Steve McQueen on a Motorbike: The Great Escape and Popular Culture

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The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

701 Oxford Str E

London, ON N5Y 4T7

Canada

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2020 Speaker Series at The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum with Professor Jonathan Vance

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Steve McQueen’s mad scramble through the Alps on a motorcycle, from John Sturges’ 1963 film The Great Escape, is one of the most iconic scenes of any war movie. It’s also the only scene in the film that has no basis in historical fact. So why was it there? By looking at events in Nazi Germany in 1943-44, and in Hollywood in the 1960s, we can begin to understand why reality is never good enough for the movie industry – and how history makes it to the big screen in the form that it does.

Jonathan F. Vance is a Distinguished University Professor and J.B. Smallman Chair in the Department of History at The University of Western Ontario, where he teaches military history, Canadian history, and social memory. A native of Waterdown, Ontario, he holds degrees from McMaster University, Queen’s University, and York University. He is the author of many books and articles, including Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War (1997), Unlikely Soldiers: How Two Canadians Fought the Secret War Against Nazi Occupation (2008), Maple Leaf Empire: Canada, Britain and Two World Wars (2011), and A Township at War (2018).

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The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

701 Oxford Str E

London, ON N5Y 4T7

Canada

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