best film:  The Leopard  and The Sweet Smell of Success are one-two in both of the big categories. I ended up, untentionally splitting them. Lancaster is very close to equal in both, but Mackendrick’s wonderfully atmospheric New York City potboiler (and Tony Curtis performance) can’t trump Visctoni’s pictorial brilliance and achievement of mise-en-scene. Those are Lancaster’s top two films but 1900 is underrated by critics—that would come in third.

best performance: The Sweet Smell of Success. Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker is one of Hollywood’s great characters in the 50’s. Tony Curtis’ immoral rogue is our worldview here and narrative vehicle but it’s Lancaster that eats the screen every time he’s on it as the autocratic bully.   Lancaster is fanatical and intellectual—an overbearing figure. He’s a tour-de-force.

stylistic innovations/traits:  Lancaster had a whopping 26 archiveable films over his 44 year career. He was no Ward Bond (supporting character in everything- 35 archiveable films). He’s lead in at least 20 of these films. Lancaster’s first film, his very first film, is The Killers– a magnificent noir in which Lancaster steals the show. His last archiveable film (and overall film)- is Field of Dreams where Lancaster chews the scenes he’s in up, and spits them out—I love him in it. He was a dominant Hollywood actor for 20 years (1946-1966) and also was adventurous enough to lend himself to foreign auteurs (Visconti, Bertolucci, Malle). If he had done one or the other (Hollywood or foreign auteurs) he would’ve ended up on this list—but he did both so he managed to crack the top 25.

directors worked with:   Aldrich (3), Frankenheimer (3) Visconti (2), , and then once with Bertolucci, Malle, and Altman

Top 10 Performances:

  1. The Sweet Smell of Success
  2. The Leopard
  3. Brute Force
  4. From Here to Eternity
  5. Elmer Gantry
  6. 1900
  7. The Killers
  8. Atlantic City
  9. The Train
  10. The Birdman of Alcatraz

Archiveable films

1946- The Killers
1947- Brute Force
1947- I Walk Alone
1948- Sorry, Wrong Number
1953- From Here to Eternity
1954- Vera Cruz
1955- The Rose Tattoo
1957- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
1957- The Sweet Smell of Success
1958- Run Silent, Run Deep
1958- Separate Tables
1960- Elmer Gantry
1961- Judgement at Nuremberg
1962- The Birdman of Alcatraz
1963- The Leopard
1964- Seven Days in May
1964- The Train
1966- The Professionals
1972- Ulzana’s Raid
1974- Conversation Piece
1976- 1900
1976- Buffalo Bill and the Indians
1977- Twilight’s Last Gleaming
1980- Atlantic City
1983- Local Hero
1989- Field of Dreams