Anne Marie here to celebrate a Hollywood icon on his 100th birthday.
November 2nd is the centennial of that charismatic giant of an actor, Burt Lancaster. He had Clark Gable's charisma, Cary Grant's charm, The Grin, a mop of hair that couldn't be tamed, and a voice that dripped sweetness from every syllable. With all of these admirable qualities, Lancaster could have settled into a career as a leading man, however he chose to pursue challenging roles and a career directing and producing as well. I first saw him in The Rainmaker starring opposite Katharine Hepburn. It takes something special to tear my attention away from Kate The Great, but the minute Lancaster appeared I was starstruck.
But if we're going to talk about iconic Lancaster performances, we have to start here:
While this particularly sexy kiss is what we all remember the film for, it's worth mentioning that Lancaster's also very good in the film. As Sgt. Warden, Lancaster balances military bravado, empathy for his soldiers, passion, vulnerability, and steeliness on his well-muscled shoulders. He was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. [Trivia Note: From Here To Eternity is tied with 8 other pictures for "most acting nominations from one film" with 5 (!) an achievement that is now extremely rare, ending with Network (1976)]
Lancaster wouldn't win the gold until Elmer Gantry in 1960...
Elmer Gantry is a role tailor-made for Lancaster's particular brand of charm. Gantry is a con man who starts starts evangelizing at revivals because he wants to get into the habit of Sister Sharon (Jean Simmons). Gantry is a bad man preaching the Good Book. But my goodness, I could listen to him read the phone book! It's impossible not to root for him or fall for him. Lancaster roars and cajoles and cries while he's preaching, but his quiet moments are equally powerful. One such quiet scene is between Gantry and a prostitute played by future Partridge Family matriarch Shirley Jones. Lancaster portrays Gantry's powerful personality with an equally potent physicality, so when the wordsmith is temporarily broken, you can see it in his shoulders as well as his eyes. Elmer Gantry is more a whirlwind than a simple performance.
Burt Lancaster's career was as long as it was diverse. He played pirates, preachers, thugs, Nazis, conmen, convicts, and cowboys. One thing's certain: he was definitely never dull. Happy Birthday, Burt!
What's your favorite Burt Lancaster movie?