The Careers of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Referenced in Literature

A Study in Film Perception

by Henryk Hoffmann

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Henryk Hoffmann’s recent work, The Careers of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Referenced in Literature: A Study in Film Perception, proves – like his previous volumes – that the author is an excellent film historian and a perceptive film critic. In this study, Hoffmann aims to show that Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas rank not only among America’s most respected movie stars but also that they have become iconic figures who are surprisingly often referred to in many literary works, including genre fiction as well as works by major American authors such as Updike, Pynchon or DeLillo. The author has managed to find references to the two actors and the movies featuring them in over 150 literary works, which shows that the cultural impact the two movie stars and their films have made is very significant. Hoffmann’s study, however, is much more than a reference book as it gives the readers a lot of interesting information on the two actor’s impressive film careers. It also includes many remarks on the interrelations between film and literature. Despite its largely encyclopedic character, Hoffmann’s study might prove interesting not only to film specialists but also to those readers who today remain fascinated with Lancaster’s and Douglas’s artistic creations.

Prof. Dr Hab. Jerzy Durczak
Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland

This book is an invitation to enjoy the aesthetic pleasures offered by films and literature. Two iconic figures of American film industry Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas left us a legacy – a treasure trove of the American experience, values, and culture, including their artistic achievements. The reception, appreciation, interpretation, as well as functions and uses of these phenomena in modern American and partly foreign literature, is the main object of Henryk Hoffmann’s investigation.
The author shows an extensive and impressive knowledge of American film and literature and especially, the interrelations between them. The remarkable collection of data includes over 60 films and 150 literary works of more than 120 authors. The approach of this project is referential-analytic; that is, the body of collected literary references is analyzed in terms of their contextualized functions. Significantly, the structure, organization, and presentation of the analysis are clear and easily accessible, even for a general reader.
This book offers invaluable insights into what is important for the creators of modern American culture and what they import from film to literature and the other way around. Henryk Hoffmann’s work is a significant contribution to the research on enculturation and cultural influence. It should inspire scholarly projects related to the two areas of study. In addition to its undeniable educational value, this book will certainly encourage the reader to see the magnificent and memorable films as well as read at least some of the books that refer to them.

Prof. Dr Hab. Roman Kopytko
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland

Henryk Hoffmann's new book is yet another stellar achievement from a scholar of great scope, painstaking work ethic and undiminished passion. By focusing on two icons of 20th century American manhood (Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas) and showing how their cultural presence was both shaped and reinforced by literary references to their work, Hoffmann shows his deep understanding of American culture -- as well as illuminates its often-overlooked aspects. The references Hoffmann meticulously tracks down and puts in proper context range from ones made to Lancaster and Douglas' careers, physiques, talents -- as well as to values they embodied. Two strong, burly types with unexpected layers of sensitivity, vulnerability (and even neurotic violence), Lancaster and Douglas navigated the cultural construct that is American manhood in formidable ways that often included transcultural elements (Douglas' Russian-Jewish immigrant heritage gave unexpected inflection to his role as Roman slave Spartacus; Lancaster's magisterial turn as a Sicilian prince in Luchino Visconti's "The Leopard" gave heft to a character as opposed to American democratic traditions as possible). By including a staggering scope of quotes from a wide range of fiction authors, Hoffmann's book can serve as a great reference book, pointing its readers towards works that interpreted and evoked the presence of two of the most remarkable American actors of the Hollywood golden era. The book is also an apt companion to Hoffmann's previous work, "Four Legends in World Literature: Bogart, Cooper, Gable and Tracy". […] The book is of great value and will undoubtedly remain in perennial use for film and literature scholars alike (not to mention the many fans of each actors' work).

Dr Michał Oleszczyk
"Artes Liberales" Department, University of Warsaw, Poland

The Careers of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Referenced in Literature is a study of the perception of these two Hollywood megastars and their work, as presented in the text and context of references and allusions found in world literature. This book also aims to establish the impact factor of the two actors and their major films, as well as to provide extensive data for further studies of the complex and bilateral relationships between film and literature. The pertinent quotations have been extracted from over 150 works—novels, short stories, plays, poems and some nonfiction biographies and memoirs (excluding those focused on film celebrities)—by more than 120 authors.
The main body of the book consists of two parts, each devoted to one actor and each having five identical sections. In the first section, references to the actor’s films are discussed while the second section presents references to the actor himself. The third section shows the complete list of references found to the actor and his films, including references not mentioned in the first two sections—either because of their relative insignificance, the lack of an English translation in case of foreign-language works or repetitiveness and/or abundance in a given work. The fourth section offers the credits of the films referenced, and the fifth section presents the actor’s complete monographic bibliography. The third part of the book, ‘Epilogue: Final Remarks and Conclusions,’ provides an analysis and classification of all the references and allusions presented in the main body, and it elaborates on the friendship of the two actors.
College professors and students interested in film studies, particularly film analysis and criticism, film perception and film genres, will find this book of great interest. It will also appeal to people interested in biographical books on movie personalities and movie fans, especially those interested in westerns, film noir and the careers of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.

List of Figures

I. References to Lancaster’s Films
II. References to Lancaster: the Man, the Actor, the Celebrity
III. List of References (Found) to Lancaster and His Films
IV. Credits of Lancaster’s Films Referenced
V. Lancaster’s Monographic Bibliography (books only)

I. References to Douglas’s Films
II. References to Douglas: the Man, the Actor, the Celebrity
III. List of References (Found) to Douglas and His Films
IV. Credits of Douglas’s Films Referenced
V. Douglas’s Monographic Bibliography (books only)

Epilogue: Final Remarks and Conclusions
Overall Bibliography

Henryk Hoffmann was born, raised and educated in Poznań, Poland. Upon his graduation from Adam Mickiewicz University with an MA in English Philology, he worked as an English teacher, translator and interpreter in several institutions, including his alma mater, the Polish Academy of Sciences and his self-owned firm. Since his immigration to the USA in 1992 he has taught Latin, German, English and History, first in North Carolina and then in Pennsylvania.
He is the author of five reference books—“A” Western Filmmakers: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers, Directors, Cinematographers, Composers, Actors and Actresses (McFarland, 2000, 2008), Western Film Highlights: The Best of the West, 1914-2001 (McFarland, 2003, 2009), Leksykon gwiazd kina amerykańskiego (A Biographical Dictionary of American Movie Stars, Agencja Producentów Filmowych, Warsaw, 2006; written in Polish in collaboration with his daughters, Beata and Katarzyna), Western Movie References in American Literature (McFarland, 2012) and Four Hollywood Legends in World Literature: References to Bogart, Cooper, Gable and Tracy (BearManor Media, 2016); and one memoir—Ironies, Coincidences and Absurdities in My Ordinary Life on Both Sides of the Atlantic (Higher Ground Books & Media, 2019).
Hoffmann’s professional honors include the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition (2000) for his first book, a two-time inclusion in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers (Educational Communications, 2002 and 2005), an entry in Contemporary Authors (Thomson Gale, 2005) and an Honorary Diploma from the Polish Federation of Film Societies (on its 50th Anniversary, 2006).
At present Hoffmann works at Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, PA, where he teaches Latin and German. He is an active member of the Western Writers of America and lives, with his wife Betsy, in Lititz, PA.

Academy Award, film noir, mage, impact factor, persona, personality, political drama, screen performance, portrayal, projection/identification, screen adaptation, war films, westerns

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Careers of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Referenced in Literature

Book Subtitle

A Study in Film Perception





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


6 B&W

Publication date

October 2020