Today marks the Burt Lancaster’s birthday! You may know it or not, but he has always been one of my very favourite actors since in discovered him in The Unforgiven (John Huston, 1960). The one we also call “Mr. Muscles & Teeth” or “Big Teeth” if you are my mother starred in some movies that marked cinema’s history and always delivered top-notch performances. In order to honour him on this very special day, I thought it would be fun to do a top list presenting my 15 most favourite films of his.
Before we continue…
I insist you respect my choices. This is a list of MY own favourite Lancaster’s films. I’m not claiming that these ones are the best, but only the ones I personally like the most. It’s not objective at all. It’s very subjective.
Also, if a movie is not on the list, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. I have seen a total of 22 of his films. So, obviously, some won’t be on the list (not to mention the ones I haven’t seen yet).
Notice: If you should fail to respect this simple request, your comment will be deleted.
Of course, you are invited to share your personal favourites in the comments section!
I remember my grandfather talking to me about this film. It was the second film to reunite Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis (well, don’t you remember, Tony was playing an extra in Criss Cross. Haha!). Pretty enjoyable, but not a masterpiece like Sweet Smell of Success either!
I’m normally not too much into political films but I had to include it on the list as it’s unique in its own way and has an impressive modern touch.
10. Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (Norman Foster, 1948)
9. Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick)
” Match me, Sidney!” (Couldn’t resist). Brilliant film, but Burt sort of scares me in it!
8. The Rainmaker (Joseph Anthony, 1956)
This is one of Burt’s most underrated films. I personally love it and his performance in it is one of my most favourites. That monologue at the beginning totally captivates me! When Earl Holliman sent me these autographed pictures, he wrote that this was indeed the favourite film he made (his performance in it was brilliant as well) and that he loved working with Burt and Kate. 🙂
7. Elmer Gantry (Richard Brooks, 1960)
Not a film everyone “gets”, but I personally love it. Burt won a well-deserved Oscar for his performance!
6. Airport (George Seaton, 1970)
Is it a guilty pleasure? It’s not a bad movie, of course. It’s pretty good in fact, but disaster movies always seem to be a synonym of “guilty pleasure”! Anyway, I know many will have a different opinion on that.
5. Separate Table (Delbert Mann, 1958)
That cast! Oh, my! I didn’t like the film so much the first time I saw it but loved it the second time. I’m weird like that.
Oh that it seems far away, that time when Judy Garland was gambolling on the yellow bricks road and singing “We’re Off to See the Wizard” when you look at her years later in John Cassavetes’s A Child Is Waiting (1963)! If this film was among her lasts before her premature death in 1969, it was one of Cassavetes’s first. But the two managed to mix their respective talents for a worthy result. To that was added a glimpse of always-great-on-screen Burst Lancaster and a beautiful supporting cast composed by Elizabeth Wilson, Gena Rowlands (John Cassavetes’s wife from 1954 to his death in 1989), Bruce Ritchey, Steven Hill, Lawrence Tierney, Barbara Pepper, John Marley and Paul Stewart. The film was produced by Stanley Kramer. Even if Cassavetes lost power as a director under the production of Kramer and wasn’t satisfied with the final product, A Child Is Waiting remains, on many levels, a masterpiece, but, a forgotten one. Indeed, when one thinks of its two main stars, Garland and Lancaster, this is rarely the first film that we think about.
I must admit, as odd as it seems, I’ve only seen two Judy Garland’s films: The Wizard of Oz (obviously) and this one (I also saw some parts of Meet Me in St. Louis). As a matter of fact, when Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood announced that she’ll be hosting the Judy Garland Blogathon in honour of this musical entertainer’s birthday, I thought that it would be a good occasion for me to finally watch this film who was on my to-watch list for quite some time. This was due to the presence of Burt Lancaster, and actor I adore, but also to this review written by Crystal herself and the simply good occasion to discover another Garland’s film.
Yesterday, the lovely Judy would have been 95 and a blogathon is, of course, the best way for us, bloggers, to honour her memory.
