Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review of a classic film - 'Birdman of Alcatraz'

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)
(TCM) Burt Lancaster, Karl Malden, Telly Savalas

The re-showing on TCM of what is now almost a classic film showed Lancaster at his best – playing a man capable of extreme violence, changed by an abiding interest.

The true story of Robert Stroud, interned in Levenworth penitentiary, where he conducted tests and experiments on canaries to discover remedies for the ills that afflict them, began with a dangerous man indicted for murder.

Finding a fledgling sparrow in the exercise yard one day, Stroud nurses it back to health, teaches it a few tricks – hopping onto his finger and flying, and his interest in all things avian begins.

Called ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ by Hollywood, Stroud actually conducted most of his research at Levenworth, although he was transferred to the infamous island later.

Supported by his mother and then by a benefactor, Stella Johnson, whom he later married, Stroud became the leading authority on avian illnesses and their treatment, writing in the journals of the day on his findings.

Karl Malden (Harvey Shoemaker) played Stroud’s Nemesis governor, later to become a more understanding governor of the prison in which Stroud spent some of his early years, while a young Telly Savalas played Stroud’s cellmate as he nursed the birds to health, or to their death, until he started to cure them.

Science sometimes progresses accidentally, as Lister found with his discovery of penicillin. Stroud merely hit on remedies at first, but then became more systematic as his knowledge increased. The interest sustained him through his 50 odd years in prison.-
Robert L. Fielding


Post a Comment

<< Home