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Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Not Rated | | Biography, Crime, Drama | 15 September 1962 (Italy)
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A surly convicted murderer held in permanent isolation redeems himself when he becomes a renowned bird expert.

Directors:

John Frankenheimer, Charles Crichton (uncredited)

Writers:

Guy Trosper (screenplay), Thomas E. Gaddis (book)
Reviews
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Burt Lancaster ... Robert Franklin Stroud
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 ... Albert Comstock
Whit Bissell ... Dr. Ellis
Crahan Denton ... Kramer
James Westerfield ... Jess Younger
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Storyline

In 1912, the notorious and violent prisoner Robert Franklin Stroud is transferred to the Leavenworth Prison convicted for murdering a man. When a guard cancels the visit of his mother, Elizabeth Stroud, due to a violation of the internal rules, he stabs and kills the guard and goes to trial three times. He is sentenced to be executed by the gallows, but his mother appeals to President Woodrow Wilson who commutes his sentence to life imprisonment. However, the warden, Harvey Shoemaker, decides to keep Stroud in solitary for the rest of his life. One day, Stroud finds a sparrow that has fallen from the nest in the yard and he raises the bird until it is strong enough to fly. Stroud finds a motivation for his life raising and caring for birds and becomes an expert in birds. He marries Stella Johnson and together they run a business, providing medicine developed by Stroud. But a few years after, Stroud is transferred to Alcatraz and has to leave his birds behind. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Inside the rock called Alcatraz they tried to chain a volcano they called "The Bird Man"! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 September 1962 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Gefangene von Alcatraz See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,650,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Norma Productions See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Just before the film opened in 1962, Burt Lancaster made an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show: Episode #15.44 (1962), in which he spoke about the film and the real Robert Stroud, and showed a clip from the movie. In those days before talk shows flooded the airwaves, films were often promoted by guests on variety shows. See more »

Goofs

After being put into D-Block at Alcatraz, Stroud's meal is served to him by his Fedo Gomez, who was his neighbour in the solitary block at Leavenworth. Gomez says that the warden has made him a trustee. Alcatraz never had trustees in its entire 29-years of operation. D-Block did have orderlies though (convicts in D-Block who were sufficiently non-violent that they were allowed out of their cells to sweep the floors and assist at meals) who would serve meals to other convicts in D-Block. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Tour guide: ...during which you will see all of the man-made and natural beauties, the most spectacular bay in the world. You'll pass beneath the famous Golden Gate Bridge, considered by most authorities to be one of the most striking structures ever erected by man. From the bay, you will thrill to the magnificent San Francisco skyline. Your cruise ship, the Harbor King, will circle Alcatraz, a maximum security prison containing the most dangerous criminals in America. It has been the home of ...
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Alternate Versions

European release is five minutes longer than original US theatrical version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mister Ed: Wilbur Post, Honorary Horse (1963) See more »

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User Reviews

Brilliant film...Lancaster's finest performance...
13 July 2002 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

BURT LANCASTER seldom had a role that he connected with more than his portrait of an embittered man who must spend his life in prison after murdering a prison guard. His muted performance of this stoic man is under close scrutiny by the camera as he gradually redeems himself through a chance encounter with a fallen sparrow.

Everyone in the cast is superb--Karl Malden as a hard-nosed warden, Telly Savalas as a fellow prisoner, Betty Field as the widow who becomes close to Stroud through a mutual interest, and particularly Thelma Ritter as an over possessive mother. The refusal of a prison guard to permit Lancaster to see his mother is the catalyst that sends Stroud into solitary when the guard is fatally stabbed.

The scene where Stroud breaks down and actually apologizes to a prison guard (Neville Brand) is one of the most powerful moments in the film with Brand speaking up to the defiant prisoner who treats the guards with contempt.

All of the scenes showing Stroud taking care of his birds are startlingly realistic. Through brilliant black and white photography and a compelling script--and under the superior direction of John Frankenheimer--the film will move you to tears on more than one occasion and provides a vast range of emotions for the viewer. Burt Lancaster's finest achievement as an actor.

Interesting to note that only Burt Lancaster and Thelma Ritter were nominated for Oscars. Karl Malden and Neville Brand also deserved Oscar nominations--as did the film.


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