From the first minute of A Child Is Waiting, I knew this would be a film I would like. I hope I’m not too weird by saying that, but I’ve always liked psychological movies or movies that take place in a psychiatric institution, a mental hospital, etc. I simply find these fascinating, especially for what concerns the way the patients evolve in this environment.
A Child Is Waiting takes place at the Crawthorne State Mental Hospital. Judy Garland plays Jean Hansen, a newcomer among the staff of the hospital. Due to her musical background, she is hired as a music therapist. The psychologist, Dr. Matthew Clark, is played by Burt Lancaster. Jean becomes fond of a little boy named Reuben Widdicome who suffers from a mental retardation. The child, who hasn’t seen his mother since two years, easily finds a friend in Jean who has a real maternal instinct. She and Dr. Clark are put in opposition in what concerns their ideal for the child’s development. If she believes he will improve his condition by seeing his mother, the doctor believes he should not and that he must learn to live with different people.
The film is a special one as its extras include real mentally-challenged children from Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, California, just like Milos Forman would use real mentally hill patients in his highly acclaimed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This creates a sense of authenticity and realism. Concerning these children, I particularly appreciated the inclusion of Burt Lancaster in this film as I don’t remember having seen him interact often with kids on screen. He is presented as a man with a calm temperament. He can get angry, but he’ll never scream at someone. As always, Mr. Lancaster loves to show his teeth when he talks, but that’s how we love him! His acting is well calculated, without unnecessary extravagances. The child, who is for him (the doctor) a hopeless case, is played by Bruce Ritchey, who certainly breaks our hearts with his sad eyes. If A Child Is Waiting is credited as his only major film role, and the child actor is quite forgotten today, it goes without saying that his performance is one that we don’t easily forget. Playing people mentally ill never seems to be an easy task for the simple reason that it would be “dangerous” to be too cliché. But Ritchey keeps it simple and his acting full of sensibility almost makes us forget the film’s two big stars, Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland.
Talking about Judy, if this one was particularly known for her musicals, this film allows us to discover her talent as a dramatic actress. We become easily fond of her as she gives to her character a beautiful aura of kindness and chooses a type of acting that fits perfectly the mood of the film. Even if A Child Is Waiting isn’t a musical, we even have the occasion to hear Mrs. Garland’s beautiful voice in a brief moment of the film. Sadly, if she delivers a thoughtful performance, Mrs. Garland had important personal problems at the time and this can be felt in her acting. There is the impression of a certain discomfort, but, luckily, this one is easily forgotten. Anyway, let’s not talk too much about Judy Garland’s life problems on her celebration! Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster were reunited before in Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg (1961).
Interestingly, A Child Is Waiting marks the first cinematographic collaboration between John Cassavetes and his beautiful wife actress Gena Rowlands. She plays Reuben’s sad mother and her supportive presence is nothing but a strong addition to the film.
As always, I’m always talking too much about the actors, so I will stop here. Nothing bad to say about the rest of the cast, they were all good.
Another thing that particularly struck me about this film is the music. First, in the opening titles embellished with naive children’s drawings, we hear an a capella chorus of children (which can make us think of the famous school scene in Hitchcock’s The Birds) which indicates us the importance of these children in the film. The rest of the score was composed by Ernest Gold (who was not at his first, nor last collaboration with Stanley Kramer) and there’s something about it that represents quite perfectly the mood of the film, but also Reuben’s psychological states. One one side, there’s something somehow disquieting about it, but on the other one, it’s always a calm melody.
