The Celluloid Pantry: American Moonshine, Independence Day, and The Great Escape (1963)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

“That explains what happened to the potatoes.”

American moonshine, recycled tea leaves, black market chocolate, and a tunnel under the stove. In The Great Escape (1963), British and American WWII POWs work together to approximate the little luxuries in life and collaborate to keep their German captors on their toes.

According to military protocol, it’s the sworn duty of all officers to: 1) try to escape; 2) to cause the enemy to use an inordinate number of troops to guard them; and 3) to harass the enemy to the best of their ability. In honor of Independence Day, the American officers try a little of all three.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Tired from hours of surreptitious digging and scheming, the prisoners all need a break. After distilling some jet-fuel liquor from of every last one of the camp’s potatoes, Captain Hilts (Steve McQueen, above right) and Flight Lt. Hendley (James Garner, above left) decide to throw a little Fourth of July celebration and invite their British camp-mates:

“Gentlemen…free drinks…. A little present from the colonials.”

As a thirsty crowd gathers around the wicker-covered vats of alcohol, every tin cup gets filled, and everybody has an opinion:

“American moonshine. Don’t smoke while you drink it.”

“No taxation without representation.”

“Don’t get any on your clothes, Sir.”

“Up the rebels!”
“Down the British!”

“You know what that is?”
“I’ll tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t Napoleon brandy.”

“How do you like it, sir?”
“Well, it’s…To the colonies.”