- Birdman of Alcatraz (film)
name = Birdman of Alcatraz
Thomas E. Gaddis(book) Guy Trosper
Burt Lancaster Karl Malden Thelma Ritter Neville Brand Telly Savalas
runtime = 143 minutes
country = U.S.
language = English
amg_id = 1:5725
imdb_id = 0055798
"Birdman of Alcatraz" is a 1962 film starring
Burt Lancasterand directed by John Frankenheimer. It is a fictionalized version of the life of Robert Stroud, a federal prison inmate known as the "Birdman of Alcatraz" because of his life with birds.
The film was adapted by
Guy Trosperfrom the 1955 book by Thomas E. Gaddis. It was nominated for Academy Awardsfor Best Actor in a Leading Role (Burt Lancaster), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Telly Savalas), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Thelma Ritter) and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White. Stroud was never allowed to see the film.
The movie is told in
flashback, narrated by Edmond O'Brien, who plays Gaddis, the author of the book upon which the movie is based.
Robert Stroud is imprisoned as a young man for committing a murder in Alaska. He is shown as a rebellious inmate, fighting against a rigid prison system. In an early scene he breaks open the window of a prison train, to allow the suffocating inmates to breathe.
He is sentenced to life in prison after stabbing a guard who denied him a visit from his mother (
Thelma Ritter). The terms of the sentence require that he be kept in solitary confinementfor the rest of his life. His rebellious attitude—portrayed in the film as justifiable—puts him in conflict with the warden of Leavenworth Prison ( Karl Malden).
To break the monotony, Stroud adopts a bird as a pet. When the bird gets sick, he experiments with a cure. As the years pass, working with many birds, he becomes an expert on bird diseases. He publishes a book on bird remedies, and then writes a history of the U.S. penal system that is suppressed. He remains rebellious and at odds with authority. He marries and then divorces a woman who had corresponded with him about birds. This turns his mother against him.
Stroud is abruptly transferred to the federal
penitentiaryat Alcatraz, a new maximum security institution where he is not permitted to keep birds. He is now growing elderly, and though still rebellious he is a positive influence, and helps stop a prison rebellion in 1946. He is transferred to a prison hospital after Alcatraz closes, but efforts to gain his freedom fail.
Fact versus fiction
Burt Lancaster’s impersonation of Stroud stirred
sympathywith the general public. However, prison historians have pointed out that the real Stroud was a merciless killer who showed no remorse for his crimes.
The 1967 song, "Birdman Of Alkatraz," by psychedelic band
Strawberry Alarm Clockgets its title from this film, although the song's theme is very different from that of the film.
* [http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/famous/stroud/ Crime Library article on Robert Stroud]
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