Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Preview: Hucksters & Princes, Burt Lancaster

"I woke up one day a star. It was terrifying. Then I worked hard toward becoming a good actor."
-Burt Lancaster

What image pops in your head when you think of Burt Lancaster? Is it of a star or an actor? Is it that iconic image on the beach with Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity? Is it any of the pairings with Kirk Douglas? Is it his muted solitude in The Birdman of Alcatraz? The crazed genius from The Island of Dr. Moreau? Personally, I think of his performances. What always struck me was his face: strong and athletic, with that distinctive grin. I've seen Lancaster in all of the films listed above, and was always impressed by his physical presence and a perceived solemn demeanor.

His filmography presents an actor who was never content with taking the same roles. He challenged himself constantly and adapted himself to a wide variety of roles, as long as they aligned with his personal beliefs.

As Lancaster approached middle age in the 1960s, he began to step outside of his wheelhouse and tackle more ambitious projects. He hasn't too shy to even appear in European productions, and as a result worked with some well-known foreign directors. The Leopard provided him with the most complex, challenging and overall finest role of his career. An Italian film directed by Luchino Visconti, it is a story of an aristocrat trying to maintain some order during the 1860s Sicilian social upheaval. An epic of breathtaking beauty and cinematic landscapes, it still stands tall despite being an overlooked gem on Burt's resume.

As an added treat, The Leopard will be shown in a brand new restored print. This promises to be its most gorgeous exhibition ever.

In his most acclaimed role, Lancaster won a Best Actor Oscar for his work as Elmer Gantry. He plays a hard drinking, smooth talking con man who takes up selling religion in the 1920s. Elmer becomes a charlatan fire and brimstone preacher in league with a genuine revivalist, Sister Sharon (Jean Simmons). But as he lures more and more with his blustery charm, some begin to take aim on him and his past rears its ugly head. Not an indictment of religion as much of a warning on the perils of religious zealotry, the film is a tale about personal growth and salvation that some are unable to find even when steeped in their particular brand of theology.

Hmmm. Wonder how Elmer would react to Texas governor Rick Perry's own modern religious spectacle? Would he applaud or condemn the current charlatan?

And so here are two of Lancaster's most iconic performances as both a star and an actor. It appears that Burt had nothing to be afraid of after all. The tall thespian with a game show host smile worked hard so that he could play it both ways: as a huckster and as a prince. Regardless of how you initially remember Burt Lancaster before this double feature, your respect and image of this fine actor is sure to grow by leaps and bounds afterwards.

Showtimes for the films:

The Leopard
Saturday, Jul 2nd
2:00 8:30
Sunday, Jul 3rd

Elmer Gantry
Saturday, Jul 2nd
Sunday, Jul 3rd

Final Notes about the screening

Italian cocktail and wine specials all night!

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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