TCM’s Star of the Month: Burt Lancaster

 

TCM Star of the Month

Burt Lancaster

This month Turner Classic Movies is celebrating Burt Lancaster as its Star of the Month. With a career spanning five decades and with more than 85 films to his credit, Lancaster has one of the longest and most prolific careers of any Hollywood star. He became a star seemingly overnight with his film debut in 1946’s The Killers and was immediately in two more film-noirs, playing up his brooding tough guy image. Although his rugged good looks and disciplined athletic physique could have easily led to being typecast, Lancaster decided to take his image into his own hands by co-founding his own production company, Hecht-Lancaster Productions. The company helped shape Lancaster’s career by allowing him the freedom to choose roles that challenged his abilities as an actor.

Burt Lancaster and Eva Gardner in The Killers (1946, Robert Siodmak director)

Few classic actors have a resume as rich and varied as Lancaster. In Hollywood, he gave life to characters as different as the slimy, unscrupulous J.J Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success to the complex convicted murderer, Robert Stroud, in Birdman of Alcatraz. He also managed to make both pop-culture and film history when he and Deborah Kerr locked lips on the beach in 1953’s From Here to Eternity. Always searching for more ways to challenge himself, Lancaster sought work outside the trappings Hollywood, finding European directors less conventional approach to filmmaking a glad welcome.  One of those “artsy” European films was Luchino Visconti’s adaption of the Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa novel, The Leopard.

 

Burt Lancaster in The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti director)

His role as Don Fabrizio Corera, Prince of Salina, ranks as my favorite of all of his performances. He exhibits his trademark quiet authoritative presence, but gone are the showy antics of a Hollywood narrative. He is hardly recognizable while draped in noble Italian finery and sporting a fine specimen of a mustache. Frustrating, haughty, and yet somehow sympathetic, Lancaster’s performance as the stoic and indecisive prince was nothing less than remarkable. The film, too, is an absolute classic and should be seen by all. If you haven’t had the chance to watch this masterpiece, you should probably clear your calendars on Wednesday, November 27th because it’s airing on 10:00pm on Turner Classic Movie. Seriously, do it. Cancel work if you have to. 

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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