If John Cassavetes was fired from the production when editing time came (…), there’s nothing really bad to say about this editing, but we feel it’s not a John Cassavetes’ one. I’m not a Cassavetes expert, but from what I know of his methods, we feel that his editing would have been more creative. Here, no particular liberties are taken nor creativity shown. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily affect the quality of the film, but maybe Cassavetes’ editing would have accentuated the psychological side of the film and give it a different meaning. Just an idea…
What disappointed me about the film is the development of the characters. We actually don’t really feel there is one. If that was the intention, then ok, but I think more efforts could have been put on this level. This doesn’t only concern Reuben, who, unfortunately, never really seem to change as a patient (this doesn’t necessarily have to be a positive change. It can be a bad one too), but also for the doctor and Jean. We always feel Jean is about to tell us something crucial about her past life, but no… This constant impression could have been avoided as, here, it is only annoying. Also, at the end, we don’t really know what will happen with each of the characters. I’m all for open endings, but here it doesn’t seem that necessary.
But, apart from that, I highly enjoyed the film!
On its released, A Child Is Waiting sadly was a commercial failure. On another side, it received some good reviews.
It is difficult to know why the film is forgotten nowadays at it reunites a masterful team. So, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is the perfect film for those who like thoughtful, but not too mentally extravagant films (even if this one takes place in a mental hospital, it remains quite sober on that level). Fans of Garland, I’m sure, will appreciate it as it shows a different facet of her acting.
Before leaving you, I want to thank Crystal for hosting this lovely event and, of course, wish a happy (belated) heavenly birthday to the celebrated star. Happy birthday Judy, wherever you are!
Don’t forget to take a look at the other entries, here!
My! This is the first article I was writing since mid-April (blogathon announcements don’t count). I hope I haven’t lost my touch!
Frank Sinatra, who was one of the most acclaimed crooner of music history, would have been 100 on December 12, 2015. The man wasn’t only a great singer, but also a swell actor. One of his most acclaimed performances was the one in From Here to Eternity for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. From Here to Eternity is one of those films that, before I saw it for the first time, thought I would like it, but finally loved it. It’s now among my very favourite films. It has so many qualities and one of them is the actor performances. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Deborah Kerr all give memorable performances and, without the shadow of a doubt, Frank greatly deserved his award.
I’m happy to write about his performance in this film, because I’m participating to the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon hosted by Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo. The event takes place from December 10 to December 13, 2015. All the participating blogs are celebrating Sinatra’s 100th birthday each in their own way. I could have been more original and talk about one of his less known work, but, somehow, I had to write about From Here to Eternity. You see, it’s because of this film and this performance that he became a favourite of mine.
From Here to Eternity was based on the successful novel by James Jones. It was directed by Fred Zinneman (High Noon, The Men, The Nun’s Story, A Man for all Seasons) and released in 1953. It was a success by being one of the most successful films of the decade at the box office. It also won no less than 8 Academy Awards: Best Picture (Buddy Adler), Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Cinematography Black and White (Burnett Guffey), best film editing (William A. Lyon) and Best Sound Recording (John P. Livadary). It also was nominated for Best Actor (twice: Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Deborah Kerr), Best Costume Design (black and white: Jean Louis) and Best Score (George Duning and Morris Stoloff).
The story takes place at Schofield Barrack on Oahnu, a Hawaiian island. We are at the beginning of the war in 1941. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt had just been transferred to this barrack. Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) had heard that he is a boxing champion and wants him in his regimental team, but Prewitt refuses. He had decided to quit boxing having been responsible of a tragic accident. However, Holmes is not ready to give up, but Prewitt is a hard head. On its arrival, Prewitt finds his friend Private Angelio Maggio (Frank Sinatra) who will always be there to support him against Holmes’ pressure. He then meets his superior First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster). Warden doesn’t seem to appreciate Prewitt at first, but he learns to, and a seems to somehow admire Prewitt’s stubbornness. One night, Prewire and Maggio are out in a club, Prew (as they call him) meets Alma “Lorene” Burke (Donna Reed) and falls in love with her. On his side, Warden his having and affair with Captain Holmes’s wife, Karen (Deborah Kerr). They are both in love with each others, but this isn’t an easy relation.
