19 December 2005 | bkoganbing
The Terrible Tempered Twins Ride Again
Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were inexorably linked not just by their co-starring films together, but by the fact that Hedda Hopper in one of her books did a chapter on both of them. She entitled the chapter, The Terrible Tempered Twins and she bemoaned the fact that these two instead of being good little captives of the studio system that kept her in business, had the audacity to chart their own careers. Go into the production end and take total responsibility for the work they did.
It would never have worked had not Lancaster and Douglas not been good judges of the roles they were best suited for. Some stars never wanted that kind of responsibility or felt they were poor judges. William Holden said point blank after one picture where he was the producer, the responsibility was too much for him. Robert Taylor was widely quoted that he stayed with MGM as long as he did because he felt they knew best how to present him and what were good film properties.
But Burt and Kirk knew their minds and made their own careers work. Fortunately before both of them in the Nineties were felled by illness and Lancaster left us, they gave us one more co-starring part.
This one's a comedy though, something different for them. As Harry Doyle and Archie Long two elderly crooks released after a thirty year stretch for robbing the West Coast Flyer train, they find roles perfectly suited to their age and personality.
Lancaster's old and he knows it, but he still wants to be treated with some dignity. Douglas hasn't quite figured it out yet, but in time he gets the fact that time's caught up with him. They just can't adjust to changing times so they try all kinds of things to fit in. And then they decide on one spectacular coda to their lives and careers in the wonderful world of crime.
The two men are in great form and they get some able support from Alexis Smith, Charles Durning and Dana Carvey in the supporting cast. But special comment must be made for Eli Wallach's seeing eye hit-man. Good thing his part is not as long as the stars because he steals every scene he's in.