Winter Project: Burt Lancaster

It’s time to assign myself a classic actor whose work I am unfamiliar with. As I scanned the filmography of Burt Lancaster, I realized how few films of his I’ve actually seen. This includes the 1962 classic, Birdman of Alcatraz! So, just like previous years, I will read a biography, attempt to watch his top ten performances, and post my observations with the hope you will converse with me. Any biography recommendations? What should I watch other than From Here to Eternity? 


49 Comments on “Winter Project: Burt Lancaster

  1. The Swimmer.
    Atlantic City. (A MUST!)
    Sweet Smell of Success. (Another MUST!)
    The Train.
    The Leopard. (Visconti)
    1900 (Nevecento, Bertolucci)
    Seven Days In May.

    How long have you got? 🙂
    Go Tell The Spartans.
    Ulzana’s Raid.

    OK, I’ll stop…

    Best wishes, Pete. x

  2. Trapeze is a great shout, but I love his cameo in Field of Dreams. He just steals the scenes. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful

  3. You got a good list, Cindy. Please add ELMER GANTRY to the must-sees. I always enjoy THE CRIMSON PIRATE if nothing more than to watch his great stunt work. Actually his stunt work in all his action movies are works of art.

    • Ah, so I learn something about Burt. He did his own stunts, eh? I also noticed he did a few films together with Tony Curtis. I am intrigued about that. I assume they were friends. The backstory to his life should be interesting.

  4. P.S. If you need to be more convinced that The Leopard is fantastic, watch this youtube Trailers from Hell video link to screenwriter Larry Karaszewski’s commentary below 🙂

    • Hi John, sorry to say your link didn’t open to me. I found this trailer and I am more than happy to add it to the list! Great! Thanks for your suggestion.

  5. While I’ll second most of beetlypete’s, I’ll give you what I’d recommend from his westerns:
    – The Professionals (with Lee Marvin, Woody Strode, and Robert Ryan!)
    – Valdez is Coming (an underrated Elmore Leonard adaptation…)
    – The Hallelujah Trail (comedy, if you’d believe it)
    – Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (with its supreme pairing of Burt’s Wyatt Earp with Kirk Douglas’ Doc Holiday)
    – Vera Cruz (the other definitive villain role of Burt’s…)
    – The Unforgiven

    • Hi Micheal,
      I’ve heard of Gun Fight at the O.K. Corral, I’m interested in watching a John Huston film. I love Lee Marvin, so I think I’d like The Professionals for starters. Thanks for suggesting the westerns. He made 85 films. It willl be hard to narrow it down to a dozen.

    • I definitley will! Thanks for your suggestions, John. I’m curious what his background is that allowed him to leave the Hollywood lot to film in Italy.

  6. OMG Cindy, you missed a treat, he was such a gorgeous man. No-one yet has mentioned the movie I walk Alone, one of the ones he made with Kirk Douglas, they did a few together.
    Also if you have a few mins, get a cuppas and watch this til the end, so cool.

    • I know! It’s a mystery why I know so little. Usually with classic actors I’ve seen several over the years. Why Burt has escaped my attention is a mystery. I noticed he made a few with Tony Curtis and a few with Kirk Douglas. The bio should tell me more about that friendship. Or not. Anyway, your youtube wouldn’t open for me. ;(

    • It should be fun. 85 films to choose from. I haven’t a clue if he was an honorable man like Jimmy Stewart or kind of a jerk like others I’ve assigned to myself. I hope he wasn’t a scoundrel.

  7. I actually watched From Here to Eternity again last weekend, Burt was great in that film. I always enjoy watching him in westerns too, especially Ulzana’s Raid. I’d also recommend The Killers, a classic noir that introduced Burt to the big screen and made him a star, alongside a smouldering Ava Gardner.

    • Oh, thanks, Paul! I’ve been wondering what film noir to select. Thanks for your input. Ulzana’s Raid seems rank high on everyone’s list. 🙂

  8. Burt made some great films – no doubt about it. And his Charisma was off the charts.
    I heard that he got started because he was a trapeze artist? – circus – and pirate movies popular at the time. Burt could swing on those yardarms like nobody else. But they probably didn’t think he would hang around.
    I also consider him to be about the Greatest Western Movie Star of all time. He made some gems in the genre.

    • HI JC. Westerns, huh? Since I know so little, I’m excited to read the bio I just bought to find out about him. He certainly looked masculine enough to star in Trapese.

  9. lancaster was a mediocre actor who improved with age. his best performances are in the leopard and atlantic city. in younger daus he wasnt much of an actor but had an impressive screen presence that justified his movie star status. he held his own in excellent pictures such as the sweet smell of success, elmer gantry and birdman of alcatraz. he want very good in westerns and was a joke as a swahbuckler, perhaps intentionally.

    • I watched my first film of his last night, The Professionals. I enjoyed it. What a difference dialgalogue makes and it was so much better back then! I don’t like Westerns, per se, as a genre, but I loved the conversations in this one. The one-liners said by Lancaster’s character were a hoot.

      • i love westerns, and disike this movie. i like much of the directors other work, but he diesnt know how to make a western. perhaps that is why you liked it. it is not a western and delivers all the goods of mainstream entertainment. for me, westerns are a very serious business. brooks also directed lancaster in elmer gantry, which made a formidible impression on me when i saw it at age 12.

        • My mother told me this morning to watch ‘Elmer Gantry’ as it is one of his best. It’s on the list. Yes, you are probably right about why I liked The Professionals. The scenery was hard and serious enough for me. I did like Lancaster’s climb up the face wall. Takes skill to do that and certainly solidifies his masculinity.

          • nice to see you as well. John. i liked lancasters work with aldrich on apache, but have to say i dont remember much about ulzanas raid. i think i only saw it once.

  10. Pingback: Burt Lancaster – Western Film Great | My Favorite Westerns

  11. Great selection! He is one of my favorite actors. Funny, I am currently reading AGAINST TYPE: The Biography of Burt Lancaster by Gary Fishgall. It’s a good book. Favorite performances: Atlantic City, Elmer Gantry, The Swimmer and The Leopard. Enjoy!

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