Euphoria #14

Edinburgh College of Art graduate, my contemporary, Noo Yawk cartoonist and regular reader Simon Fraser nominates this extract of heart-thumping joy from Frank Perry’s unique John Cheever 1968 adaptation, THE SWIMMER.

“I’m not sure, but I think there’s a scene in ‘The Swimmer’ with Burt
Lancaster, when he races a horse on foot. Now that’s a man enjoying
being alive. Burt was good at being alive.”

Is true. And he was a fine figure of a fellow at fifty-five!

Burt always moved well. His experience as an acrobat informs his acting, and he trusted in the physical. I love that story of John Frankenheimer giving him a long, involved psychological piece of direction, and Burt saying “Ah, what the hell, I’ll just give it the grin.”

Apart from his acrobatics, in his early days Burt also worked as a clerk in a department store, selling lingerie. I bet he shifted a lot of pants.


Cinematographer David Quaid doesn’t seem to have shot very much. I have his other main film, made the same year as this: PRETTY POISON. That must have been a good year. I love all the sixties glamour stuff he does in this film, with diffusion, starburst filters, the full panoply of Sunday Supplement gloss, done without a trace of irony. Stunningly beautiful — I sort of feel that the more late 60s US films tried to be modern, the more old-fashioned they appeared — but I don’t necessarily condemn them for it. It’s a lovely effect at times, as in this film, which is very moving and packed with incredible actresses too.

I wonder what the effect would be if somebody put together a Frank Perry retrospective (maybe it’s already happened). He made quite a few distinguished films which, individually, have had plenty written about them, but I don’t get the impression he’s been studied much as an auteur. I have a tape Perry’s last film, ON THE BRIDGE, an autobiographical documentary about his fight against cancer, which I copied from the Lindsay Anderson Collection — one of these days, when I’m feeling sturdy enough, I must watch it.


Oh, apparently Sidney Pollack did some uncredited directing on this, but I don’t know what the story behind that is. However, I’ve been meaning to post some pretty frame grabs from what is actually both Lancaster and Pollack’s next film: CASTLE KEEP. I’m not sure it’s any kind of great movie, but it has some stunning images, decorated with some of the same lovely ‘sixties tics as THE SWIMMER.

13 Responses to “Euphoria #14”

  1. Pollack reportedly directed the scene with Janice Rule.

  2. another burt who raced a horse on foot was burt reynolds in smokey and the bandit 2

  3. Ah, there’s only one Burt in my book. Unless you count Burt /Bert Kwouk.

    Janice Rule ruled! I feel there aren’t enough movies where you can see her handling good material like this. I feel the same way about Joanna Pettet. Perky and SMART onscreen, even when the movies often aren’t.

  4. Now that I think of it, the Pollack movie The Scalphunters, which I first saw and loved as a kid, stars Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davis. Davis appeared with Burt REYNOLDS the following year in Sam Whiskey, which feels like an attempt to clone the previous comedy western. But The Scalphunters has the PROPER Burt, as well as the dream team of Telly and Shelley.

  5. i am worried that the proper burt may be a bit too lusty and vital for my thin blood; i get the feeling that he wants to leap out of the screen and overpower me

  6. He definitely would. There was quite a scandal during the shooting of His Majesty O’Keefe in the South pacific as the local chieftains wanted him off the island for dallying with the natives.

  7. Even late in life he was quite powerful. On Local Hero, at the wrap party, a Scottish crewmember asked, “How do you survive in Hollywood?” Burt stepped up to a table, unzipped his flies, and plonked his colossal james cameron on the table with a THUD. “THAT’S how you survive in Hollywood!”

    Ernest Lehman’s first meeting with Burt: BL strides into the office, doing up his flies. “Well, she swallowed it!”

    Lehman faked an illness in order to escape the project. Lancaster later found out. “I oughta sock you in the jaw!”
    “Go ahead, I could use the money.”

  8. “Most people seem to think I’m the kind of guy who shaves with a blowtorch. Actually, I’m bookish and worrisome.”

    burt lancaster: boaster, brawler, fornicator and fibber

  9. And yet he called Luchino Visconti “The most mysterious man I’ve ever known.”

  10. Burt was a complicated guy. Siodmak came to believe he was mentally unbalanced when they made The Crimson Pirate. And he certainly embraced European cinema in the 60s and 70s, probably more than any other Hollywood star.

  11. He is the star of two Absolute Masterpieces of the cinema: The Leopard and Sweet Smell of Success. The would be enough, but there are also Converation Piece, The Crimson Pirate, The Flame and the Arrow, The Killers, Desert Fury, The Professionals, From Here to Eternity, Elmer Gantry, The Rose Tattoo, The Rainmaker, Birdman of Alcatraz, Seven Days in May and Twilight’s Last Gleaming.

  12. The Killers seems to me to be a conscious attempt at a noir Citizen Kane, in terms of plot structure. I’d put in a vote for Criss Cross, too, which is a near-remake in a way, but just as good.

    Soft spot for Local Hero also, a rare watchable Scottish film.

    Oddly, I like The Train better than Birdman of Alcatraz. I noticed that Frankenheimer copied the ending for Ronin, decades later (then spoiled it by adding one more scene).

  13. […] It’s all a fantastic contrast to CASTLE KEEP, Lancaster and Pollack’s next collaboration, a weird piece of fringe theatre enacted on a grand scale with an absurdly high pyrotechnics budget. It’s like Spielberg’s 1941 as written by a team consisting of Kurt Vonnegut, Harold Pinter and William Peter Blatty. It would make the ideal Fever Dream Double Feature with Blatty’s THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, which is even freakier and also features the esteemed Scott Wilson. The pictures here come from it, and I’ve been meaning to post them since January. […]

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