Birdman of Alcatraz, director John Frankenheimer’s (The Manchurian Candidate) biographical drama, stars Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) as Robert Stroud, the “birdman” of the title, who, as the film begins, is incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison for murder, a sentence that will eventually lead him to Alcatraz. Seeing his days stretch out to life without parole for the murder of a prison guard, Stroud will pass his days in solitary confinement caring for a baby sparrow, an act which eventually blossoms into caring for an array of birds sent as gifts to fellow inmates.
Birdman of Alcatraz offers supporting performances by Thelma Ritter (who would receive an Academy Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actress) as Stroud’s mother; Karl Malden as prison warden, Harvey Schoemaker; Betty Field (Picnic) as Stroud’s future wife, Stella; Telly Savalas (The Dirty Dozen) as fellow inmate Gomez; Neville Brand (Stalag 17) as Bull, a prison guard who befriends Stroud; and Edmond O’Brien (The Wild Bunch) as Thomas E. Gaddis, the author of the book based on Stroud’s life. Birdman of Alcatraz was photographed by Burnett Guffey (Academy Award® winner for From Here to Eternity – 1954, Bonnie and Clyde – 1968) and scored by Elmer Bernstein.
- Audio commentary by Kate Buford, author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life