FILM 1455: STALAG 17
TRIVIA: William Holden did not like the part of Sefton at all as written in the script, thinking him too selfish. He kept asking Billy Wilder to make Sefton nicer and Wilder refused. Holden actually refused the role but was forced to do it by the studio.
To improve the chances for commercial success in West Germany (at that time already an important market for Hollywood) a Paramount executive suggested to Billy Wilder that he should make the camp guards Poles rather than Germans. Wilder, whose mother and stepfather had died in the concentration camps, furiously refused and demanded an apology from the executive. When it didn't come, Wilder did not extend his contract at Paramount
Otto Preminger always claimed that, as a director, he would only shout at actors if they were late or if they did not know their lines. Employed solely as an actor in this film, he told Billy Wilder at the start of filming that if he ever forgot his lines, he would present Wilder with a jar of caviar. Wilder later told interviewers that he soon had dozens of such jars.
William Holden's acceptance speech for Best Actor was the shortest in Academy history up until that time. He said only two words: "Thank You." Holden hadn't meant to be so brief, but the televised TV broadcast of the Academy Awards ceremony was running long, and was about to be cut off the air. Holden later took out an ad in the Hollywood trade publications thanking the people he had intended to thank in his speech. The briefness of Holden's speech was later surpassed by Alfred Hitchcock (who accepted his Irving Thalberg Award in 1967 with a simple "Thanks.") and by John Mills, who after playing a mute character in Ryan's Daughter (1970), accepted his 1971 Best Supporting Actor award with a simple smile and a thankful nod of the head.
According to the Virgin Film Guide, Otto Preminger's POW Camp Commandant character Colonel von Scherbach in this film is reminiscent of Erich von Stroheim's similar character, prison camp commandant Captain von Rauffenstein in Jean Renoir's, La Grande Illusion (1937). Although Preminger played a Nazi officer, in real life he was Jewish, as was Erich von Stroheim.
Normally the German military assigned staff officers to command oflags (prison camps for enemy officers), while captains, or the equivalent outside the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe, commanded stalags for enlisted enemy soldiers. It was quite unusual, therefore, for Stalag 17 to have been commanded by a colonel such as Von Scherbach.