All six feet two of Burt Lancaster is spread out next to Deborah Kerr as they kiss each other on the beach in From Here to Eternity (1953). This is one of the most famous movie love scenes, parodied and copied many times afterward, and it is telling that Kerr is basically on top of Lancaster at first in the surf as the tide flows over and away from them. She runs off and he runs after her and looks down at her as she stretches out on the sand, but any expectation that he will now be the dominant partner recedes as he slowly and reverently sinks to his knees to kiss her. This display of tenderness is extended by a moment right after the kiss when he looks at Kerr and his face is open in a sweet and childlike way, hinting at the softie underneath his hulking frame.
This scene on the beach in From Here to Eternity was one of the first times Lancaster showed the depth of his feelings on-screen. The year before, he had let a distinct sense of emotional frailty come through in Come Back, Little Sheba, where he played a person very different from himself, a stiff, prim man uncomfortable in his own body. Lancaster was initially known for a blunt and uncomplicated projection of physical strength, but in the early 1950s he revealed himself as a performer who was willing to show us what lay beneath that need for dominance and control: sensitivity and intelligence.
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