He was, perhaps, born too soon. An artistic perfectionist with his eye always on new projects and new ways of doing things, Burt Lancaster managed repeatedly to sabotage his own superstardom in quest of greater challenge and fulfillment in the Hollywood he once called, "nothing more than a big circus." (Coming from Lancaster, the crack probably wasn't entirely derogatory as the star begin his show business career as a circus performer during the depression.) According to Kate Buford, author of the latest Lancaster biography, "From 1946 to 1990, he alternated the artsy with the commercial movie, financing one with the profits of the other to keep himself in play."
Buford says that Lancaster was, "Too earnest to be chic, he hungered to make what he considered grown-up movies that engaged, productively, with the circumstances of his era," ultimately leading the way to, "one of the biggest shifts in the industry since the talkies: from studio domination to widespread independent production."
This was the public Lancaster: Mr Muscles and Teeth, whose hard-edged American babe-next-door good looks were a commodity for the star himself to exploit. The private Lancaster, as reported by Buford, was even more complex. A "serious, compulsive womanizer," Lancaster and second wife Norma had five children together. "That moral juxtaposition was perhaps one source of the melancholy that lurked behind the ice-blue eyes." Buford also writes of "compelling evidence" of Lancaster's bisexuality, that seems less than convincing. The "evidence" consists of little beyond Lancaster's awareness and maintenance of his own good looks; his penchant for hiring, "homosexual personal secretaries," ("They're the best," Lancaster said when asked why he did this. "They protect you. I know they're out there telling their homosexual friends that we're having a big affair or something.") and for being the only matinee-idol type male star to publicly support Rock Hudson when the nature of Hudson's illness was released.
What did you think of this review?