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Burt Lancaster Bullied Kirk Douglas to Tears

Burt Lancaster spent a great deal of time off-set with his good friend Kirk Douglas whenever the cameras weren’t rolling. It makes sense that these two legendary actors hit it off. For one thing, both stars were essentially the same age when they made it out to Hollywood. Kirk was born in 1916 while Burt was born in 1913.

Douglas made his film debut in 1946s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, while Lancaster’s breakthrough role was in the 1946 film noir production The Killers. Both actors went on to have very prolific careers in the film industry, with Douglas appearing in more than 90 films and Lancaster appearing in at least 65.

While the two certainly had a lot in common, their friendship wasn’t without it’s problems. Since this was the mid-20th century that we’re talking about, it wasn’t uncommon for men back then to flaunt their masculinity by putting down people around them. While this practice unfortunately still hasn’t completely died out, the level of flexing that dudes used to engage in back in the day was quite alarming.

Anyway, on one occasion, when Burt was giving Kirk a hard time, he went a little too far. Keep watching to learn all about how Burt Lancaster once Bullied Kirk Douglas to Tears.

Burt And Kirk Had A Complicated Relationship

On August 5, 1953, the iconic, critically-acclaimed film ‘From Here to Eternity’ hit theaters. The movie starred Burt Lancaster alongside the ‘chairman of the board’ himself, Frank Sinatra.

Just a few years later, in 1957, Lancaster starred alongside the legendary Spartacus actor Kirk Douglas. While the two eventually became close friends, their working relationship was far from perfect. In fact, they were frequently reported to have gotten into bitter arguments on set. And apparently, the testiness of their relationship extended to their behind-the-scenes dealings as well.

Throughout their respective careers, the duo crossed paths numerous times, but their friendship didn’t really take off until later on. The two iconic film stars worked alongside each other often, appearing in a total of seven films and one play together. So, it’s safe to say that Lancaster and Douglas knew each other quite well.

In time, Lancaster’s constant belittling and put-downs got to be too much for Douglas to handle. This culminated in a rather explosive interaction that took place at a fan event.

Lancaster didn’t feel like anything was off-limits. He wasn’t in the least bit apprehensive to use his intimate knowledge of Douglas against him if the moment felt right.

According to a biography about Lancaster titled An American Life by author Kate Buford, the two film stars once attended an event which saw them standing in front of a large crowd of fans.

Their bravados undoubtedly got the better of them as they began teasing each other for laughs. But Lancaster decided to dial up the intensity when he started taking very personal jabs at Douglas.

He clearly crossed a line when he started teasing Kirk about his height.

Douglas stood at about five feet seven inches tall. Compared to Lancaster, who was 6’2”, he looked significantly shorter.

The final nail in the coffin so to speak came when Lancaster began telling the group of fans how Douglas used specially designed lifts in his shoes to make him appear taller than he actually was.

This remark evidently hit a nerve for the actor who was really taken aback by the low-blow verbal attack. Douglas evidently burst into tears in front of all of those onlookers. He had been very sensitive about his height, so this was one wound that he most definitely didn’t want poked at in front of an audience.

It took him just moments to pull himself together and promptly exit the event. Years later, the two movie stars became closer friends, but their incessant teasing never stopped.

Lancaster’s used to introduce his old friend at Hollywood events by saying something along the lines of “Kirk would be the first to admit that he can be a difficult person – while I would be the second’.

Somehow, throughout all of that public beratement, Lancaster and Douglas managed to maintain a close friendship for many years. And their kinship endured even after Lancaster passed away. Burt was 94 years old when he died of a heart attack on October 20, 1994.

Not long after Lancaster passed away, Douglas referred to his death as the ‘passing of a giant’.

In a 2017 interview, Douglas candidly discussed his friends from Old Hollywood. When talking about Burt, he said that he missed him a lot despite the fact that they fought all the time.

The two stars had a pretty great time with one another on the film sets that they shared. During the production of Gunfight at the OK Corral, they once forced filming to be stopped due to their uncontrollable laughing. They were like two schoolboys out at the playground whenever they got together.

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The FBI Was Obsessed With Burt Lancaster

While he’s arguably best known for that steamy beach scene with Deborah Kerr in From Here To Oblivion, Burt Lancaster’s prolific life story is one full of several unexpected twists and turns.

