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Burt Lancaster: An American Life Paperback – 24 May 2001

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About the Author

Kate Buford is a commentator for Public Radio International's "Marketplace" and has written for publications including the New York Times and Architectural Digest. She lives in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York.

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The story of Burt Lancaster begins with the idea of America, with the belief that you can journey to another place and become another person. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 37 reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Deja vu 11 July 2006
By Lozenges - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
After reading Kate Buford's tedious and somewhat salacious bio of Burt Lancaster, I read an earlier account of the actor's life: Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster by Gary Fishgall (published in 1995, not long after Lancaster's death). Not only is Fishgall's version more interesting, but I felt a strong sense of deja vu as I read it, thinking that Buford obviously used Fishgall's book as a primary source for her own book. Entire sentences and passages mirrored many written by Fishgall--if not word for word, certainly in tone and sequence. If you want to see a photograph of Burt's bare behind and ponder unfounded speculations that the actor was gay or bisexual, buy Buford's book. If you want a more solid, well-documented biography of the man, choose Fishgall's.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating man of principle given an incomplete biography 27 July 2000
By Amelia McIntosh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I suppose Buford's book is a great one -- because it has made me fascinated by an actor I'd not thought much about before reading this biography. But I am left with so many questions and curiosities. Usually a bio. answers more questions than it raises. For all the fascinating film minutia provided did researcher Buford feel more comfotable with files than with people? Why isn't there more dialogue from friends, family and colleagues? Why is the arc of his life chronicled as he stepped from one film role to another with only the barest of personal information hung on that arc? For a child and young man described as having a beautiful voice why wasn't it heard in the movies? What films did BL appreciate? Which ones did he dismiss? I wanted much more info! On the other hand this bio has sent me on a quest to see every one of his films, to buy other bios and to discover more about this elusive, introverted, flawed man of great personal loyalties and ethical principles. I guess I'll just have to look to Burt Lancaster himself to give me clues to my questions. Somehow I think I hear his booming laughter at the appropriateness of that.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Unsubstantiated & Erroneous Information - Blechh! 31 Dec 2008
By LL Cool Jack - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I did not buy this book and am glad for it. Aside from the fact that I found the writing to be average, I was truly amazed that the information contained in this book is presented as fact rather than the gossip it is. In essence, this book is a National Enquirer article with a hard cover.
39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Good Biography Of A Great Man 17 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I jst finished reading this book and the only reason I don't give it 5 stars is Author Buford hints on more than a few occasions that Burt was Bi-sexual( personally I don't care) but, no proof is provided. There were a couple instances alluded too of him attending parties where homosexuals congregated. Big Deal! There was a certain NY Author who wrote several Bographies intimating beloved icons of the silver screen were bi-sexual. I think the Author should have left that out. The Book, written from a woman's point of view makes Run Silent Run Deep- one of the most exiting, acted and well-made films on WW 2.. sound ho-hum. She does do a good job of giving credit to lesser known films such as The Swimmer which is totally unique. Only Lncaster could have done the role. The film was made in late 66- and 67 then released in '68 as a total faiilure commercially. Lancaster who looks like a greek statue coming to life..is totally ageless in the picture( he was 54) and yet, just a few years later in Ulzana's Raid.released in '72 the Booze and smoking had taken their toll. What sounds like a bizrre idea for a movie..Burt decides to spontaneously swim all the pools of his friends or shall we say acquaintances...and he finds he can't relate to any of them. It's so sad-beautiful like a haunting dream that did or didn't exist. The Stories recited about the making of such classics as From Here To Eternity-Jim Thorpe & Elmer Gantry...will be of inerest to anyone.Call it a Burt Lancaster picture that's all you need to say_ The Train-Valdez Is Coming-Executive Action-Come Back Little Sheba-Rocket Gibralter-The Killers-Go Tell The Spartans-Sorry Wrong Number-Field Of Dreams-Criss Cross-BruteForce-Gunfight At TheOK Corral- The Crimson Pirate-Birdman Of Alcatraz-7 Days In May-The Professionals. Has any other Actor made more good-great films that were so varied, highly entertaining and also said something? What I loved about Lancaster was his sense of decency..he marched in the Civil Rights Protest in the 60's..he got the first JFK Pro-Conspiracy film made Executive Action when officialdom kept telling us Oswald acted alone. For this and many other reasons he was a great great star that can't be replaced.
35 of 48 people found the following review helpful
By Schuyler V. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Please permit me to straighten out a few allegations promulgated in this rather prurient (because it sells) book. One, B.L. was NOT an abusive man toward women (or anyone else)at all. One isolated incident do not a misogynist, or history of violence, make. One of his later relationships involved a hot-tempered lady who broke a champagne bottle over his head, so that rather belies his abuse with females...and no, he did not retaliate.

