He got more fan mail than any other actor in MGM's history. He even cut several music albums. He also earned two Emmy nominations as Illya.

Crawford said McCallum immediately said yes to the Omaha appearance. Having just turned 80 last month, McCallum will fly to Omaha on the day of the event and immediately fly back to California the next day to resume filming of “NCIS.”

As an added attraction, Ray Paulson of Lincoln will display a replica of the limited-edition Triumph motorcycle McQueen rode in “The Great Escape,” made to look exactly like the one in the movie. Re-enactors in German and British uniforms will be on hand, and the International Plastic Modelers Society will display a model of the prison camp and a nearby landing strip.

Crawford said artist Nicolosi will create designs for a postal envelope and stamp to mark the occasion, which kicks off Veterans Day weekend. The artwork, unveiled at the screening, is meant to honor both veterans and the movie's 50th anniversary.

* * * *

The Great Escape

What: Classic film screening by Omaha film historian Bruce Crawford
Special guest: David McCallum
When: Nov. 9 7 p.m.
Where: Joslyn Art Museum's Witherspoon Concert Hall, 2200 Dodge St.
Tickets: $22; available at Hy-Vee supermarkets in Omaha
Information: 402-932-7200 or omahafilmevent.com

Contact the writer: Bob Fischbach

bob.fischbach@owh.com    |   402-444-1269

Bob reviews movies and local theater productions and writes stories about those topics, as well.

Read more stories by Bob


Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom


Copyright ©2014 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or redistributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

Latest Stories

How to win a $4,300 ‘Walking Dead #1' comic while also doing something nice
How to win a ,300 ‘Walking Dead #1' comic while also doing something nice

A local comic book shop is once again raffling away a pricey issue for a good cause.


Review: ‘Heaven is for Real’ leaves it to viewer to interpret its story
Review: ‘Heaven is for Real’ leaves it to viewer to interpret its story

My first reaction to “Heaven Is for Real” after a recent preview screening: best Christian-themed movie I’ve seen in quite a while. Two weeks later, that hasn’t changed.


Tips, recipes on how to spice up your traditional Easter ham
Tips, recipes on how to spice up your traditional Easter ham

While some home cooks like to keep it traditional, others may want to try recipes that go beyond the classic clove-studded ham covered in canned pineapple rings.


Tommy Lee Jones made a Nebraska western, and here's the trailer
Tommy Lee Jones made a Nebraska western, and here's the trailer

"The Homesman," an upcoming western from writer/director/actor Tommy Lee Jones, looks like something close to a sure thing.


Nebraska family and town depicted on the big screen in 'Heaven is for Real'
Nebraska family and town depicted on the big screen in 'Heaven is for Real'

Imperial family feels Colton’s inspirational story got heaven-sent production and reverential handling


Missing 3-year-old boy found in claw machine at Lincoln bowling alley
Missing 3-year-old boy found in claw machine at Lincoln bowling alley

He was uninjured and playing happily with the stuffed animals in the machine.


Norfolk man restoring Johnny Carson's childhood home
Norfolk man restoring Johnny Carson's childhood home

It’s been a long time since Johnny Carson slept in the tiny upstairs room in the modest little house at 306 S. 13th St. in Norfolk.
Carson was born in Iowa and moved to Norfolk with his family in the 1930s. They lived in at least one other house in Norfolk before moving into to the white, wood-frame structure on 13th Street.


South Omaha bar will reopen this week with new look, Skee-Ball
South Omaha bar will reopen this week with new look, Skee-Ball

The Brass Monkey will reopen its doors this week.


11 Nebraska-set movies that were filmed elsewhere
11 Nebraska-set movies that were filmed elsewhere

Here are 11 dirty, rotten lies.


Iowa music fest 80/35 announces Conor Oberst, Dr. Dog and more
Iowa music fest 80/35 announces Conor Oberst, Dr. Dog and more

Conor Oberst will headline 80/35 music festival in Des Moines, and the Bright Eyes frontman will be joined by Ziggy Marley, Best Coast, Dawes and more.


 
Search
Movies Opening this week

Movie showtimes and theater listings






Read this!








VIDEOS

Tonight in Prime Time
© 2014 Omaha World-Herald. All rights reserved