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The Flame and the Arrow

The Flame and the Arrow

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Twelfth-century Lombardy lies under the iron heel of German overlord Count Ulrich ‘The Hawk’, but in the mountains, guerillas yet resist. Five years before our story, Ulrich stole away the pretty wife of young archer Dardo who, cynical rather than embittered, still has little interest in joining the rebels. But this changes when his son, too, is taken from him. The rest is lighthearted swashbuckling, plus romantic interludes with lovely hostage Anne.

No one steals Burt Lancaster’s kid and gets away with it


Both this film and The Crimson Pirate established Burt Lancaster’s reputation in the swashbuckling genre. When discussing Lancaster’s career even with Oscar nominations and one Oscar for roles vastly different than who he plays in The Flame And The Arrow, I find it fascinating that so many still refer back to these films and label Lancaster a swashbuckling star like Errol Flynn.

Taking place in medieval Lombardy, the province is part of the Holy Roman Empire and they have a particularly evil Hessian provincial governor in Frank Allenby, known as “the Hawk” for his partiality to falconry and for his rapacious designs. Five years before, Allenby just took for himself the bored wife of Burt Lancaster played by Lynne Baggett leaving him to raise their son Gordon Gebert.

Now however Allenby at Baggett’s suggestion comes in and takes Gebert away from a wounded Lancaster. Up to this time Lancaster has lived isolated in the mountains. Now he finally decides to join the rebels in revolt against Allenby and the Empire. Nothing like a little child stealing to provide motivation.

Before taking up acting Lancaster and his partner Nick Cravat were circus performers and his natural abilities in that direction made producers want to cast him in films like The Flame And The Arrow. But Lancaster knew his talent and always tried and succeeded in getting better parts. He never did want to have the career of Errol Flynn.

Burt also gets the opportunity to romance Allenby’s niece Virginia Mayo who is being offered to a recently impoverished count Robert Douglas in the hopes of peace and unity. Douglas however is working an agenda all his own in The Flame And The Arrow. Mayo is curiously enough the mirror image of Baggett. She’s bored with court life and finds certain attractions among the peasants especially the lusty and charismatic Lancaster.

And Burt has the charisma going full blast in this film. As well he would have to, otherwise why would the peasants be following him. It’s an expansive part and no one could be as expansive as Burt Lancaster when the part called for it.

The Flame And The Arrow holds up well today. It should as it has a universal theme of a man protecting his child.


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