Burt Lancaster, Part 1
February 7-April 17

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 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 arthouse 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 accepted at all films in the Burt Lancaster series.


The film that's been called the CITIZEN KANE of film noir. It's all here: murder, betrayal, lust, flashbacks, sumptuous visuals, double- and triple-crosses, whipcrack dialogue...and sexy young'uns Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner erupting into stardom. (Note courtesy of Noir City)

DIR Robert Siodmak; SCR Anthony Veiller, from the short story by Ernest Hemingway; PROD Mark Hellinger. US, 1946, b&w, 103 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Fri, Feb 7, 9:40; Sat, Feb 8, 2:45


"Men caged on the inside...Driven by the thought of their women on the loose!" Jules Dassin's hard-hitting prison drama remains a touchstone of the genre, with desperation-driven intensity that explodes into a chaotic breakout-cum-battle royale. Suffering under the heel of sadistic cell block guard Hume Cronyn, inmate Burt Lancaster bides his time and plans his escape. The screenplay is by future director Richard Brooks; William Daniels' photography and Miklós Rózsa's music imbue the atmosphere with an artful foreboding.

DIR Jules Dassin; SCR Richard Brooks, story by Robert Patterson; PROD Mark Hellinger. US, 1947, b&w, 98 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sun, Feb 9, 3:00; Wed, Feb 12, 6:30 (Montgomery College Show)


A tangle of love triangles brings strife to the desert town of Chuckawalla, Nevada, in this Technicolor noir. Lizabeth Scott drops out of school and becomes mixed up with gangster John Hodiak, the former flame of her saloon keeper mother Mary Astor. Also disapproving of the union for their own reasons are Scott's ex, sheriff's deputy Burt Lancaster, and Hodiak's sidekick, Wendell Corey, setting the scene for escalating and incendiary confrontations. Screenplay by Robert Rossen and an uncredited A. I. "Buzz" Bezzerides.

DIR Lewis Allen; SCR Robert Rossen, from the novel "Desert Town" by Ramona Stewart; PROD Hal B. Wallis. US, 1947, color, 96 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sat, Feb 15, 3:00; Tue, Feb 18, 9:15


"The savage drama of an amazing double double-cross!" This follow-up to the smash hit THE KILLERS reteams director Robert Siodmak with star Burt Lancaster, who once again finds himself on the short side of a deadly love triangle. Lancaster returns to his native Los Angeles and his old neighborhood haunts after a year of wandering and soon bumps into ex-wife Yvonne De Carlo, who seems interested in rekindling their relationship, though she has just married gangster Dan Duryea. Soon the hopelessly still-smitten Lancaster is drawn into Duryea's criminal orbit, planning an armored car heist and scheming to run off with De Carlo, but completely unaware that the others may be looking to leave him holding the bag. Producer Mark Hellinger hoped the film "would do for Los Angeles what [his film] NAKED CITY had done for New York," and German émigré Franz Planer lenses the film's many L.A. locations with similarly clear-eyed precision; from Bunker Hill's steep streets and worn mansions, to Union Station's bustle and deco glamour.

DIR Robert Siodmak; SCR Daniel Fuchs, from the novel by Don Tracy; PROD Michael Kraike. US, 1949, b&w, 88 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sun, Feb 16, 3:00; Wed, Feb 19, 5:15; Thu, Feb 20, 7:00


Lancaster's athleticism and years of circus training are deployed to entertainingly acrobatic effect in his role as Dardo, leader of a peasant uprising, in this swashbuckling romp, a Robin Hood-esque tale set in 12th century Lombardy. A dispute with Hessian Count Ulrich (Frank Allenby) results in the kidnapping of Dardo's son and his imprisonment in the tyrannical nobleman's castle, leading to the first of many balletic skirmishes, swashbuckling stunts and daring escapes. Stylishly directed by Jacques Tourneur (OUT OF THE PAST), with Technicolor photography by the great Ernest Haller; screenplay by Waldo Salt.

