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|Burt Lancaster: Acting the right charisma (Part I)|
|Saturday, 26 May 2012 20:16|
THE presence of Burt Lancaster on cinema screens across the westernized world between the 1940s and 80s was a major contribution to promoting civilized values via cinematic art.
Lancaster is just one of countless classic Hollywood actors whose passing lives make any knowledgeable person serious about the value and effect of good films (and art in general) wonder who, or where, are their replacements in todayâ€™s popular arts?
Of course, most of Lancasterâ€™s films, like other stars from the 40s to the 80s, are readily available on DVDs, but it is not their duplicated availability that is the problem, but a blind, bigoted contemporary attitude among persons who daily express both oral and written platitudes about the deplorable state of todayâ€™s world, or societies, while seemingly totally ignorant or unaware of the importance and neglect of a bonanza of artistic achievements that have been pushed aside, overlooked, or defined as irrelevant and â€˜out of styleâ€™ simply because they have been made ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, or even seventy years ago.
Are such people aware of the enormous civilized advances in art and culture made during those decades?
High cinematic standards/value
To support such an inane callous viewpoint is to remain unaware of the vital educational input of, for example, literature from antique Greek and Roman times, right up to 20th Century literature and film which have molded a civilised mentality and behaviour by repeated acceptance from generation after generation.
Wherever such an ongoing educational transmission of culture has been ignored or abandoned, pockets of deplorable social behaviour have resulted in a new generation locked into products of their own time period.
Burt Lancaster was that wonderful type of Hollywood actor whose roles went right to the psyche of film viewers (especially male, regardless of race or nationality), because he rendered basic instinctive human qualities and values of human strength and weakness, folly and wisdom, humour and seriousness, illusion and truth, toughness and kindness.
These basic human qualities were able to exist in these films of Lancasterâ€™s, and many others, because there was no prescribed prior collective racial/ethnic definition of any specific culture which these films represented, except that of the individual artists making them.
The process of public communication of such film culture via cinemas, by being the widest forum containing all artistic genres -- song, dance, architecture, painting, sculpture, fashion, literature, even theatre and film-makingÂ itself -- made it the best process for the rapid teaching and development of balanced human values and social conduct, which defined civility from a cosmopolitan educational advantage.
It seems obvious by now that the overall qualities we recognise in an actor or actressâ€™s roles are somehow related to their real lessons of origin. Lancaster grew up in New Yorkâ€™s Harlem among lower-income whites and blacks who had to hustle for a living. The sensible way forward for someone like him, whose father was a humble postman, was to develop oneâ€™s immediate self, physical and mental.
Lancaster, as a youth, disciplined himself with basketball practise, and trained for circus acts, especially the trapeze. From the start, then, Lancaster squarely faced and overcame physical danger and mental timidity by pursuing bold skills.
To survive decently, he became a department store salesman (that taught him how to talk sweet, a later asset to his roles), and refrigerator repairman. When the 2nd World War broke out, he became part of the Allied Special Services, and fought in North Africa and Italy.
By the time he came back to America, a survivor, Lancaster had all the real-life experiences which influence many movie roles. He was actually mistaken for an actor one time, but refused to throw away the chance opportunity, so read for a part and became one.