Saturday, November 2, 2013

The 100th Anniversary of Burt Lancaster's Birth

It was 100 years ago today that one of the most remarkable actors of the Golden Age of Film was born in Manhattan, New York. Indeed, it seemed to me that Burt Lancaster could play nearly anything. In The Crimson Pirate (1952) he played the buccaneer of the title, taking swashbuckling to a whole new level in terms of acrobatics. In From Here to Eternity (1953) he played career soldier Sgt. Warden, who risks everything for an affair with his commanding officer's wife. In Elmer Gantry he played the salesman, con man, and eventually preacher of the title. Over the years Mr. Lancaster played Wyatt Earp (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) the executive officer of a submarine (Run Silent, Run Deep), a Nazi war criminal (Judgement at Nuremburg), a French railway inspector (The Train), Dr. Moreau (The Island of Dr. Moreau), and the eccentric head of an oil company (Local Hero). What is more, he was convincing in all of these roles.

In many ways Burt Lancaster's life prior to acting prepared him well for the profession. At a young age he met fellow future actor Nick Cravat. Together they formed the acrobatic team of "Lang and Cravat". Eventually they would perform with the Kay Brothers Circus, their career ended only by an injury experienced by Mr. Lancaster. Afterwards he was a singing waiter in New Jersey and then a salesman at the legendary department store Marshall Fields. During World War II he joined the Twenty-First Special Service Division of the U. S. Army, where he put his skills as an acrobat to use entertaining the troops. At various times Mr. Lancaster had also been a refrigerator repairman, a fireman, and even an engineer in a meat packing plant. With so many different professions to draw upon, it should be little wonder Burt Lancaster could play any role he wanted. Indeed, his skills as an acrobat were put to good use in The Crimson Pirate and as a salesman in Elmer Gantry.

In tribute to Burt Lancaster's 100th birthday, then, here is a tribute to him in pictures.

Burt Lancaster with Ava Gardner in The Killers

Burt Landcaster with Corinne Calvert in Rope of Sand.

The Crimson Pirate

Burt Lancaster with Deborah Kerr from From Here to Eternity

As Wyatt Earp from Gunfight at the OK Corral

Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones from Elmer Gantry

As General Scott from Seven Days in May

Burt Lancaster as McIntosh in Ulzana's Raid.

Burt Lancaster as Doctor Moreau from The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Burt Lancaster as Felix Happer in Local Hero.

Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas from The Tough Guys.


MovieNut14 said...

He was just one of the greats, wasn't he?

Happy Miser said...

He was on Phil Donahue's afternoon show out of NY to promote "Tough Guys". The stage was in-the-round. He was captivating; talking about his career. I wish I'd kept the VHS recording of it. I love "The Train"!!