DIR Jacques Tourneur; SCR Waldo Salt; PROD Frank Ross, Harold Hecht. US, 1950, color, 88 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sat, Feb 22, 11:05 a.m.; Mon, Feb 24, 3:00; Tue, Feb 25, 5:15;
Thu, Feb 27, 3:00


Legendary sports hero Jim Thorpe's life story—from Oklahoma Native American reservation to Carlisle College track and football phenom to 1912 Olympic medalist to pro football and major league baseball player—gets the big screen treatment, directed by versatile vet Michael Curtiz. As Thorpe, Lancaster gives a moving performance, combining the requisite physicality of a prodigiously gifted athlete with a soulful sensitivity.

DIR Michael Curtiz; SCR Douglas Morrow; SCR/PROD Everett Freeman. US, 1951, b&w, 107 min, DVD. NOT RATED


Mon, Feb 24, 5:00; Tue, Feb 25, 3:00; Thu, Feb 27, 5:00


Confined to a bed in her Manhattan penthouse, invalid heiress Barbara Stanwyck busies herself calling around town keeping tabs on wandering husband Burt Lancaster. When a crossed wire results in her overhearing someone else's conversation—the plotting of a murder—the already tightly wound Stanwyck goes hysterical, calling frantically in search of someone who will believe her. Adapted from a radio play, the twist-ridden finale will please film noir fans. Stanwyck's fourth Oscar nomination.

DIR/PROD Anatole Litvak; SCR Lucille Fletcher; PROD Hal B. Wallis. US, 1948, b&w, 89 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Fri, Feb 28, 5:15; Mon, Mar 3, 9:20 CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER; Tue, Mar 4, 5:15; Wed, Mar 5, 9:30;
Thu, Mar 6, 5:15


High seas adventure and lowdown skullduggery abound in the pirate-infested Caribbean of the late 18th century, in this colorful, comical romp. Captain Vallo (Lancaster) matches wits with both the British King's special envoy Baron Gruda (Leslie Bradley) and rebel leader El Libre (Frederick Leister), hoping to play one against the other and make off with a fortune. But El Libre's beautiful daughter Consuelo (Eva Bartok) might make a hero out of this rogue yet. Lancaster impresses with his derring-do and extensive stunt work in this key swashbuckler film, the one that links Fairbanks and Flynn with Depp's iconic performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

DIR Robert Siodmak; SCR Roland Kibbee; PROD Harold Hecht, Burt Lancaster. US/UK, 1952, color, 105 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Mon, Mar 3, 5:15; Tue, Mar 4, 9:30; Wed, Mar 5, 5:15


Fred Zinnemann's celebrated wartime melodrama features one of Hollywood's most iconic images—swimsuit-clad lovers Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, adulterously embracing on a Hawaiian beach as the surf laps around them. In the days leading up to the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, private dramas and grudges hold sway over the restless army community: independent-minded private Montgomery Clift resists his captain's overtures to box, preferring romance with club hostess Donna Reed; sergeant Burt Lancaster silently seethes under the command of incompetent officers, and, not-so coincidentally, takes up with officer's wife Deborah Kerr; and big-mouthed private Frank Sinatra runs afoul of sadistic sergeant Ernest Borgnine. Nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Sinatra and Best Supporting Actress for Reed.

DIR Fred Zinnemann; SCR Daniel Taradash, from the novel by James Jones; PROD Buddy Adler. US, 1953, b&w, 118 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Fri, Mar 7, 5:15; Mon, Mar 10, 7:05

60th Anniversary!

Scheduled for deportation along with his fellow Apache warriors to a Florida reservation following the surrender of their Chief Geronimo (Monte Blue), Massai (Lancaster) escapes from his prison train and makes his way on foot back to his homeland, with plans to settle down for a peaceable life of farming. But the vengeful US Cavalry has other ideas. Robert Aldrich's gritty Western is deftly attuned to the inconvenient truths propping up the white man's "civilization" of the "savage" frontier, and represents one of the earliest examples of the revisionist Western.

