Fishgall, an actor and director who has written for show-biz trade papers, makes his hardcover debut with a biography of one of the greatest of post--WW II movie stars. Burt Lancaster was an unlikely candidate for movie stardom. As a kid growing up in a railroad flat in the Italian section of East Harlem, he was a voracious reader, ardent opera fan, and avid moviegoer, but not someone who had ever manifested the slightest interest in acting until he became involved with the Union Settlement House. Later, in the sort of career move that helps build legends, Lancaster quit New York University in his sophomore year to join the circus with his lifelong friend and sometime partner, Nick Cravat. Through a combination of luck and timing he made his way to Broadway and from there to Hollywood. With a huge success in his very first film, The Killers (1946), he was catapulted to almost instant stardom. Lancaster was one of the first actors to enjoy success with an independent production company of his own, paving the way for many others and hastening the demise of the studio system. He managed to balance commercial projects against more personal ones for most of his career, with satisfying results that are a testimony to his intelligence and taste. Fishgall recounts this career in a plodding, stolid prose, drawing heavily on old interviews and movie stars' memoirs. Although he interviewed 160 of Lancaster's colleagues and friends, the result has a flat, stale feeling. To its credit, the book offers an excellent filmography and listing of Lancaster's other work for stage and television. One of our most kinetic actors, Lancaster deserves a biography that is as filled with energy as he was. Despite its good intentions, this isn't it.