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Birdman of Alcatraz (3-Jul-1962)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Writer: Guy Trosper

Based on a book: Birdman of Alcatraz by Thomas E. Gaddis

Music by: Elmer Bernstein

Producers: Stuart Millar; Guy Trosper

Keywords: True Crime, Prison, San Francisco, Alcatraz, Biography

Convicted murderer Robert Stroud serves a life sentence at several prisons including Alcatraz. During his incarceration he gains expertise in birds and bird diseases. Stroud's nasty life is toned down to make his story more palatable to theatergoers. Brilliantly acted prison drama. Received Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Cinematography.

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NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Whit Bissell
25-Oct-1909 5-Mar-1996 The Time Tunnel
Neville Brand
13-Aug-1920 16-Apr-1992 Birdman of Alcatraz
Betty Field
8-Feb-1913 13-Sep-1973 Picnic
Burt Lancaster
2-Nov-1913 20-Oct-1994 Elmer Gantry
Karl Malden
22-Mar-1912 1-Jul-2009 Streets of San Francisco
Hugh Marlowe
30-Jan-1911 2-May-1982 Jim Matthews on Another World
Edmond O'Brien
10-Sep-1915 9-May-1985 The Great Imposter
Thelma Ritter
14-Feb-1905 4-Feb-1969 Stella in Rear Window
Telly Savalas
22-Jan-1922 22-Jan-1994 Kojak
James Westerfield
22-Mar-1913 20-Sep-1971 On the Waterfront


Burt Lancaster   ...   Robert Stroud
Also Starring
Karl Malden   ...   Harvey Shoemaker
Thelma Ritter   ...   Elizabeth Stroud
Neville Brand   ...   Bull Ransom
Betty Field   ...   Stella Johnson
Telly Savalas   ...   Feto Gomez
Edmond O'Brien   ...   Tom Gaddis
Hugh Marlowe   ...   Comstock
Whit Bissell   ...   Dr. Ellis
Crahan Denton   ...   Kramer
James Westerfield   ...   Jess Younger


Review by Mark J. Shallow (posted on 12-Dec-2008)

Two years prior to making this film, Burt Lancaster earned an Academy Award for his role as the ertswhile tent preacher, Elmer Gantry. Though his acting chops (and his toothsome smile) were given full play in the film, he gives a much richer and vastly more interesting characterization in BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ. Based on the story of Robert Stroud, a man convicted of two murders, the film tells in compelling detail how this hardened criminal became the embodiment of what penal authorities are pleased to call rehabilitation. In Lancaster's hands, we are treated to the sight of a man with little or no feeling for any human being (save his mother) grow into someone who has, in the words of the script, "a deep and private love for his birds". Lancaster brilliatly captures the arc of this convict's life. His utter contempt toward the world is in plain view, yet Lancaster manages to gain the sympathy of the audience for Stroud. By wisely choosing to underplay many of his scenes, Lancaster allows us to home in on Stroud's anger, his bitterness and, in time, a genuine tenderness toward the creatures who have done for him what the prison system could not: namely, restore his membership to the human race. In a career lasting nearly half a century, this film stands out as Burt Lancaster's greatest achievement.

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