DIR Robert Aldrich; SCR James R. Webb, from the novel by Paul Wellman; PROD Harold Hecht. US, 1954, color, 86 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sat, Mar 8, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Mar 10, 5:15; Thu, Mar 13, 5:15


Looking to branch out from the tough guy and swashbuckler roles that made him a star, Lancaster impressed critics and the public alike with his portrayal of youngest son Chris Keller opposite troubled patriarch Joe Keller (Edward G. Robinson) in the screen adaptation of Arthur Miller's play. The Keller defense contracting business made a fortune during WWII, but a scandal surrounding defective airplane parts now shadows the family. Son Chris falls in love with Ann Deever (Louisa Horton), the daughter of his father's jailed ex-business partner, and formerly the fiancée of his older brother Larry, killed in the war. The announcement of their engagement leads to revelations about the past and the two families' intertwined fate.

DIR Irving Reis; SCR/PROD Chester Erskine, from the play by Arthur Miller. US, 1948, b&w, 94 min, 16mm. NOT RATED

Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Sat, Mar 15, 11:05 a.m.; Mon, Mar 17, 3:00


Daniel Mann's big-screen debut, from the play by William Inge (PICNIC, BUS STOP, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS), earned three Oscar nominations, with Shirley Booth winning Best Actress. Middle-aged couple "Doc" Delaney (Lancaster) and wife Lola (Booth) have a lifetime of regret and recrimination behind them, not to mention Doc's raging alcoholism, now under control with the help of AA. But their dull lives change after they take in college co-ed Marie (Terry Moore) as a boarder, stirring up long-suppressed tensions between the couple, and unruly passions in Doc. The masterfully composed b&w photography is by James Wong Howe.

DIR Daniel Mann; SCR Ketti Frings, from the play by William Inge; PROD Hal B. Wallis. US, 1952, b&w, 95 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sun, Mar 16, 11:00 a.m.; Thu, Mar 20, 3:00

60th Anniversary!

Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper are rival soldiers of fortune south of the border, looking to cash in on the Mexican Revolution by selling their services to the highest bidder. But they'll have to join forces if they want to claim a big payday, escorting the Countess Duvarre (Denise Darcel) cross-country to Vera Cruz on the Gulf coast. When her armed escort's various hired guns—including Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson and Jack Elam—discover that the countess is transporting $3M in gold earmarked for the French army, chivalry goes out the window and it's every man for himself. Shot on location in Mexico, the film's setting and then-shocking cynicism were tremendous influences on the Italian and Spanish filmmakers who would soon put their own distinctive spin on the Western genre.

DIR Robert Aldrich; SCR Roland Kibbee, James R. Webb, from a story by Borden Chase; PROD James Hill. US, 1954, color, 94 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Fri, Mar 21, 5:15; Sat, Mar 22, 11:05 a.m.; Tue, Mar 25, 7:20


Lancaster's lone solo directorial effort is this engaging Western adventure, filmed in stunning Technicolor CinemaScope by Ernest Laszlo and featuring a score by Bernard Herrmann. In 1820s Kentucky, recently widowed frontiersman Big Eli Wakefield (Lancaster) and son Little Eli (Donald MacDonald) pack up and head for Texas to make a new life. Stopping over to visit brother John McIntyre in the river town of Humility, the Wakefields become embroiled in both a local feud and romantic intrigue. With Walter Matthau, in his feature debut, as whip-wielding saloon keeper Stan Bodine, plus Dianne Foster, Diana Lynn, Una Merkel and John Carradine.

