Burt Lancaster, Part 2
April 18-August 2
Part 2 of AFI Silver's Burt Lancaster retrospective includes the actor's Oscar-winning turn in 1960's ELMER GANTRY, his iconic work in Luchino Visconti's masterpiece THE LEOPARD and the John Cheever adaptation THE SWIMMER, and culminates with his late-career triumph in Louis Malle's ATLANTIC CITY.
Blond-haired, blue-eyed, tall and athletically built, Burt Lancaster looked every inch the tailor-made American movie star. But his long and celebrated film career embodies multiple contradictions: improbable good fortune after the most belated of discoveries (he made his screen debut, as the doomed Swede in film noir classic THE KILLERS, at age 32, after WWII service and years knocking about as a circus acrobat), nearly immediate independence and financial clout (spurning an exclusive studio contract, the suddenly in-demand star began his own production company—then an innovation, and more typically the province of established stars like James Stewart—which generated hit after hit through the 1950s), and a refreshing counter-intuitiveness to his decision-making (following his early tough guy and swashbuckler successes, Lancaster pursued nebbishy roles to expand his range; he played several memorable villains, unthinkable for other box office stars; and from THE LEOPARD to THE SWIMMER to CONVERSATION PIECE to ATLANTIC CITY, starred in European productions and New Wave-influenced American art-house pictures, daring projects most of his peers wouldn't dream of risking their reputations—or exposing their limitations—on).
Despite being a top box office draw through the first two decades of his career, some of his most revered and now-iconic projects were unsuccessful, even mocked, at the time—SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, for example, was a box office bomb, and led to the rapid dissolution of his once high-flying production company. History has evened the score on that one, as it has with THE LEOPARD, after the restored, uncut Italian version belatedly premiered in America. Look for the recently restored THE SWIMMER, based on the John Cheever story, to soon join the ranks of the rediscovered and newly appreciated.
Following close on Lancaster's centennial birthday on November 2, 2013, AFI Silver presents this extensive retrospective of the films of one of America's great leading men.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all screenings.
Burt Lancaster won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of charismatic, conniving hellfire-and-brimstone preacher Elmer Gantry, in Richard Brooks' incendiary screen adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning author Sinclair Lewis' scathing satirical novel. Jean Simmons plays Gantry's employer, Sister Sharon Falconer, Arthur Kennedy is an H. L. Mencken-esque journalist and Shirley Jones is preacher's daughter-turned-prostitute Lulu Bains, out to nail Gantry for his misdeeds. Five Oscar nominations and three wins: Lancaster, Jones for Best Supporting Actress and Brooks for Best Adapted Screenplay.
DIR/SCR Richard Brooks; PROD Bernard Smith. US, 1960, color, 146 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ
Fri, Apr 18, 2:30; Sun, Apr 20, 1:00
Based on the real-life story of Robert Stroud, a convicted felon serving a life sentence who becomes a self-taught ornithologist, recognized and respected in his field, despite the rigors of prison. It was a passion project for Lancaster, who was Oscar-nominated for his performance, as were costars Telly Savalas as a fellow inmate and Thelma Ritter as Stroud's mother; also starring Karl Malden as an abusive warden and Edmond O'Brien as the crusading journalist who gets Stroud's story out to the public.
DIR John Frankenheimer; SCR/PROD Guy Trosper, from the book by Thomas E. Gaddis; PROD Stuart Millar. US, 1962, b&w, 147 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
SEVEN DAYS IN MAY
A Cold War paranoia classic, from a screenplay by TWILIGHT ZONE creator Rod Serling. Set some time in the near future of the 1970s, liberal U.S. president Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union, in the wake of a Korean War-like stalemate in Iran. Amid a loud public outcry of dissatisfaction from the administration's political opposition and right-wingers in the military, Marine Corps Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey (Kirk Douglas) uncovers a plot within the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by charismatic Air Force General James Mattoon Scott (Lancaster), to stage a military coup and seize control of the country's TV, radio and telephone networks via a secret Army communications unit. The impressive cast includes Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien, Martin Balsam, John Houseman and George Macready.
