Steve McQueen's personally-annotated script for The Great Escape
Steve McQueen’s personally-owned and -used annotated script for the classic 1963 war film The Great Escape, 8.5 x 11, 191 numbered pages, custom leatherbound by the California Bookbinding Co., gilt-stamped on the front, “The Great Escape, Steve McQueen.” An opening page in an unknown hand identifies the principal actors and director.
The script is profusely annotated throughout in ballpoint and pencil, much of which is in McQueen's own hand. On the title page, McQueen writes out comments on several different scenes: "Scene 613: Could he show a bit more of Hilts, and relationship with Ramsey," "Scene 234: Might be good place for me to sneak out.—maybe before scene 239 could be time for Hilts to sneak in for piano wire," "Scene 151: scene I think needs rewriting, lacks certain individuality for Hilts…scene is all a bit to easy." Throughout the rest of the script, he makes notes on dialogue and stage direction; his character's lines are frequently circled. In one instance, he modifies the line, 'I haven't a train to catch,' to be more informal, "I don't have to worry about catching a train"; in another, he strikes through line and notes, "Should show fact they understand each other rather than over flattery."
Opposite two yellow revision pages in the center of the script, he continues the commentary on scenes: "Scene 343 (Pick Up Shots): If I use push-ups in the beginning—need something new here…I think it would be better to show Hilts back at a new type of therapy," "Scene 349: Never show Hilts get out of cooler. If there is a shot of him getting out could be something else quick but showing, like complete escape plan on wall, to confuse Germans" and "Scene 359: Again need more involvement, as Hilts was substantiated as being a man who thinks up all sort of ideas for Escape, now suddenly has stopped thinking, Idea about dispersing dirt was originally, as you had told me was for Hilts…I think it is important that Hilts has some of the situation that Jim has, keeping Germans from finding tunnel."
Similar notes appear on the script's last page, for example: "Scene 448: Spreading dialogue thin again would like to finish thought in scenes, if possible," "Scene 492: I know that Hilts is hard to write for but, this is good instance, where a chance to show Hilts character is thrown away. Maybe we could think of something to show a little more of Hilts specific personality." Below, he notes: "Would like to discuss end!"
In fine condition, with pages evidently trimmed during the re-binding process, affecting some of the handwritten annotations. Inspired by a true story and directed by John Sturges, The Great Escape is remembered as a classic World War II epic, chronicling the escape of Allied soldiers from the German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III. McQueen plays the leading role as one of three Americans, Captain Virgil Hilts, the 'Cooler King,' who irritates the German guards and constantly hatches new schemes for escape. It also features one of McQueen’s great motorcycle scenes. The film emerged as one of the highest-grossing films of the year, with McQueen winning the award for Best Actor at the Moscow International Film Festival. The success of The Great Escape established McQueen's box-office clout and secured his status as a bona fide Hollywood star: critic Leonard Maltin wrote that 'the large, international cast is superb, but the standout is McQueen; it's easy to see why this cemented his status as a superstar.' As the leading man’s personally-used, heavily-annotated script from a classic film, this is a truly remarkable piece of Hollywood history.