He was born Burton Steven Lancaster in New York City back in 1913. At the age of 19, he joined the circus. His physical prowess would later become one of his biggest hallmarks, along with his gift for projecting toughness and emotional vulnerability simultaneously.

After serving in the Army during the Second World War, Lancaster became interested in acting. He had felt inspired by the USO shows that he had seen, and when he returned back stateside, he made his Broadway debut in 1945. As mentioned in the intro, he was given his first big breakthrough Hollywood role when he appeared in The Killers.

While Burt had a special affinity for offbeat film roles, he was also particularly outspoken about his liberal political beliefs. In Kate Buford’s biography, the author noted that Burt’s leftist politics more than likely stemmed from his experiences in his younger years with the Union Settlement House – an organization that devoted it’s efforts to providing services for impoverished immigrants.

In the 1940s, Burt spoke out against the House Un-American Activities Committee and the witch-hunting and blacklisting that they engaged in in their efforts to curtail the spread of communism in the entertainment industry.

According to publicly available records, the FBI began keeping tabs on Lancaster in 1963. Records, however, don’t tell the full story, because in reality Lancaster had already been surveilled by the United States government for at least 15 years by that point.

The reason why the FBI was keeping an eye on Lancaster likely had to do with his long-standing support for Civil Rights. According to an FBI memo from one of the bureau’s agents, Milton A. Jones, to Deputy Associate Director Cartha ‘Deke’ DeLoach, which was declassified in 1996 but penned in 1963, Lancaster had signed a statement in 1947 put out by the National Council of the Arts, Sciences, and Professionals urging congress to abolish the HUAC.

That organization was already on the FBI’s radar seeing as how they considered them to be a communist front. So, when Burt put his ‘John Hancock’ on the statement, they basically saw it as an admission of him having communist ties.

Lancaster reportedly also requested more than once to tour the FBI headquarters and meet the Bureau’s director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover denied his request in 1957, citing his ‘subversive association’.

Jones’s memo alerting the Bureau of Lancaster’s supposed communist ties was inspired by Lancaster’s participation in a meeting that took place in Beverly Hills. That meeting was led by Dr. Christopher L. Taylor from the NAACP and it’s purpose was to present ‘peaceful steps’ to speed up the integration of African Americans in their communities.

Further info that was relayed in the memo included a mention of a 1960 raid of an unnamed millionaire who was listed as a ‘notorious homosexual’. Evidently that millionaire required all his guests to sign a register when visiting his abode, and Burt Lancaster’s name appeared on that list along with numerous other stars.

The CIA forwarded a letter to the FBI in 1962 that expressed concern that Burt Lancaster was among several Hollywood actors who were interested in making films with strong social commentary. It’s further come to light that Lancaster was investigated by the FBI for his supposed affiliation with the Communist Party of America in 1940s, his alleged homosexual behavior in the 50s, and for participating in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Burt Was Prone To Violent Outbursts On Set

Although Burt Lancaster was seen as being one of the most prominent actors of his time, there were some that were deeply afraid of him. Author Norman Mailer, one of Lancaster’s close friends and regular bridge partner in the 1960s, once admitted that he had never looked into more chilling eyes than those of Lancaster’s.

Famed gossip columnist Hedda Hopper used to call him ‘terrible-tempered Burt’. Elmer Bernstein, the composer for Sweet Smell of Success’s score, once said that Burt was a very scary man to work with. He claimed that the actor had a short fuse and could be very dangerous when his anger led him to get physical.

Similarly, Sydney Pollack once described Burt as a ‘very intimidating man’, while director Alexander McKendrick echoed Bernstein’s sentiments by calling him ‘scary’.

On the set of the 1966 film, The Professionals, Lancaster punched his co-star Jack Palance so hard during an argument that he made the Oscar-Award-winning actor throw up. When Lancaster worked with director Michael Winner on the set of Lawman in 1971, crew members frequently complained about his angry outbursts. On one occasion, Lancaster grabbed Winner and threatened to throw him off a mountain in Durango.

Despite this horrific experience, Winner and Lancaster remained close friends for many years. Winner even was quoted as calling Lancaster a ‘wonderful man’ before saying, ‘who cares if he tried to kill me a couple of times?’

We’re just about ready to wrap up this video, but we’d love to hear from you. Did you know that Burt Lancaster once made Kirk Douglas cry in front of a crowd of fans and that he was also known for getting physically violent on film sets that he worked on? Let us know in the comments.

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