COMEDY GOLD #16: Animal and Shapiro from Stalag 17 (1953)


Birthday boy Billy Wilder’s flair for balancing comedy and drama in the same movie is legendary and revered. And, barring The Apartment (1960), one could argue that this has never been more beautifully demonstrated than in Stalag 17 (1953), the comedy-drama war movie about a group of Americans held in a POW camp, who slowly come to realize that one of them is in an informant. A tense whodunnit based on the play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski, the comic relief in Stalag 17 comes from Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck) and Animal (Robert Strauss in an Oscar-nominated role), two prisoners whose genuine, heart-warming friendship, silly antics and ongoing gags about Betty Grable are the antidote to the otherwise unbearable conditions in which they find themselves. Their moments together are like a breath of fresh air (I couldn’t even pick just one!), especially when you consider that they’re among a group of prisoners that include the cynical Sefton (William Holden in an Oscar-winning performance) and Duke (Neville Brand), the angriest of them all, among others. Speaking of Neville Brand, the latest issue of NOIR CITY E-Mag is out and features a REMEMBER ME article about Brand written by myself. If you want to buy the magazine or donate to the Film Noir Foundation (founded by TCM regular Eddie Muller), click on this link.

8 thoughts on “COMEDY GOLD #16: Animal and Shapiro from Stalag 17 (1953)

    1. What a well-written article Carol! Those two really make the film unique and I think only someone like Billy Wilder could have developed such characters!
      Btw, I discovered to my big surprise the other day that I had almost seen every films directed by Wilder! πŸ˜€ I think I have only 7 left yo watch, something like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Mike Noonan

    Yes, Billy Wilder definitely knew how to balance comedy and drama . I haven’t seen this movie in many years but can still remember Robert Strauss β€˜s performance. Congratulations again on the publication of your article,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paddy Lee

    Lembeck and Strauss were recreating the roles they played in the original Broadway production. I love it when Hollywood knew a good thing when they saw it! It takes an eye like Wilder’s with the ability to translate stage to screen perfectly.

    – Caftan Woman

    Liked by 1 person

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