Nickname applied to Steve McQueen
's character, Virgil Hilts, in the movie The Great Escape
. So called for his frequent and prolonged visits to the cooler
, the term applied to solitary confinement
in the World War II German prison camp
in which the movie takes place. Virgil is relegated to the cooler for various indiscrections
, and numerous escape attempts
. He is the quintessential cocky American rebel
among the diverse group of prisoners.
Virgil endures his visits to the cooler by spending endless hours bouncing a baseball against the wall and catching it in a very well-worn leather mitt.
One of the funnier moments in the film occurs as Virgil is led to the cooler by a German guard for yet another extended stay. He passes by his somber fellow inmates, one of whom tosses the ball and mitt to him. McQueen catches the bundle with a wry, world-weary grimace, and tucks the mitt under his arm without breaking stride.