This film interpretion of the famous book Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) written about the fading life of a Sicilian Aristocrat by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, (who was himself a Sicilian Aristocrat) was made by Luchino Visconti – (also a Italian Count!) -in 1963. As The Leopard it won the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.
Burt Lancaster born (New York , 2 November 1913 - Century City , 20 October 1994 ), who had previously mainly been applauded for his fine physique in his first film Trapese and subsequent Western Movies, was brought in from Hollywood to play the part of the Sicilian Prince Fabrizio of Salina .
Visconti was initially suspicious of the actor as a good choice for this important role – famously his initial comment was “Oh No! A Cowboy!”
Nonetheless he needed $3 million dollars to fund his elaborate historical spectacular and could only raise it by agreeing with 20th Century Fox to take on at least one Hollywood star needed – then as now – to make the film attractive to an American audience.
In fact Lancaster, despite being dubbed for the original Italian version of the movie , turned out to be a tremendous asset because he delivered an impressively moving and dignified performance.
So impressive was he in this role he was cast in 1976 in NoveCento by Bernardo Bertolucci to play another ageing Aristocrat struggling to maintain his equilibrium in changing times.
(Can you recognise any of these actors?)
Both these mammoth films are now seen as the “Capolavoro” of these two directors.
They are both magnificent and beautifully shot tributes to love and change and the development of Italy from a patchwork of independent states through an uneasy transition into a united country.