DIR John Frankenheimer; SCR Rod Serling; PROD Edward Lewis. US, 1964, b&w, 120 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
THE LEOPARD [Il Gattopardo]
The Restored Version
Sun, May 4, 11:00 a.m.; Tue, May 6, 7:00
Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1963. Burt Lancaster, the patriarch of a noble family in proud decline, realizes the truth in his nephew Alain Delon's observation, "If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." He sends Delon to join Garibaldi's Risorgimento forces, releases him from an engagement to his cousin—Lancaster's daughter—and orchestrates an advantageous marriage to the daughter of a nouveau riche town mayor, the ravishing Claudia Cardinale. Giuseppe Rotunno's painterly, widescreen photography is a must-see on the big screen.
DIR/SCR Luchino Visconti; SCR Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, from the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa; PROD Goffredo Lombardo. Italy/France, 1963, color, 202 min including a 15-min intermission, DCP. In Italian with English subtitles. RATED PG
Sat, May 10, 1:10; Sun, May 11, 1:10
A down-and-dirty tale of WWII art looting, more gritty and action-oriented than George Clooney's recent misfire THE MONUMENTS MEN. With the Allies on the march to Paris in August 1944, German Colonel Franz von Waldheim (Paul Scofield) orders France's priceless art treasures, looted from museums, to be loaded on to a train and spirited off to Germany. At first reluctant to divert resources to a mission without a clear military objective, things become personal for French Resistance figure Labiche (Burt Lancaster) after the noble self-sacrifice of engineer Papa Boule (Michel Simon) and the inspiring words of innkeeper Christine (Jeanne Moreau).
DIR John Frankenheimer; SCR Franklin Coen, Frank Davis; PROD Jules Bricken. US/France/Italy, 1964, b&w, 133 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Sun, May 11, 5:00; Wed, May 14, 7:10
"We've been had, amigo." A rich Texas rancher (Ralph Bellamy) hires four mercenaries to retrieve his wife Maria (Claudia Cardinale), kidnapped by a notorious Mexican bandit, Jesus Raza (Jack Palance) in Richard Brooks' cult classic Western adventure. Hired for $10,000 each are demolitions expert Bill Dolworth (Lancaster), gunfighter Rico Fardan (Lee Marvin), horse wrangler Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan) and scout Jake Sharp (Woody Strode). As if traveling 100 miles south of the border with the Mexican Revolution in full swing and taking on Raza and his men weren't challenge enough, it turns out that Maria doesn't want to be rescued in the first place.
DIR/SCR/PROD Richard Brooks, from the novel "A Mule for the Marquesa" by Frank O'Rourke. US, 1966, color, 117 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Sun, May 18, 1:30; Mon, May 19, 2:30; Wed, May 21, 9:20;
Thu, May 22, 6:45
Sydney Pollack's 1968 comedic Western will never be IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT or THE DEFIANT ONES, but in its own amiable way this period piece made an ameliorative statement about contemporary race relations in America. At gunpoint, fur trapper Burt Lancaster is forced into a trade with a band of Kiowa: his packhorse, laden with pelts, for their hostage Ossie Davis, an escaped Louisiana slave and Comanche convert. The two men would prefer to be rid of each other, but not before Lancaster gets his furs back. However, Telly Savalas and his band of scalphunters complicate matters when they descend upon the drunken Indians first, slaughtering them and stealing the furs. With Shelley Winters as Savalas' opportunistic mistress.
DIR Sydney Pollack; SCR William W. Norton; PROD Jules V. Levy, Arthur Gardner, Arnold Laven. US, 1968, color, 102 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Tue, May 20, 2:30; Thu, May 22, 9:10
The shadow of the Vietnam conflict hangs heavily over this revisionist Western from pulp auteur Robert Aldrich, set in 1880s Arizona. Fed up with the U.S. Indian Agency's mistreatment, Apache Ulzana (Joaquín Martínez, who starred opposite Robert Redford the same year in Sydney Pollack's JEREMIAH JOHNSON as Crow chief Paints His Shirt Red) goes off the reservation and on the warpath, leading a small band of braves on a brutal, murderous campaign of terror. Grizzled army scout McIntosh (Burt Lancaster) is given the thankless task of tracking down the marauders, alongside Apache scout Ke-Ni-Tay (Jorge Luke)—Ulzana's brother-in-law—and idealistic, inexperienced Lieutenant Garnett DeBuin (Bruce Davison).
