Ross Bagdasarian: uncredited soldier singing at the Christmas Party.
Charlton Heston was originally considered for the role of Sgt. J.J. Sefton, but when the script was altered to make the character less heroic, he was dropped in favor of someone more suitable for the role. Kirk Douglas stated he was next in line and declined the part, making William Holden the third choice.
Kirk Douglas claimed he was offered the William Holden role, but turned it down because he had not been impressed by the stage play on which the film was based.
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.
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, accepted his 1971 Best Supporting Actor award with a simple smile and a thankful nod of the head.
Billy Wilder filmed the movie at a studio-owned ranch in Calabasas, California. He wore his best shoes and made sure cast and crew saw him with those shoes on in the mud. Wilder felt he could not ask his co-workers to work in the mud unless they saw him do the same.
Edmund Trzcinski: the P.O.W. who receives what is obviously (to everyone but him) a "Dear John" letter.
William LaChasse, had a bit part in the movie. He was hired by Paramount Pictures to be in several films after WWII. They bought him a SAG card and gave him a few lines in each film. Back then, there was no Screen Extras Guild. The real reason they made him an actor was a cheap way to use him as an Assistant Production Designer. He was actually a Prisoner of War for almost three years in Germany after being shot down in his B-17 by German Messcherschmidt Fighter pilot, Otto Peter Stammberger. The production depended heavily on his recollection of how the prison camp looked. He said it started out as a "B" movie, but after "New York" saw the dailies they gave Billy Wilder "carte blanche."
According to the Virgin Film Guide, Otto Preminger's POW Camp Commandant character Colonel Oberst von Scherbach in this film is a play on Erich von Stroheim's similar character Captain von Rauffenstein in Jean Renoir's, La grande illusion. Although Preminger played a Nazi officer, in real life, he was Jewish.
According to the Virgin Film Guide, this film provided the template and inspiration for the television sitcom series Hogan's Heroes. Moreover, this is particularly also the case for one of its chief characters, Sgt. Johann Schulz (played by Sig Ruman) who is said to have provided the basis for the character of Sgt. Hans Georg Schultz in Hogan's Heroes (played by John Banner). However, this assertion as been disputed legally and lost though many people still believe it.
Both of Billy Wilder's two only war films, Five Graves to Cairo and Stalag 17 received the same number of Academy Award nominations: three. Five Graves to Cairo received Oscar nominations in technical categories (Editing, b/w Interior Design, b/w Cinematography) whereas Stalag 17 received Oscar nominations in performance-related categories (Director, Actor, Supporting Actor), the latter winning Best Actor. Five Graves to Cairo and Stalag 17 were both released in years where another black-and-white World War II movie dominated at the Oscars: Casablanca winning three and From Here to Eternity winning eight.
Stanislas Kasava supposedly has been a POW for some time, yet when he looks through the telescope to see Sefton at the Russian compound, it's clear that he took off his wedding band for the movie because you can see the tan line on his ring finger.
The authors of Stalag 17 sued the creators of the TV series Hogan's Heroes for plagiarism, as they had submitted a proposal for a TV show based on their play in 1963 to CBS. The case was closed with an undisclosed settlement.
The Broadway play "Stalag 17" by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski opened at the 48th Street Theater on May 8, 1951 and ran for 472 performances. Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Robert Shawley and William Pierson reprise their roles in the movie.
The film is based on a play of the same name which is based on the experiences and reminisces of its authors Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski both of whom were prisoners of war in Stalag 17B in Austria during World War II. Bevan, a B-17 tail gunner who was shot down over Germany in 1943, was the inspiration for the character Sergeant McIlhenny in Twelve O'Clock High.
The movie was shot in sequence (i.e., the scenes were filmed in the same order they're shown). Many of the actors were surprised by the final plot twist.
The role of Sefton was originally written for Charlton Heston. But as the role evolved and became more cynical, William Holden emerged as the director's choice. Holden was asked to see the play on which the movie was based. He walked out at the end of the first act. He was later convinced to at least read the screenplay.
The story takes place during the time of the "Battle of the Bulge" in December, 1944. The men learn about it on their secret radio before the Germans take it away.
The true name of Robert Strauss' character Animal is spoken in the mail call, but its spelling is confusing. Though frequently referred to in reviews as Stanislaus Kasava or Stanislas Coosava, it is revealed in the official scripts as Stanislaus Kuzawa. Kuzawa is a Polish town 67 km south of Bialystok., and it is important to remember that Polish w is ALWAYS pronounced as v.
This film was made three years after Sunset Blvd. and represents the re-teaming of director Billy Wilder and leading actor William Holden who worked together on Sunset Blvd..