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Sweet Smell of Success: Burt Lancaster Is TCM's Star of November

by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
October 31, 2013 2:23 PM
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Burt Lancaster, right, and Tony Curtis in "Sweet Smell of Success"
Burt Lancaster, right, and Tony Curtis in "Sweet Smell of Success"

Classic screen actor Burt Lancaster (1913-1994) would have turned 100 this year, and to celebrate his centennial TCM is rolling out a month-long salute with back-to-back programming all night every Wednesday in November.

Included is Alexander Mackendrick's acid-tongued portrait of corrupt ambition "Sweet Smell of Success," starring Lancaster and Tony Curtis as an unscrupulous gossip columnist-and-press agent team. A must-see.

Also playing is Fred Zinnemann's Pearl Harbor drama "From Here to Eternity," which famously features Lancaster and an uncharacteristically bombshell Deborah Kerr kissing passionately on the sands of Hawaii; Jules Dassin's explosive prison-breakout thriller "Brute Force"; and the Robert Siodmak noir version of Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers."

Lancaster possessed that magical combo for a Hollywood star: acting skills, danger, rugged, sexy masculinity--he trained as a circus acrobat and found acting via the USO in the Army--and sensitive vulnerability. He could carry serious dramas, war movies and westerns, romances and comedies.

I got to meet Lancaster on the set of Sam Peckinpah's last film, 1983's "The Osterman Weekend," in which he had a cameo. He told me that Luchino Visconti's gorgeous 19th-century drama "Il Gattopardo" ("The Leopard") was one of his favorites. It's in the series. One title that didn't make the cut is Scottish director Bill Forsyth's whimsical masterpiece "Local Hero," in which Lancaster stars as an eccentric millionaire with a penchant for star-gazing.

Below, the full TCM Lancaster lineup, plus a selection of clips and vintage trailers from Lancaster's films:


  • Joseph Angier | November 4, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    TCM comes through again. What a great list of movies! (Even though it's missing my personal fave: "Ulzana'a Raid")

  • Brian | November 1, 2013 11:36 AMReply

    His centennial is tomorrow, November 2nd. Wow, that snuck up on me. I meant to do a blog entry on it and watch a bunch of his films first, but clean forgot. Thanks for the reminder.
    And, in reference to my comment from March 27, I see now that FLAME AND THE ARROW is there, but not VERA CRUZ or CRIMSON PIRATE. But at least TEN TALL MEN and SOUTH SEA WOMAN are there--from his "fun" period.

  • Brian | November 2, 2013 6:09 PM

    My mistake: CRIMSON PIRATE is there.

  • rgm | April 2, 2013 3:07 PMReply

    I there a reason that Bill Forsyth's wonderful "Local Hero" is not on the UCLA?Hammer agenda?

  • Brian | March 27, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    They really need to show his ground-breaking Mexican Revolution western, Robert Aldrich's VERA CRUZ (1954), an influence on THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, MAJOR DUNDEE, THE PROFESSIONALS and THE WILD BUNCH.
    And the two films where Burt got to show off his acrobatic skills, THE FLAME AND THE ARROW (1950) and THE CRIMSON PIRATE (1952.)

  • Beth Hanna | March 27, 2013 3:44 PM

    @Brian -- "Vera Cruz" and "The Crimson Pirate" are included in the series (click on the link above for the full ineup). But I'm not seeing "The Flame and the Arrow"...

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