28 February 2015

American football in the Spanish desert

Burt Lancaster was a huge football fan. Thus, when he was asked to narrate the National Football League-documentary "Big Game America" in 1969, he gladly accepted. As Lancaster was a big Hollywood star --being co-owner of a successful production company and having lots of films under his belt including "Elmer Gantry" (1960) and "The Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962)-- he could have negotiated a high fee. But instead, he didn't even ask to be paid. All he wanted was a football autographed by NFL commisioner Pete Rozelle.

In November of 1969, Burt Lancaster headed for Spain to shoot his next film, the western "Valdez is Coming" (1971). Prior to his leaving, Lancaster wrote a letter to Ed Sabol, president of NFL films, because he didn't want to miss out on his beloved football in Spain. Below you'll find Lancaster's request to Sabol to have football games sent to the filming location as well as two subsequent letters (one by Sabol, the other by Lancaster).

Source: nfl films

Transcript:

October 8, 1969

Mr. Edwin M. Sabol
President
NFL FILMS
250 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107

Dear Ed:

As you may or may not know, I will be in Spain from the middle of November for about 4 months making a film called "Valdez is Coming." Therefore, we (the Americans in the crew) will have no opportunity to see any of the NFL football games and all of us are enthusiasts.

Is it possible that we could receive 8 or 16 millimeter films of the Ram football games and/or highlights of the week sent to us for private showing for the American crew only.

I would appreciate your letting me know if this can be arranged before I leave.

Kindest regards,
(signed) 
Burt Lancaster
Left: Burt Lancaster in "Valdez is Coming"; the film was shot on location in Spain in Tabernas, Almería (Andalucía) and Sierra de Gredos ridge, Ávila (Castilla y León). Right photo: Ed Sabol, filmmaker and founder of NFL Films.
------------------------------
OCTOBER 13, 1969

MR. BURT LANCASTER
[redacted]
[redacted]

DEAR BURT:

THANK YOU FOR YOUR NOTE OF OCTOBER 8TH, RELATIVE FOR FOOTBALL FILMS FOR THE DEAL IN SPAIN.

I CAN SEND YOU WHAT WE CALL "THE GAME OF THE WEEK." IT IS ONE GAME WE PICK OUT IN THE NFL EACH WEEK. THE FILM IS A HALF HOUR COLOR AND SOUND IN 16 MM.

OF COURSE YOU REALIZE, BURT, YOU WILL BE GETTING THEM ABOUT A WEEK LATE, BUT THERE IS LITTLE I CAN DO ABOUT THAT, SINCE THAT IS THE FASTEST WE CAN GET THEM OUT FOR TV. LET ME KNOW THE ADDRESS IN SPAIN, AND THE TIME YOU WILL BE LEAVING THE UNITED STATES.

CORDIALLY,

EDWIN M. SABOL
PRESIDENT

EMS/JAS

PS. DID YOU EVER RECEIVE THE PRINT OF THE FILM YOU NARRATED FOR US?
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November 11, 1969

Mr. Edwin M. Sabol
President
NFL FILMS
250 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19107

Dear Ed:

Thank you so much for arranging to send us "The Game Of The Week" to Spain. You will be hearing from Sam Manners who will let you know where to send the film.

Yes, I did receive the print of the film I narrated. Thank you.

Regards,
(signed "Burt")
Burt Lancaster

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