STYLE ICONS | Steve McQueen in The Great Escape 1963
Never mind that the real-life tunnel escape from WW2 German POW camp, Stalag Luft III, was undertaken by British and Commonwealth military prisoners, the American director John Sturges knew his market and wanted to cast Steve McQueen.
Sturges had previously cast Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven (1960) alongside such stars as Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Yul Brynner. McQueen, a former US Marine, was already a TV personality from his role as the bounty hunter Josh Randall in the series Wanted Dead or Alive.
One of his co-stars in The Magnificent Seven, Yul Brynner,frequently complained about McQueen’s various subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) scene-stealing techniques in a film that had plenty of male egos competing for attention. Favourite ploys of McQueen were to play with his cowboy hat or check the bullets in his six shooter while Yul was speaking his lines.
The motorbike chase at the end of The Great Escape was added for extra drama and to make use of McQueen’s skills as an experienced bike rider. The only riding he didn’t do was the final fence-jumping scene where stuntman, Bud Ekins, took over.
The motorbikes used during this famous final chase scene were British 1961 Triumph TR6 Trophy models disguised as German BMW R75 motorcycles. The original 650cc Triumph TR6R that McQueen rode in the film has been lovingly restored and is now on display at the Triumph Factory Experience in Hinckley.
Steve McQueen was also a highly accomplished and competitive car driver who, in the 1971 film Le Mans, spoke the memorable lines “Racing: it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.”
Typically for the man who was the epitome of relaxed style even during intense action, McQueen’s character in The Great Escape manages to rid himself of his German uniform to finish his attempted escape scenes riding expertly and furiously without a helmet in well-cut chinos and a loose T-shirt.
But then, McQueen had the ability to make everything he did look effortlessly cool with the detached and careless charm that appeals to so many women – and which many men are still keen to emulate.
For us, McQueen is a true Pioneer and to pay homage to him and the film... we're launching an overnight bag inspired by his very own used in the film...
The Great Escape overnight bag | Launching June 2018