In his first appearance in the film as Maggio, Frank Sinatra is introduced to us as the “nice guy”. We can’t really see if he’s giving a good performance after only a few lines, but we can guess he would be the “character we want to be friend with”. And that’s what exactly who Maggio is. He is a real pal to Prew, but also to us because. We can easily say he is, in a way, the character we appreciate the most from the beginning until the end. But unfortunately, Maggio is also the guy who gets easily into trouble. As a matter of fact, they all do, especially him and Prew. That’s probably why they get along so well.
Before starring in this film, Franks Sinatra was most well-known for his roles in comedies or musicals. Thanks to Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift’s help, he improved his dramatic acting abilities during the shooting of this film. Franks Sinatra was very grateful to them and remained a long time friend with Burt Lancaster. This shooting was also a certain test for him, considering what he was going through in his personal life. His marriage with Ava Gardner was indeed at its end. I always thought that it was quite a tour de force for an actor or an actress to give a brilliant acting performance when things aren’t going very happily his/her life. That makes me think of my article I wrote about Laurence Olivier’s performance in Spartacus for the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon. When he shot this film, his relation with Vivien Leigh was coming at his end, and it was not an easy moment for him and Vivien, considering Vivien’s mental illness. But, he worked hard and gave an unforgettable performance.
But let’s get back to Frank Sinatra. In only one movie, from the beginning until the end, he manages to prove us that he was indeed able to be a versatile actor, going in the comic emotions and then the more dramatic ones. We can easily say that he is the funniest one in the film and gives to Maggio a great sense of humour and comedy. He knew how to express his comic lines in the right tone, with the right emotions and gestures to make us laugh. This is not a comedy, but laughs never hurt. Actually, Frank Sinatra’s performance makes this film alive. Not that it wouldn’t be a good film without him, but it would be different, something would be missing you see.
As much as he knew how to play the nice guy, Frank Sinatra was also able to prove us that he could get angry sometimes. This is more obvious in this scene in the bar where he gets involved in a violent argument with Staff Sergeant “Fatso” Judson (Ernest Borgnine). This is how he would start to get involved into trouble. Frank Sinatra is quite convincing in this scene. We believe in his anger.
During his last appearance in the film [SPOILER ALERTE], Frank Sinatra plays his dramatic card. This is indeed one of the saddest scenes of From Here to Eternity: having previously deserted his post, Maggio is sent to the barrack jail. Unfortunately for him, Fatso is in charge of it. In his last scene, Maggio has just escaped from the jail, but has been beaten to death by Fatso. Prew arrives at the same time. Maggio dies in his arms. Those moments in cinema when a friend dies in another friend’s arms are always heartbreaking (I’m suddenly thinking of Forrest Gump). Why? Because it seems unfair to loose a friend in such a cruel way. Of course, this works only if both actors are credible. Frank and Montgomery are. This scene is very short, very simple. Frank Sinatra doesn’t over act. We almost feel he is really dying. That’s the end of Maggio and, just like Prew, we feel terribly lonely by his absence. [END OF SPOILER]
If you look at this clip where Frank Sinatra wins his Oscar, the crowd seems really enthusiast about it. Even Mercedes McCambridge, who was presenting the award, jumps of joy when she names him! He deserved it.
Frank Sinatra doesn’t sing in From Here to Eternity. As a matter of fact, the musical side of this film is embodied by Montgomery Clift’s character who plays trumpet. He doesn’t sing, but he acts. And his acting is as much good as his singing, and that means a lot.
I remember, I was first introduced to Franks Sinatra as a singer when I was a child, because my parents were (and still are) always listening to his album “My Way”. And then, I think I first saw him in Guys and Dolls. However, it’s really by watching From Here to Eternity that I started having a biggest interest in him, both as a singer and an actor. Now I’m always happy when my parents are listening to this “My Way” album! Frank Sinatra really was one of a kind.
