The Swimmer who did not know how to swim – (My humble crush on Burt Lancaster)

I liked Burt Lancaster from the very minute he appeared on the screen in the very first movie I watched featuring him (The Unforgiven, by John Huston). I was still a kid, probably about thirteen. As I have seen the film again recently, I can still state Lancaster had an impressive appearence and beamed seductiveness, strenght (also moral strenght) and sex-appeal. Maybe then I had the first glimpse that I would not ever be a man like him, but I would want soon to be with one like him or as similar as possible.

In years to come I watched quite a few more great performances by this actor, and he became a kind of idol of my teenage as it had been for my mother.

Three among my favourites Lancaster movies are The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962, by Robert Stroud), 1900 / Novecento (1976, by Bernardo Bertolucci), Conversation Piece / Gruppo di famiglia in un interno (1974, by Luchino Visconti)). But I recall most especially a less known –and really weird– movie from 1968: The Swimmer, which caused a very deep impression inside me. I even remember many circumstances relative to my watching it that first time: I was alone and somewhat bored at home one afternoon when they put it on television. I was older then, about 17, I was drinking lemonade and smoking (sadly and stupidly, I had begun to smoke not long ago). It is really coincidental that it was summer, it was a hot afternoon and I was barefoot and in swimwear (a dark blue piece, not very different in shape and colour from the one my admired actor wears most of the while in the film). The living room at home was shadowy because I had lowered the window blinds, and this fact, along with my being alone, contributed to my perfect immersion in that most strange story –and into each one of the swimming pools that Lancaster crosses during the movie… I became deeply moved by everything seen (most of all by the extraordinary end of the story), I was excited, and when my mother and my sister came back in the evening, I couldn’t stop talking about the movie, to the point that my mother made me shut up at some moment out of pure tiredness, and my sis looked at me with a mocking glance –but later on, she managed to hire the video and readily agreed with me about the movie being amazing … and about Mr. Lancaster being especially hunky and desirable (and “edible”, as she used to say back then, having just learnt the kind of eating I was referring to and, as a novice, being most interested in it).

I bought this past Christmas the recently released two-disc DVD/Blu-ray pack, with the movie remastered in HD (and stuffed to the gills with extras). The film itself looks stunning in high definition, and, aside of having a very good time revisiting it, I learned a couple of nice things about Lancaster that made me emotional. The main one is that in 1966, when the actor was 52, after accepting this kirky role, and prior to working on the film, he was terrified, because he did not know how to swim… Of course he hurried up to take swimming lessons and learnt enough to convince me he had been swimming since his most tender childhood.

The second thing I learnt that I did not know about Mr. Lancaster (despite, somehow, clearly and deeply I intuited it) is that he was bisexual and, in a time, when young, rather strictly homosexual. And, yes, just looking at his face and pose; just behind his fantastic manlyhood, there is a tenderness, a delicacy (and, to my eyes, childlike helpnessness) that told me he would have been a real match for a boy like me (in my wishful-thinking!) looking for a perfect man; for sex and for everything else.

Here he is in all his beauty, charm and sweetness, as shot as promotion for the film Desert Fury, by Tom Hanson (1947), his third one:


Burt Lancaster in 1947- in his mid thirties


Some more very good images related to movies I have mentioned above:


Burt Lancaster and Lizabeth Scott in “Desert Fury”, 1947



Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn in “The Unforgiven”, 1960



Burton Stephen Lancaster was born in November 2, 1913, in Manhattan, New York, U.S. He died in October 20, 1994, in Century City, California, U.S.

Upon his death, as he requested, he had no memorial or funeral service. He was cremated and his ashes were buried under a large oak tree in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Brentwood, California. A small, square ground plaque inscribed only with “BURT LANCASTER 1913–1994” marks his final resting place. (You may see this plaque on the heading pic).

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4 thoughts on “The Swimmer who did not know how to swim – (My humble crush on Burt Lancaster)

    1. … I forgot to say I agree The Swimmer is pretty dark :/ I just felt then, when things went bad for me and my family, that we were all as lost as that swimmer. We were. The home, the lives, every one, are lost. I also feel nacked under the weather and looking to my past through a closed fence

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I didn’t know that he didn’t know how to swim at the time.. surprizing, because he was so althletic. .he was an acrobat in his young days. he was one fine looking man, alright !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad to know you liked him so much as well 🙂 He meant a lot to me because he filled many of my juvenile phantasies (and he looked slightly like my father as I recalled him, at least in high and hair colour). I liked him so much that my sis said: “if you like Burt Lancaster, I DO like Audrey Hepburn!” LOL. I had to say I liked her too!
      Thanks a lot for your comment ✨

      Liked by 1 person

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