UA executives once imagined a beauty contest built around David McCallum's death scene in The Great Escape.
On a recent broadcast of The Great Escape on Turner Classic Movies, host Robert Osborne informed the audience that the absence of women in the film was not originally intended. As all movie fans know, the film has one of the most testosterone-driven casts in history, headed by Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn. Initially, United Artists executives felt that scenes should be filmed showing some of the women intermingling with German women at various points of their daring escape. However, director John Sturges vetoed the plan because the script was already too long. Some UA execs then put forth this idea: in the scene where David McCallum's character is shot to death at the train station, the dying man was to be cradled in the arms of a buxom woman who tries to comfort him. The sole reason for this was to have theater owners stage local contests for "Miss Prison Camp" beauties. The winner would have presumably had the bit role in the movie. Fortunately, Sturges vetoed that idea as well. We hear the same executives later suggested the Last Tango in Paris discounted matinees for children.
(For an interview with David McCallum about the making of The Great Escape, see Cinema Retro issue #8)