A big thanks to our host blogs Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo for having such a great blogathon idea. Of course, I invite you to read the other lovely entries. Just click here:
Movie heroines are not always princesses waiting for a prince to rescue them, they are not always victims or damsels in distress. Female movie characters can be strong, they can have guts, determination and many other wonderful qualities. GIRL POWER! Is it clear? Well, because of movie business, a group of stereotypes was created around women, but these are only prejudices. Why am I telling you all this? Because today I’m participating to the Anti-Damsel blogathon hosted by Movies Silently and The Last Drive In. A blogathon created to defy those stereotypes and honour the powerful women of cinema. Those who really existed or simple movie characters. For the occasion, I’ve chosen to write about Lola Delaney, Shirley Booth’s character in Come Back Little Sheba ( Daniel Mann, 1952). Lola Delaney seems at first to be a weak lady, but I’ll prove you she’s not.
To situate you a little, if you haven’t seen Come Back Little Sheba, I’ll first present you a quick plot of the film: Lola Delaney (Shirley Booth) and her husband Doc Delaney (Burt Lancaster) are married and have no children. Doc Delaney is recovering from alcoholism, but is still irritable. He is a member of the AA. Lola Delaney suffers from a big loneliness as her husband constantly has to go out. She has decided to rent a room for a student in need. The room is rented by the young Marie (Terry More), an art student. Marie is engaged to a certain Bruce (Welter Kelley). She is a young girl full of life and is greatly appreciated by both Lola and Doc. However, Marie sees another boy, Turk (Richard Jeakel). Doc, feeling he has a great responsibility over Marie, can’t stand the she’s seeing another man when she is already engaged, especially a boy like Turk who, according to Doc, is probably no good to her. Doc will take this too personal and will return in the old deep darkness. Lola will have to handle the situation the best she can. The Delaney once had a dog, Sheba, who unfortunately escaped one day and never come back. Lola is always hoping it will be back. That’s why the title of this film is “Come Back Little Sheba”. As they have no children, Sheba was probably like her child.
Lola Delaney is not the typical beautiful girl. She seems, at first, quite ordinary. She is a little fat, she doesn’t comb her hair, she wears ordinary clothes. Anyway, she doesn’t seem to care that much about her appearance, but her beauty is in her heart. Lola once was a beautiful lady, in her young years. She still has a certain charm, but in a different way. Physically, the most beautiful things about her is her smile and her eyes. Eyes full of emotions: joy, sadness, fear and hope. Lola Delaney is a woman full of compassion, for her husband, but also for the little Marie. Most of the time, when she’s having these emotions, she is feeling them for her those she loves. She is happy for Marie, who will get marry soon, she is sad for her husband who seems unhappy. She knows how to share her emotions with others, and that’s the first great thing about her. Lola Delaney is a woman who will do everything she can to please someone. She always thinks of others before thinking of herself. These can be very simple, but appreciated actions, like giving a glass of water to the postman or organizing a dinner for Lola and Bruce.
Some might think she’s doing too much. For example, Turk thinks she’s too invasive and even her husband sometimes seems tired to see her always around and will eventually ask for some peace. That’s because they don’t see everything she’s doing for them. Lola doesn’t cook the breakfast for her husband like typical women these days, but she’s doing much more. More subtle things, but those remains more important and significant than cooking a simple breakfast.
Lola Delaney is also a strong woman and she has a great courage, mainly because she has to live with an alcoholic husband. Of course, this one hasn’t touched a bottle for a year, but he is still fragile. As I said in the plot, he will return in the old deep darkness. [SPOILER ALERT] Yes, this is a metaphor to explain that he will drink again, unable to face the situation concerning her too protective feelings toward Marie. In one of the scenes, around the end of the film, Doc is back home. He wasn’t here for two days and Lola was terribly worried. He is back and completely drunk. He is terrible at this moment of the film, saying awful things to Lola and being very violent. He grabs a knife and it seems that he wants to kill her. She calls a friend of Doc Ed (Phillip Ober), also a member of the AA, to come help her. Just when he grabs her throat, Ed arrives and Lola is trying to bring him back to reality, saying to him “That’s me, Lola!”. When he “seems” to realize what terrible thing he’s doing, Doc lets Lola go and faint. He is then taken to the hospital, for a cure and, when he’s back home, he tells him that he doesn’t really remember what he did, but whatever he said, he didn’t mean it. [END OF SPOILER].
