Vice President Burt Lancaster
November 2nd, 1913 - on this day the fortieth Vice President of the United States Burt Lancaster was born at his parents' home on 209 East 106th Street, New York City.
As a performer with USO during World War II, he not only launched a career in acting but also developed a profound anti-war conviction. Ironically, his most famous acting role would be 1st Sgt. Milton Warden in the 1953 blockbuster "From Here to Eternity", based on the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although he could hardly have imagined it at the time, the movie would not be his last association with America's armed conflicts in the Far East.
Later in the decade, he won praise for his willingness to play roles that went against his initial "tough guy" image. Initially dismissed as "Mr Muscles and Teeth", in the late 1950s Lancaster abandoned his "all-American" image and gradually came to be regarded as one of the best actors of his generation.
And yet changes in America would radically change the direction of his career. An opponent of McCarthyism and the Vietnam War, Lancaster would become a vocal supporter of liberal political causes, regularly speaking out with support for racial minorities. Ironically the 1964 movie "Seven Days in May" presented a dystopian vision of many of these changes which would be explored by his masterful portrayal of James Mattoon Scott, the General attempting to overtthrow an anti-war President and seize the White House. Four years later, Lancaster actively supported the presidential candidacy of antiwar Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, and frequently spoke on his behalf in the Democratic primaries.
Even though Richard Nixon prevailed against Hubert Humphrey in that general election, a combination of improbable events between 1968 to 1972 propelled the Senator into the White House.
- Third Party Candidate George Wallace survived an assassination attempt to split the right-wing vote
- The economy entered a sharp down-turn
- Poor health prevented Humphrey from undermining McCarthy as the candidate of acid, amnesty and abortion
- McCarthy matured as a candidate, taking policy more seriously and offering an intelligent critique of Nixon's foreign policy particularly on Vietnam
And perhaps the more seasoned Eugene McCarthy recognised the value of the softly spoken, but steely personae of Burt Lancaster, the man he chose to serve as his Vice President.