DIR Robert Aldrich; SCR Alan Sharp; PROD Carter DeHaven. US, 1972, color, 103 min, DCP. RATED R
VALDEZ IS COMING
Mon, May 26, 1:45; Tue, May 27, 9:10; Wed, May 28, 9:20
They tore his body. They buried his pride. But they forgot his old uniform, his Sharps rifle and his Buffalo gun. Find Tanner, El Segundo and the 16 others. And tell them Valdez is coming. Lancaster stars as the indomitable sheriff Bob Valdez, intent on righting a wrong perpetrated by lying rancher Frank Tanner (John Cypher) that resulted in the wrongful death of an innocent man. Susan Clark, Frank Silvera, Richard Jordan and Hector Elizondo star in this adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel.
DIR Edwin Sherin; SCR Roland Kibbee, David Rayfiel, from the novel by Elmore Leonard; PROD Ira Steiner. US, 1971, color, 90 min, 35mm. RATED PG-13
Sun, Jun 1, 1:30; Wed, Jun 4, 9:05; Thu, Jun 5, 2:45
After a band of rowdy ranch hands shoots up the town of Bannock and accidentally kills an old man, Marshal Jared Maddox (Lancaster), with warrants sworn out, tracks the perpetrators to the neighboring town of Sabbath. Local sheriff Cotton Ryan (Robert Ryan), his heroic days long behind him, counsels Maddox to stand down rather than tangle with powerful land boss Vincent Bronson (Lee J. Cobb), the wanted men's employer. Even Bronson has tired of the violence that informed his early years, and would prefer a cash settlement for the victim's family with a sop to Marshal Maddox for his time. But the implacable Maddox adheres to a rigid, punishing code of justice for all. Michael Winner directs a dynamite cast, including Robert Duvall, Sheree North, Albert Salmi, Richard Jordan and John McGiver.
DIR/PROD Michael Winner; SCR Gerald Wilson. US, 1971, color, 99 min. RATED R
Tue, Jun 3, 2:45; Wed, Jun 4, 7:00; Thu, Jun 5, 9:15
This surreal war movie laced with absurdist humor has long enjoyed cult status, with many seeing it as a precursor of 1970's M*A*S*H. During a quiet interlude during the buildup to the Battle of the Bulge, one-eyed Maj. Falconer (Lancaster) and his squad of American GIs take shelter in a 10th century castle in Belgium, furnished with multiple masterpieces of art and decor. Nice digs for this ragtag squad of men, including horndog Sgt. Rossi (Peter Falk), art expert Capt. Beckman (Patrick O'Neal), conscientious objector Lt. Bix (Bruce Dern) and Pvt. Allistair Piersall Benjamin (Al Freeman, Jr.), the story's narrator. The men enjoy their downtime and the village's brothel, but even with one eye, Falconer hasn't lost sight of the advancing Germans. A soupçon of French New Wave style is provided by Henri Decaë's cinematography and Michel Legrand's music.
DIR Sydney Pollack; SCR Daniel Taradash, David Rayfiel, from the novel by William Eastlake; PROD Martin Ransohoff, John Calley. US, 1969, color, 105 min, 35mm. RATED R
Fri, Jun 6, 3:00; Sun, Jun 8, 3:45; Wed, Jun 11, 9:15
*In person: daughter Joanna Lancaster on Jun 7
Middle-aged ad man Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster) gets the notion that he can pool hop across his wealthy suburban Connecticut neighbors' expansive yards and swim all the way home to his own split-level. But Ned's concept of home, his own self-image and the whereabouts of his loving wife and daughters turn out to be dreadfully elusive. In one of the key Hollywood films of the 1960s, Lancaster gives a bravura performance—in swimming trunks—with Ned's physical nakedness and vulnerability chiming with his emotional and mental unraveling and mysterious loss. Frank Perry directed his wife Eleanor's adaptation of John Cheever's story of suburban malaise, with Lancaster's protégé Sydney Pollack called in to re-direct key scenes, including Lancaster's poolside confrontation with ex-mistress Janice Rule. Score by 22-year-old first-timer Marvin Hamlisch.
