On the morning of October 21st 1994, I found myself walking out of the factory I worked the graveyard shift on at the time. As with most mornings I wandered up to the newspaper box prepared to put my money in and get the latest copy of the Toronto Sun if the cover story was interesting or perhaps my favorite sports team had played the night before.

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This time the headlines hit me squarely in the jaw. A knockout punch. Burt Lancaster had died. A sad day. Another screen hero lost. One  who will at least live on through the many movies he appeared in. Some classics, some forgettable titles but countless hours of enjoyment mixed in.

I knew that Burt had suffered a stroke prior to the news and that we’d not likely see him grace the screen again. I fondly recall seeing his screen pal Kirk Douglas mention Burt while accepting his AFI Award telling the audience he and Burt still had plenty of arguments to finish so Burt had best get well. The crowd roared their approval.

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Burt only had three movies released in his final decade. All were made for television films. The Phantom of the Opera in 1990. Voyage of Terror also a 1990 premiere and his final appearance opposite another cinema giant, Sidney Poitier in Separate But Equal where Burt played opposite Poitier in the court room.

Of the three films I have only seen the final one opposite Sidney and Burt holds his own though the film clearly belongs to Poitier. The role Burt had played in Voyage to Terror, Leon Klinghoffer had already been essayed by Karl Malden one year earlier in another film about the real life hijacking of the ship Achille Lauro.

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I find it rather odd that it’s Burt’s later films that I have trouble locating and actually seeing. He had also appeared in a lengthy TV miniseries titled The Betrothed in 1989 which isn’t yet on my shelf. La Pelle from 1981 is another example.

Usually it’s the titles from the past that are the rarest and hardest to come by. Not so with Burt. As an actor who was clearly a star from his first scene in The Killers (1946) forward his films have thankfully been available and usually made accessible to collectors like myself on the various formats of home video. Then there are the specialty channels like TCM that give us plenty of his films to re-watch over and over again.

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It’s been fun running this collection of Burt Lancaster titles decade by decade. At times it was hard to settle on one movie from each ten year period so I’ll have to re-visit some of the others that I didn’t go ahead with this time. So titles like Atlantic City, Birdman of Alcatraz and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral I’ll have to save for the next go around.

Here’s hoping I helped you recall the legend of Burt Lancaster or maybe this past week will serve as a catalyst to get you immersed in the cinema of Burt.

Drama, western, adventure, political thrillers etc…..

There’s plenty to enjoy.

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