DIR Burt Lancaster; SCR A. B. Guthrie, Jr.; PROD Harold Hecht. US, 1955, color, 104 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sun, Mar 23, 11:00 a.m.; Tue, Mar 25, 5:15


Boozy, reclusive widow Anna Magnani gets her groove back after hunky young truck driver Burt Lancaster moves in as a boarder. Adapted from the play by Tennessee Williams, written with the great Magnani expressly in mind for the lead. Nominated for eight Oscars, winning three, including Magnani for Best Actress and James Wong Howe for b&w cinematography.

DIR Daniel Mann; SCR Tennessee Williams, from his play; PROD Hal B. Wallis. US, 1955, b&w, 117 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sat, Mar 29, 11:05 a.m.; Tue, Apr 1, 5:15


Lancaster's passion project, bringing the intense professionalism, discipline, showmanship and bravery of the world's greatest circus artists to the big screen, was a smash hit around the globe. Former circus star Mike Ribble (Lancaster), who was gravely injured and nearly lost his life after a mishap doing a triple somersault, takes on talented young acrobat Tino Orsini (Tony Curtis) as his protégé. The two men's friendship and focus is threatened by another up-and-coming aerialist, the exotic, ruthlessly ambitious Lola (Gina Lollobrigida).

DIR Carol Reed; SCR James R. Webb; PROD James Hill. US, 1956, color, 105 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sat, Mar 29, 1:30; Thu, Apr 3, 5:15


"Once I trusted a dame...now I walk alone." After doing 14 years in jail, ex-bootlegger Burt Lancaster looks up his old partner Kirk Douglas to collect on his half of their operation, as they agreed before Lancaster got pinched. But Prohibition's over and Douglas has long since gone legit, and isn't about to cut a mug like Lancaster in on his swanky new nightclub now. Sultry singer Lizabeth Scott and Lancaster's brother Wendell Corey, both on Douglas' payroll, find their loyalties divided and allegiances in flux as the two former friends become bitter enemies.

DIR Byron Haskin; SCR Charles Schnee, from the play "Beggars Are Coming to Town" by Theodore Reeves; PROD Hal B. Wallis. US, 1948, b&w, 97 min, 16mm. NOT RATED

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.


Sat, Apr 5, 11:10 a.m.; Sun, Apr 6, 9:30


Following a years-long feud and the murder of his brother Virgil, lawman Wyatt Earp (Lancaster) shoots it out with the cattle-rustling Clanton/McLowery gang in Tombstone, Arizona, backed by a posse of his surviving brothers and gambler Doc Holliday (Kirk Douglas). John Sturges' iconic Western was a box-office smash, launching the greatly embellished telling of the real-life tale into the pop cultural firmament. With Dennis Hopper, Lee Van Cleef, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, John Ireland, Jack Elam and STAR TREK's DeForest Kelley. Music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

DIR John Sturges; SCR Leon Uris; PROD Hal B. Wallis. US, 1957, color, 122 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Sun, Apr 6, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Apr 7, 2:30; Tue, Apr 8, 2:30;
Thu, Apr 10, 2:30


"Caustically brilliant! James Wong Howe's black-and- white cinematography is among the best in the film-noir genre, and the performances of Lancaster and Curtis— both playing against type—rank among their greatest."—Jack Mathews, New York Daily News

"I'd hate to take a bite out of you. You're a cookie full of arsenic." The nastiest, most acid-tongued indictment of the power of the press ever produced. Burt Lancaster gives a legendary performance as J. J. Hunsecker, the most feared columnist in New York, who delights in making desperate press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) do his dirty deeds. Simply put: one of the most enjoyably unpleasant films ever made.

DIR Alexander Mackendrick; SCR Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman; PROD James Hill. US, 1957, b&w, 96 min, 35mm. NOT RATED


Fri, Apr 11, 5:00; Sat, Apr 12, 5:25; Sun, Apr 13, 1:00;
Mon, Apr 14, 5:00; Wed, Apr 16, 5:00; Thu, Apr 17, 3:00, 5:00