Also, another allegation, and one clearly designed to mislead the reader in addition to pumping up sales: B.L., at NO time, was EVER, in ANY way homosexual or bi-sexual...ever.

As to what his sons did or didn't do in a neighbor's pool, is another allegation and a rather cheap shot; even if it IS true or has ANY basis in fact, who among us has led a perfect childhood? Who among us has never behaved in a childish way when we were children?

This is tawdry writing at it's zenith, an unnecessary "factoid" thrown in for sensation rather than edification. If it is true, who cares? Why put it in? Does it MATTER what B.L.'s sons did when they were kids?

Ms. Buford has done some research, for what that is worth, but did not bother to either verify or confirm any of her allegations, so they must remain just that, allegations...however, the cat is already out of the bag and her inclusion of unsubstantiated "facts" helped the sale of her book, so she got what she wanted in the first place.

B.L. was a consummate actor, a loving, generous untamed man who changed careers in his mid forties from that of a trapeze artist in the circus to acting...and he took care of 17 of his circus friends for life after he began his acting career. Of course he had his faults; ALL of us do, but few of us have them the focus of a book slanted to sell no matter what, much as the tabloids do in the checkout line in the supermarket...

He made friends and enemies on the way, and carved a unique niche for himself in the most competitive profession in the world. His personal relationships were intense, close and very very strong; however, it must be noted again, that he was NOT homosexual OR bi-sexual; this is a craven, distasteful and rather cheap ploy on the part of Ms. Buford to spice up her book. Sex sells and scandal sells even better...and there isn't an author alive who doesn't want to make money, but many refrain from outright lies, libel and slander of someone they never met or knew personally.

As for B.L. fuming in his car over Shelley Winters and Brando, Winters was more likely to spend time "fuming", as she was the aggressive partner in that relationship, admitting in her own book how she resented him for wanting to be with his wife for the birth of one of their sons...

There was a book about Errol Flynn some years back that alleged he was not only bi-sexual (again, not true) but also a NAZI SPY.

The point is, anyone can say anything about a celebrity once they're dead.

He did not engage in violence with all his relationships and he did not have sex with men and he was not parodied in Bill Lancaster's movie "Bad News Bears"; he was light years away from Matthau's persona, and certainly never "gruff."

BUT: People believe exactly what they WANT to believe and some enjoy believing anything bad or off color about famous people because it makes their own lives a little exciting for a time...so, that is the truth, and it is up to those who read this book whether they choose to take it as gospel or merely a semi-informative read.

B.L. was a business genius; he OWNED his movies and formed a production company with Ben Hecht to retain control over all his work, and in addition to Hecht-Lancaster he also founded Norlan Productions, named for Norma, his wife.

He kept his mystery and movie star image all of his life and was a very generous, loving man with a great sense of humor.

So, read it with a grain of salt and remember, it is easy to play hard and fast with the truth when the subject is no longer alive to refute it.

The real B.L. can be seen in any one of his movies, and IMO, Sweet Smell of Success is his best work, alongside Atlantic City. Those who knew this fascinating man personally know the truth, and hopefully, people will remember him more for his art than for the smarmy words of someone wanting to make money off a true artist.

Those who can, do; those who can't write smutty biographies...
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