×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Birdman of Alcatraz

Birdman of Alcatraz is not really a prison picture in the traditional and accepted sense of the term. Birdman reverses the formula and brings a new breadth and depth to the form. In telling, with reasonable objectivity but understandably deep compassion the true story of Robert Stroud, it achieves a human dimension way beyond its predecessors.

With:
Burt Lancaster Karl Malden Thelma Ritter Neville Brand Telly Savalas Edmond O'Brien

Birdman of Alcatraz is not really a prison picture in the traditional and accepted sense of the term. Birdman reverses the formula and brings a new breadth and depth to the form. In telling, with reasonable objectivity but understandably deep compassion the true story of Robert Stroud, it achieves a human dimension way beyond its predecessors.

Trosper’s penetrating and affecting screenplay, based on the book by Thomas E. Gaddis, delicately and artfully sketches the 53-year imprisonment of the 72-year-old ‘Birdman’, Stroud, illustrating the highlights and lowlights of that terrible, yet miraculously ennobling span. The screenplay’s, and the film’s only real flaw is its dismissal of Stroud’s background, leaving the audience to mull over psychological ramifications and expositional data by and large denied it.

Lancaster gives a superbly natural, unaffected performance – one in which nobility and indestrucibility can be seen cumulatively developing and shining from within through a weary exterior eroded by the deep scars of time and enforced privacy in a ‘prison within a prison’. His running clash with the narrow-minded and vengeful warden Shoemaker is a highlight of the film, consummating in a powerful scene depicting their opposing views on penology. Karl Malden is excellent as the warden.

Four distinguished top supporting performances light up the picture. They are those of Telly Savalas as a fellow inmate and birdkeeper, Thelma Ritter (in a change of pace from her customary characterization) as Stroud’s mother (whose seemingly unselfish devotion to the cause of her son ultimately grows suspect), Neville Brand as an understanding guard, and Betty Field as the woman who married Stroud in prison, then reluctantly drifts away at his realistic request. Edmond O’Brien narrates and plays the author.

1962: Nominations: Best Actor (Burt Lancaster), Supp. Actor (Telly Savalas), Supp. Actress (Thelma Ritter), B&W Cinematography

Birdman of Alcatraz

Production: United Artists/Harold Hecht. Director John Frankenheimer; Producer Stuart Millar, Guy Trosper; Screenplay Guy Trosper; Camera Burnett Guffey; Editor Edward Mann; Music Elmer Bernstein; Art Director Ferdie Carrere

Crew: (B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1962. Running time: 147 MIN.

With: Burt Lancaster Karl Malden Thelma Ritter Neville Brand Telly Savalas Edmond O'Brien

More Film

  • Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his Night

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Speeding to Series-Best Debut With $58 Million

    Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is far and away the box office champ for Academy Awards weekend with an estimated debut of $58 million from 4,259 North American locations. Three holdovers and an expansion will make up the other top four spots, with the sophomore frame of sci-fier “Alita: Battle Angel” [...]

  • Stanley Donen

    Stanley Donen, Director of Iconic Movie Musicals, Dies at 94

    Stanley Donen, the director of such stylish and exuberant films as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Funny Face” and “Two for the Road” and the last surviving helmer of note from Hollywood’s golden age, has died at 94. The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips tweeted that one of his sons had confirmed the news to him. Confirmed [...]

  • '2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live

    Film Review: ‘2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action’

    The Academy skewed dark in its choice of live-action shorts this year, selecting four films to slit your wrists by — each one featuring child endangerment in a different form — and a fifth, about a diabetic on her death bed, that finds a glimmer of uplift at the other end of life. If that [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Yorgos Lanthimos

    Film News Roundup: 'The Favourite' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Boards Crime Drama

    In today’s film news roundup, Yorgos Lanthimos has set up a crime drama, “Here Lies Daniel Tate” is being adapted, and Donna Langley becomes a member of the USC film school board. DIRECTOR HIRED “The Favourite” producer-director Yorgos Lanthimos has signed on to write and direct crime drama “Pop. 1280,” an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content