Tagged: Burt Lancaster

The Killers: Burt Lancaster’s Light Flannel Double-Breasted Suit

Burt Lancaster as Ole "Swede" Anderson in The Killers (1946)

Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson in The Killers (1946)

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Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson, ex-boxer

Philadelphia, Spring 1938

Film: The Killers
Release Date: August 30, 1946
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

Let’s kick off #NoirVember with a memorable scene featuring birthday boy Burt Lancaster. Born November 2, 1913 in Manhattan, Lancaster remains an icon of American film noir, having made his debut in The Killers, which also marked most of the screen-going world’s introduction to the alluring Ava Gardner.

The Killers‘ straight-outta-Hemingway opening introduces us in finem res to Lancaster as “The Swede”, an ex-boxer with a sketchy past who has been tracked down by the two eponymous killers to a small town in New Jersey. Despite having spent the last six years in hiding, the Swede makes no attempt to flee his assassins, who efficiently complete their gruesome task and leave insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) to reconstruct the decade of mistakes that led from Anderson’s career as a boxer to that of a marked man by the mob.

As with all great film noir, the Swede’s undoing begins with a dame… Continue reading

Atlantic City: Burt Lancaster’s White Vintage Sport Jacket

Burt Lancaster as Lou Pascal in Atlantic City (1980)

Burt Lancaster as Lou Pascal in Atlantic City (1980)

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Burt Lancaster as Lou Pascal, aging numbers runner

Atlantic City, Fall 1979

Film: Atlantic City
Release Date: September 3, 1980
Director: Louis Malle
Costume Designer: François Barbeau

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Burt Lancaster kicked off his final decade on the silver screen with Louis Malle’s well-received romantic crime drama, Atlantic City. In addition to securing Lancaster’s fourth and final Academy Award nomination, Atlantic City also earned nomination across all “Big Five” categories, though the film was shut out at the Oscars with Henry Fonda taking home the trophy for his performance in On Golden Pond.

Lancaster plays Lou Pascal, a long-in-the-tooth numbers runner who proudly walks the boardwalk of the titular town, waxing poetic to anyone who’ll listen about the golden age of gangsterdom in America’s Playground, when “it used to be beautiful, whatwith the rackets, whoring, guns.”

Atlantic City had floy floy coming out of its ears in those days. Now it’s all so goddamn legal. Howard Johnson running a casino. Tutti-frutti ice cream with craps don’t mix.

Lou’s comfort among criminality results in a botched cocaine deal that results in a dead dealer and plenty of blow left over for Lou to sell for his own profit as he endeavors to seduce the dealer’s estranged—and now widowed—wife, an attractive and ambitious casino waitress named Sally (Susan Sarandon). Continue reading

Criss Cross: Burt Lancaster’s Loafer Jacket

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

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Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson, larcenous armored car driver

Los Angeles, Summer 1948

Film: Criss Cross
Release Date: January 19, 1949
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

After directing the actor’s debut screen performance in quintessential film noir The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak reteamed with Burt Lancaster three years later for Criss Cross, a quick, moody thriller that begins in media res with Steve Thompson (Lancaster) in the evening shadows of a nightclub parking lot, embracing his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo).

As De Carlo makes her plea to the camera that Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller called “noir’s defining moment”, we learn that the former spouses are forced into secrecy to avoid detection from Anna’s slick gangster boyfriend Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), with whom Steve is planning a six-figure “chance of a lifetime” heist the following day.

Continue reading

Sweet Smell of Success – J.J.’s Dark Birdseye Suit

Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

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Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker, powerful and domineering newspaper columnist

New York City, Fall 1956

Film: Sweet Smell of Success
Release Date: June 27, 1957
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Costume Designer: Mary Grant

Background

In commemoration of Burt Lancaster’s birthday today, I’m exploring my favorite of his films, the atmospheric 1957 noir Sweet Smell of Success that starred Lancaster as acerbic columnist J.J. Hunsecker to Tony Curtis’ unscrupulous PR flack Sidney Falco.

J.J. Hunsecker is a man whose legendary power and mercurial temper is meant to intimidate nearly all in his orbit. Continue reading

Sweet Smell of Success – J.J.’s Flannel Suit

Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker in a colorized photo from Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

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Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker, powerful and domineering newspaper columnist

New York City, Fall 1956

Film: Sweet Smell of Success
Release Date: June 27, 1957
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Costume Designer: Mary Grant

Background

One of my favorite movies is Sweet Smell of Success, the atmospheric film noir starring Burt Lancaster as a Walter Winchell-like columnist and Tony Curtis as the opportunistic young PR flack desperate to get in good with him.

Ernest Lehman, who contributed to the screenplay based on his own novelette, declined to direct the film due to his fear of Lancaster, but the actor’s aggressive and volatile temperament paid off to create the needed aura of his intimidating character, the sort of man who could and would destroy an enemy’s career on a whim. Continue reading