For over four decades Lancaster exuded the rare commodity of screen charisma. He alternated crowd-pleasing parts like the lead in Elmer Gantry with offbeat roles in The Leopard and Atlantic City. In later years he took character turns in films like Local Hero. Fishgall reviews the actor's complete career, from his early days as a carnival acrobat (put to good use in Crimson Pirate and Trapeze) to the later years of stardom, during which he displayed a gritty determination, on screen and off. Also covered is Lancaster's early, unusual effort to run his own production company. As expected, Fishgall portrays Lancaster's troubled marriages, womanizing, and bouts of egotism and halfheartedly hints of possible bisexuality. Still, this book isn't analytical enough for film buffs or gossipy enough for the tabloid audience, despite the publicity's promise of "shocking" revelations. Furthermore, though many Lancaster associates are interviewed, the tone is rather impersonal, and the total man never comes into focus. While this is not wholly satifying, so little has been written on Lancaster that public libraries should consider.Stephen Rees, Bucks Cty. Free Lib., Levittown, Pa.
How refreshing to find a straightforward, literate showbiz bio. Fishgall's study of Burt Lancaster does not, however, duck ticklish subjects, such as the fact that Lancaster's larger-than-life macho appeal fairly invited speculation into his sexual orientation. Fishgall examines that and other facets of Lancaster but concentrates on his movies. The studio system was declining when Lancaster hit the screen, yet he appeared in several outstanding examples of the varieties of movie the studios used to produce: naturalistic melodramas ("Come Back Little Sheba"), comedic swashbucklers ("The Crimson Pirate"), World War II epics ("From Here to Eternity" featuring the classic kissin'-in-the-surf bit), sociopolitical films noir ("Criss Cross"), and classic book adaptations ("Elmer Gantry"). No responsible bio of Lancaster could fail to be a valuable addition to film studies, and despite occasional narrative heavy sledding, this is such a book.