Burt Lancaster performs wearing peg leg
July 22, 1971: Burt Lancaster shows how his peg leg is strapped for his role as Peter Stuyvesant in the musical “Knickerbocker Holiday” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Dresser Bill Suiter helps adjust Lancaster’s leg in a bent position before a performance.
Columnist Margaret Harford reported in the June 27, 1971, Los Angeles Times:
Burt Lancaster, brawny veteran of 53 movies and an Oscar (“Elmer Gantry”), is gamely singing “September Song” and hoping that his first try at a stage musical, the Civil Light Opera’s revival of “Knickerbocker Holiday,” will be a winner in Los Angeles….
As Peter Stuyvesant, the role that the late Walter Huston created on Broadway in 1938, Lancaster sings several numbers, including “September Song” which did not become a hit until years after the musical had completed its run on Broadway. Stuyvesant is not an easy role to play, for he has a silver peg leg and must dance a few steps and move around stage while the real leg is held out of sight by a strap or sling worn from the shoulder.
Lancaster claims the contraption that holds up his leg is about as comfortable as a straitjacket and that the role is agonizing, both physically and psychologically, for him. “It’s one of the toughest I’ve ever had to handle,” said the actor, an ex-circus acrobat who has been his own stunt man, jumping off horses and tumbling off cliffs in films since the ’40s.
“But if there’s anything I do well, it’s move,” he added confidently. “If I’m not really driving in the part, I get cold. That strap becomes a sack of cement. I simply have to defeat it. Then it isn’t there anymore. The trick is to get out there and throw caution away.”
The three photo panel by former staff photographer Judd Gunderson was published in the July 31, 1971, Los Angeles Times.
Photo above: June 29, 1971: Actor Burt Lancaster as Peter Stuyvesant in musical “Knickerbocker Holiday,” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Credit: Kathleen Ballard / Los Angeles Times
February 1, 2013, 3:31 pm
He was one of the best.
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