Day 179 of Colourisation Project – November 2
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Born this day, November 2, 1913, Burton Stephen Lancaster, better known as Burt Lancaster, was a self-taught American film actor of the 1940s through to the early 1990s. Some of his memorable films include classics such as; From Here To Eternity, (1953) The Rose Tattoo, (1955) Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Swimmer (1968), and Field Of Dreams (1989).
Lancaster was nominated four times for Academy Awards, winning one for Elmer Gantry in 1960. He was regarded as one of the best motion picture actors of his generation and in 1999, the American Film Institute named Lancaster 19th among the greatest male stars of all time.
With a background in circus acrobatics, he was a late starter to screen acting. Despite never having studied acting, he was able to bring to the screen an emotional sensitivity that called the bluff of his tough manly presence and athletic physique. Noted also for his piercing blue eyes and his trade mark killer smile, known as ‘The Grin‘, his first film at the age of 32 was opposite Ava Gardner in The Killers (1946), and immediately won significant acclaim. His early roles were ‘tough guy’ parts but as his career blossomed, Lancaster was able to call the shots in terms of the roles he would play or not play. Lancaster abandoned his all-American image in the late 1950s in favour of more complex and challenging roles.
In a career spanning five decades, Lancaster made over 75 films. In 1953, he played one of his best remembered roles with Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity, one of the top grossing films of that year.
The Rainmaker (1956) for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor also won him great acclaim. Starring alongside Katharine Hepburn, they both put in sterling performances as you will see in today’s movie clip.
In real life, Lancaster was somewhat of a rainmaker for his fellow actors. In 1947 he was offered the role of Stanley Kowalski in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He knocked it back. The role went to Marlon Brando and a legend was born.
Lancaster turned down Cecil B. DeMille’s offer to play ‘Samson’ in Samson and Delilah (1949). Victor Mature took on the role and made it his. It went on to be the highest-grossing film of 1950, receiving five Academy Award nominations and winning two for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
He turned down a supporting role in The Robe (1953), due to its Christian theme. The film had a sequel with Victor Mature again taking on the lead role.
A self-described atheist, Lancaster also turned down a $1-million offer for the lead role in the remake of Ben-Hur (1959), which went to Charlton Heston. Ben-Hur had the largest budget at $15.175 million and the largest sets built for any film produced at the time. It was the fastest and highest grossing film of 1959, wining 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Wyler) and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Charlton Heston.
In 1965 he turned down Charlton Heston’s role as Major General Charles Gordon in Khartoum, and Richard Burton’s role in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965).
In 1970 he turned down the lead in Patton due to his anti-Vietnam War sympathies. That role went to George C. Scott who won a Best Actor Award and the film won another six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. (Ironically Scott was the first actor to refuse the Academy Award having warned the Academy beforehand that he would refuse it on philosophical grounds.)
I’m sure there’s a moral in there somewhere.
Lancaster died from a heart attack in 1994 at the age of 80.
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
“I have turned down a lot of garbage lately.” – Burt Lancaster