Lola is strong, because she has to face a quite violent husband in this scene, but she doesn’t give up her love for him. She won’t stop loving him or won’t divorce him because of that. Why? Because she knows her husband better than that. She knows he can be cured and she knows that, when he’s not drunk, he is a lovable person. Because of her great love for him, she is able to see over his alcoholic problems and, as she knows him well, deep in her heart, she knows that he will always belong to her. Lola’s first objective concerning her husband’s problems will be to help him the best she can, not to reject him. At the beginning of the film, when they go together to the AA meeting for a special celebration: his first “anniversary” of non-alcoholism, Lola is very proud of her husband who hasn’t touch a bottle since a year and has a great feeling he can become the man he once was, before he started drinking too much.
As I said in the beginning of my review, Lola is a woman who suffers from a great loneliness. Most of the time, she’s alone at home and seems to be bored a bit. So, when Marie decided to rent the place she is very happy. That’s why she will do everything to please the persons walking into her home. She doesn’t want to lose them. Lola is generous, really she is. Another scene where she both prove her courage and her generosity is during the dinner scene with Bruce and Marie. She has cooked a delicious dinner for Marie, Bruce, Doc and herself. However, Doc is not at home and she hasn’t heard from him. She really worries and is unable to swallow anything. So, she decides to let Marie and Bruce eat alone together. She lights candles for them and serves them the dinner like if they were in a chic romantic restaurant. However, when she’s alone in the kitchen, we see her distress. She is afraid something bad happened to Doc. However, she doesn’t want to spoil the two lovers’ dinner by exposing her anxiety and keeps the smile when she’s with them.
Finally, what I like about Lola is that she is a woman full of pep. She loves to listen to music and loves to dance. During one of the most beautiful scenes of the film, she dances with Doc in the living room just like in the good old days. He then sats on the coach and claps his hands while she is dancing with a great energy. They both smile and they both seem sincerely happy. That’s THEIR moment. Nobody can’t steal it from them. Unfortunately, this instant is abruptly stopped by Marie and Turk entering into the house. Doc loss his smile and Lola comes back to reality. So sad this moment could last longer… Doc certainly doesn’t appreciate Turk, but Lola knows how to forgive him. She knows he’s not the one Marie will marry. Fortunately, another beautiful moment like this will come at the end of the film, but I’ll let you see it by yourself. All I can say about this scene, is that we KNOW Doc and Lola really love each other. In this final scene, Doc seems very proud of her wife and that’s beautiful and very touching.
Shirley Booth was really incredible in this film. She won the Oscar for Best actress and that was certainly very well deserved. I must say, it was one of my favourite performances by an actress. She plays the character with a great energy and is capable to share many emotions. She really was perfect is the role and certainly can be admired by those who enjoyed the film like me. Burt Lancaster was also great as Doc Delaney, despite the fact that he was maybe too young for the role. Well, he was 39 at the time. That’s not THAT much young, but he plays a 50 years old man. Anyway, he still looks younger than Shirley Booth so that’s probably why people say that he looks too young for the part. On my side, I kind of agree, but however I really appreciated the fact that he was in this film, too young or not because he really is one of my very favourite actors. I enjoyed every of his performances. He truly was one of a kind. And let’s admit it, he aged pretty well. I would certainly like to see more Shirley Booth’s films, because that’s the only one I saw so far. She is a less well known actress than Burt Lancaster, but I’m sure she is a very interesting one to discover. The film was also nominated at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (Terry More) and Best editing.
I must admit, when I started writing this article, I wasn’t sure I’ll have that much things to say, but I was wrong. I had more and more things to say while I was writing. Well, that always happens to me. I hope this article made you understand how Lola Delaney can be considered an anti-damsell and that you now understand better why we can highly admire her. Of course, don’t forget to read the other entries of this wonderful blogathon: