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Review by Walter Frith
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Some actors find success in their careers sooner rather than later and vice
versa but in the case of Burt Lancaster it was pretty much a smooth ride all
the way. Lancaster died in 1994 his career began in 1946 with a picture
entitled 'The Killing' and his career really took off in the 1950's with 'Jim
Thorpe: All American' (1951), 'Come Back Little Sheba' (1952) and the movie
that would bring him his first Oscar nomination, 'From Here to Eternity'
(1953). 'From Here to Eternity' would win eight Oscars and really launch
Lancaster's career and he would win the Best Actor Oscar in 1960 for 'Elmer
Gantry'. In that film he played a second rate preacher whose moral
followings were called into question. Lancaster's career cooled off somewhat
in the late 1960's and for most of the 70's but he would make a comeback with
one on his finest performances in 'Atlantic City U.S.A.' (1980). This
Canadian and French production first released abroad with the above mentioned
title would come to the U.S. in 1981 with the title 'Atlantic City' and play
across the country including a run in a Los Angeles theatre to qualify it for
Oscar consideration which it got being nominated for five Oscars: Best
Picture, Actor (Lancaster), Actress (Susan Sarandon), Director (Louis Malle)
and Original Screenplay (John Guare). It would not win any of them.
Lancaster plays Lou, a man who brags about a flamboyant and high profile
career in crime but in reality is a small time loser with dreams that never
succeeded into making him anything more than a two bit hood. He and Sarandon
live in the same apartment building and he watches her constantly through his
window and secretly falls in love. Director Louis Malle brilliantly directed
this film with a distinctly European flavour and managed to tell a story
without pretention and one full of strong characters. Sarandon plays a
casino employee training to become a hot shot card dealer and that isn't the
only deal that goes down. Her sister and lover come to visit and the lover
(Canadian actor Robert Joy) becomes involved in a drug deal which embroils
Sarandon and Lancaster heavily in the plot.
Lancaster's character would prove to have some noble qualities as he tries to
protect Sarandon's honor and life from the scum of society. His romantic
consumation of their relationship is based purely on lust while Sarandon uses
him in a somewhat justifiable manner out of a sense of survival and need.
It's one of the most unusual love stories you will ever see. 'Atlantic
City' manages to convince its audience that while it stands up as a
respectable character study, it's also a story of human nature at its most
immoral and has the stamina to invoke itself as a classic motion picture
without popularity but takes its place as a buried treasure.
Other members of the cast are largely made up of talented actors and notable
personalities such as English born but Canadian raised Kate Reid and
Canadians Hollis McLaren, Harvey Atkin and Al Waxman.
Copyright © 1997 Walter Frith