Escapist war films end with a POW - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Escapist war films end with a POW

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Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2003 9:27 am | Updated: 1:26 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The details of her captivity are still unclear.

Jessica Lynch, a 19-yearold private first class from West Virginia, was injured during an ambush in southern Iraq and captured by the enemy.

Ten days later, a helicopter-borne team of Navy SEALs and Army Rangers swooped in to rescue the prisoner of war from a hospital compound.

As Lynch’s story has unfolded, her daring rescue and escape has fueled the passion, fear and curiosity of her comrades and a country.

It is that same curiosity that led Steve Hoza to a rare selection of true-life World War II escape films. "Everyone can relate to not wanting to be confined," said Hoza, conservator for the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe, which is showing British POW escape films the second Wednesday of every month through June.

"It’s that search for freedom, that rooting for the underdog. It’s knowing that it is the duty of all prisoners of war to try to escape."

POWs have been the subject of many movies and TV shows. From "The Great Escape" to the television farce "Hogan’s Heroes," POW tales have both enraged and engaged the masses. But for Hoza, the historical inaccuracies of many Hollywood studio films have detracted from the real-life struggles of many POWs, which may be why Hoza has chosen four British movies that are historically accurate for this film series.

"There’s been a lot of fictitious films," Hoza said. "But so much of what Hollywood produces is just that — Hollywood. One thing museums always have to fight is Hollywood’s version of history. I wanted to show films that were historically accurate."

Wednesday’s feature, 1963's "The Password is Courage" starring Dirk Bogarde, chronicles the true story of British soldier Charlie Coward.

"During Charlie’s escapes, he derailed trains, caused fires and posed as a German officer . . . his exploits, when you see this film, you wouldn’t believe it really happened," Hoza said.

But it did and the filmmakers capitalized on that fact.

"These films were made shortly after the war, so many of the principal people were still alive to act as advisers," Hoza said. "A lot of these films are even shot on the locations where they happened."

The first film in the series was "The One that Got Away" (1958) starring Hardy Kruger. The other two films in the series are "The Wooden Horse" (1950) starring Leo Genn, May 14, and "The Colditz Story" (1957) starring John Mills, June 11.

"When you think what these people went through you realize it took a lot of planning, a lot of patience and a lot of courage," Hoza said. "You couldn’t write fiction like this."

POW escape film screenings

What: "The Password is Courage" (1963) starring Dirk Bogarde, Wednesday; "The Wooden Horse" (1950) starring Leo Genn, May 14; "The Colditz Story" (1957) starring John Mills, June 11.

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Arizona Historical Society Museum, 1300 North College Ave., Tempe

Cost: Free, but donations accepted

Information: (480) 929-0292

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