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Burt Lancaster: An American Life [Hardcover]

Kate Buford
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Aug 2000
Kate Buford's book is a full, frank, sensitive and superbly readable life of a man who not only starred in many movie classics, but was also responsible for producing such landmark films as Marty and The Sweet Smell of Success. a star who was every bit as interesting off screen as on.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (10 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854107402
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854107404
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 14 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 866,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Burt Lancaster had the most interesting star's career in Hollywood's most fruitful period. In Buford, he has the biographer he deserves. Categorical. Imperative.' Christopher Bray, The Sunday Times 'It does not surprise me to learn from Buford that her frequently monstrous hero was a cultivated man.... He thoroughly deserves the close attention his scrupulous biographer has afforded him.' Paul Bailey, The Daily Telegraph 'Kate Buford has written as fine a showbiz biography as one could possibly expect.... [her] book is a model of its kind - a slow read because the writing is tight-packed - and, warts and all, she has done her subject proud.' Hugh Leonard, The Irish Times 'Rarely for a film actor - and even more rarely for a star - Lancaster is revealed as more complex than the sum of his parts; the result is the most interesting book about an actor since The Man Who Kept the Secrets.' Chris Petit, The Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Kate Buford is a regular commentator on National Public Radio in the US whose interest in Lancaster was first sparked when she wrote a feature on him for Film Comment magazine. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Kate Buford presents a highly detailed yet completely accessible portrait of one of Hollywood's most venerable stars. Her style has a clarity that allows Lancasters exploits to shine through in all their glory. And what a tale it is. An actor whose career encompasses the Noir era, the heyday of the Western, undisputed classics such as "The Sweet Smell of Success" and carries through to his ultimate performance in the 90s "Field of Dreams", Burt Lancasters life is a microcosm of the entire history of 20th century Hollywood. Ally to this a spell as a circus acrobat, non-dilletante envolvement in the black civil rights movement, not to mention affairs with several prominant actresses and you have a biography that rivals any for sheer juiciness, while never becoming salacious, thanks to Buford's impecible objectivity. A highly informative and above all enjoyable work, this must be essential reading for film buffs and star-struck fanatics alike.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary life 4 Feb 2009
By Peter Gordon VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very well written and researched book which in no way disappoints.
The lives of these stars of a bygone age merely confirms that they achieved their status by hard work and hard knocks.
Mr Lancaster may have had many flaws, but that is what made him the very watchable star that he was.
This is a very substantial book from all perspectives and one which provides an insight into a movie industry which changed out of all recognition due in part to people such as this - though whether that was for the best is a subject for debate.
If the current crop of actors and 'Celeb's' were to read this book they would realise that for the most part they should not bother writing their 'stories'.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed Chance 26 Sep 2013
I read this book some months ago after reading reviews which all seemed to rave about it's quality.
Burt Lancaster was one of the great actors and characters of Hollywood, so the subject matter was there, ready to be drawn from. The writer certainly carried out extensive research, but for me at least, there was no spark in it's reading, no feeling that I knew Mr Lancaster any better when I had finished it.
The problem for me was the way it was written, the way it was punctuated. Paragraphs were over long and quotations from different people sometimes in the same line. It all added up to a frustrating read, which often meant whole passages needed to be read more than once.
My other problem was the fact that the author felt the need to give a full synopsis on most of Lancaster's films. I have seen many of his films over the years, and now no longer need to seek out any of the ones I have missed; their whole plots are here, ruining any enjoyment I may of had!

Many people have enjoyed this book, so if you are interested in Burt Lancaster, give it a try. It is probably just me!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A LIFE - PERHAPS NOT - A FILM REVIEW, YES. 11 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Perhaps I should mention that I don't normally read film actors (auto)biographies but being a slight fan of Mr Lancasters' work and being intrigued by the blurb on the cover I thought I'd give this book a try.

Starts with Burt's birth and gives a little bit about his family's background and then works it's way through till his death in 1994.

I found the early part of the book was like seeing Burt through a dark glass, he was mentioned obviously, as were some of his friends and there is also a little of what he got up to but I felt the author was much more interested in the films he would go on to make and how, in some cases, they reflected his early life and background. I didn't feel that the author had got under the skin of her characters early life at all.

The later stages of the book were much better, I felt that the Burt of the later years, rather than Burt Lancaster film star, was much more accessible, his interests outside of films and film people are covered very well, music for example.

Overall through this is the biography of Burt Lancaster, film star, and the people he came into contact with in that world, the `important' (why actor's and actress's and their biographers always think they make `important' pictures is way beyond me - important to them mayhap but to the rest of us, interesting, exciting etc. perhaps, but important....) films he made with this or that director and or other actor/actress. As an added point and for those who maybe `expecting' some salacious revelations, there is very little `racy'here, precious little evidence of Burt's amorous adventures with his co-stars, Yvonne de Carlo and Shelly Winters excepted and none at all about his so called bisexuality.

A good read but not I think a great read, not in the same league as Dirk Bogard's by some distance but then it's not an autobiography!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 18 Aug 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Enjoyable story of a man who was a force of nature
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First love 22 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Personally I enjoyed this book very much, having loved Burt Lancaster since seeing the Crimson Pirate when I was around 10 yrs old.
It must have been difficult to write because he was such a private man and as a result there is a wealth of information re; his films and business activities but scant knowledge of his personal life. You have to piece together glimpses of his true personality from the snippets of facts that are divulged here and there. Like raindrops on a desert they are absorbed and overshadowed by the bigger picture of Hollywood and the immense power and influence he acheived (and lost) in his long and remarkable career.
Some stones are upturned and a few nasties revealed as a result but on the whole this book is more informative than scandal seeking, it is written with compassion and intelligence and to the end it remains respectful of this complex and facinating man.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars No......Not my thing at all.
Boring. The guy was apparently arrogant and dislikeable. The author put this over very succinctly .......
Published 1 month ago by Jeff Davies
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
got bored and gave up on it
Published 2 months ago by anne jones
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Boring and heavy reading, poorly written.
Published 2 months ago by rosalind cortes
5.0 out of 5 stars TEETH AND MUSCLES
Published 9 months ago by popeye
4.0 out of 5 stars biography as expected
a little bit 'historical' paints a picture of the time but could focus more on the star himself otherwise okay
Published 9 months ago by j carey
5.0 out of 5 stars movies behind the scenes
a fasinating insight to hollywood studio politics and also to life in New York
during his career. A history lesson on the heady days of movie making at its
height. Read more
Published 11 months ago by priscilla walker
1.0 out of 5 stars 5 star research but 1 star writing
I reached 29% before I gave up, sadly, as it took a lot to make me give up on a book so well researched. Read more
Published 11 months ago by D. Armitage
5.0 out of 5 stars A biography you wont be dissappointed with
I would recommend this book to anyone who remembers Burt Lancaster as an actor in many very good films because one also has to be amazed and surprised with his other achievements... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. M. Challis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Well worth the money, a good actor and lived a colourful life.
Done all the stunts in trapeze he must have been fit.
Besides that well worth the money
Published 13 months ago by nellie
4.0 out of 5 stars Great biography of a great man.
I gave this book to my dad as a gift as he has always been a fan of this great actor (he has more than a passing resemblance to my Dad!). He has thoroughly enjoyed it.
Published 17 months ago by Nette
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