DIR/PROD Frank Perry; SCR Eleanor Perry, from the story by John Cheever; PROD Roger Lewis. US, 1968, color, 95 min, DCP. RATED PG
GO TELL THE SPARTANS
Sat, Jun 7, 5:00*; Thu, Jun 12, 7:15
"Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."–Simonides' epitaph to the 300 Greek soldiers who died fighting Persian invaders at Thermopylae in 480 BC. In 1964 Vietnam, U.S. military advisor Major Asa Barker (Lancaster) and a pitifully small number of newly deployed U.S. soldiers and South Vietnamese militiamen are tasked with holding a remote outpost—the earlier site of a massacre of French soldiers during the First Indochina War—against superior numbers of Viet Cong. Director Ted Post and star Lancaster had served together some 30 years earlier in the U.S. Army in Italy during WWII.
DIR Ted Post; SCR Wendell Mayes, from the novel "Incident at Muc Wa" by Daniel Ford; PROD Allan F. Bodoh, Mitchell Cannold. US, 1978, color, 114 min, 35mm. RATED R
Mon, Jun 9, 3:00; Tue, Jun 10, 3:00; Wed, Jun 11, 7:00;
Thu, Jun 12, 3:00
Texas billionaire oilman Felix Happer (Lancaster, giving a delightfully quirky late-career performance) dispatches underlings "Mac" MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) and Danny Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) to the remote Scottish village of Ferness, tasked with buying up the whole town in order to build a North Sea drilling operation. The locals are only too happy to sell, save one: beach-shack dweller Ben Knox (Fulton Mackay), who simply asks, Lorax-like, "Who'd look after the beach then? It would go to pieces in a short manner of time." While the deal stalls, Mac and Danny find themselves falling for the charms of village life and the Scottish landscape.
DIR/SCR Bill Forsyth; PROD David Puttnam. UK, 1983, color, 111 min. RATED PG
Fri, Jun 13, 2:45; Tue, Jun 17, 3:00; Wed, Jun 18, 3:00
Burt Lancaster Finale
As a special finale to the Burt Lancaster series, AFI Silver once again welcomes his daughter, Joanna Lancaster, to discuss her father's film legacy at two newly-added screenings.
Q&A with daughter Joanna Lancaster on Aug. 2!
What began as a Canadian tax-shelter quickie became one of director Louis Malle's best-loved pictures. For aging gangster Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City never lost its glory, despite its current seedy state. He takes a shine to his pretty neighbor Susan Sarandon and, after her no-good estranged husband resurfaces, in over his head with the mob, Lancaster becomes drawn in to a new racket. Golden Lion, 1980 Venice Film Festival, and five Oscar nominations. (How could Lancaster lose? To Henry Fonda, for ON GOLDEN POND.)
DIR Louis Malle; SCR John Guare; PROD Denis Híroux, John Kemeny. Canada/France, 1980, color, 104 min, 35mm. In English and French with English subtitles. RATED R
CATTLE ANNIE AND LITTLE BRITCHES
Q&A with daughter Joanna Lancaster on Aug. 2!
Sun, Jun 15, 1:00; Sat, Aug 2, 3:00–just added!
Captivated by dime-novel legends of the Old West, 19th century Oklahoma teens Jenny (Diane Lane) and Annie (Amanda Plummer) leave home to seek out the gang led by Bill Doolin (Burt Lancaster) and Bill Dalton (Scott Glenn). Long past their prime and far-removed from the exploits of their youth, the old outlaws get a second wind from the girls' energetic enthusiasm. But after pulling a new round of jobs, the now co-ed gang draws the attention of lawman Bill Tilghman (Rod Steiger). Given only a half-hearted release, the film was nonetheless championed by critics like Pauline Kael, Kevin Thomas and Michael Sragow, and was recently voted "Best Rediscovery" by the Boston Society of Film Critics after its 2013 screening at Cambridge's Brattle Theatre.
DIR Lamont Johnson; SCR David Eyre, Robert Ward, from his novel; PROD Rupert Hitzig, Alan King. US, 1981, color, 98 min, 35mm. RATED PG
Mon, Jun 30, 7:20; Wed, Jul 2, 7:20 canceled;
Sat, Aug 2, 5:45–just added!