The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Burt Lancaster

Chameleon comes to mind when I think of Burt Lancaster. This was an actor who could play basically any role ever, and do it extraordinarily well. Early in his career, he was a performer and a presence more than an actor, but he developed into one of the all-time greats over his long, distinguished career. Click on the movie titles for the full review

Vera Cruz (1954): From director Robert Aldrich, a western ahead of its time in story, cynicism and general darkness. Lancaster teams up Gary Cooper as American gunfighters joining the war between Mexico and France in 1865 as the American Civil War ends. Entertaining, oddly funny at times, surprisingly violent for the 1950s, and one of the all-time great westerns.

The Professionals (1966): One of those rare movies, a perfect western in my mind. Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode are specialists in 1910s Texas, going south of the border to rescue the kidnapped wife (Claudia Cardinale) of a rich rancher (Ralph Bellamy) from the revolutionary (Jack Palance) who took her. Story, action, humor, music, script, I L-O-V-E this movie.

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961): A big, BIG movie from 1961 about the Allied War Crimes trials following the conclusion of WWII. Huge, all-star cast with memorable parts for Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, and oh, yeah, parts for Richard Widmark, Spencer Tracy, Maximillian Schell and Marlene Dietrich in this Stanley Kramer-directed epic.

The Train (1964): Of all Lancaster's great parts, this has always been a personal favorite. He plays Labiche, a train supervisor working with the French resistance to stop a train full of priceless art from reaching German hands. It effortlessly handles the lunacy and general hypocritical nature of war. Is art worth a person's life? Is anything? One of the best war movies ever made.

I Walk Alone (1948): An early starring role for Lancaster, teaming him with fellow rising star Kirk Douglas. Solid if unspectacular film noir, mostly worthwhile because Lancaster and Douglas are there, both showing off their considerable dramatic chops.

The Flame and the Arrow (1952): Lancaster at his big, fun-loving best, a 12th Century Italian bandit on the run. A big, flashy movie that allows Lancaster to show off his impressive physical talents (he worked as an acrobat in a circus for years). Also look for Virginia Mayo as the love interest, again showing she can hold her own with some of Hollywood's most imposing stars.

More to come....

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