The Leopard (1963 film)

The Leopard (Italian: Il Gattopardo, "The Cheetah"; alternative title: Le Guépard) is a 1963 Italian epic period drama film by director Luchino Visconti, based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's 1958 novel of the same title.[3]

The Leopard
(Il Gattopardo)
Original film poster
Directed byLuchino Visconti
Produced byGoffredo Lombardo
Screenplay byPasquale Festa Campanile
Enrico Medioli
Massimo Franciosa
Luchino Visconti
Suso Cecchi d'Amico
Based onThe Leopard
by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
StarringBurt Lancaster
Claudia Cardinale
Alain Delon
Serge Reggiani
Mario Girotti
Pierre Clementi
Music byNino Rota
CinematographyGiuseppe Rotunno
Edited byMario Serandrei
Distributed byTitanus (Italy - Theatrical)
Medusa Entertainment (Italy - Current)
20th Century Fox (U.S.)
Release date
  • March 27, 1963 (1963-03-27)
  • August 12, 1963 (1963-08-12)
Running time
161 Min (US Theatrical Release)
185 Min (US Uncut Version)
195 Min (French Version)
205 Min (Full Version)
Box office$1,800,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]
3,649,498 admissions (France)[2]

The film features an international cast including the American Burt Lancaster, the Frenchman Alain Delon, the Italian Claudia Cardinale (who is dubbed in the Italian version by Solvejg D'Assunta because her native tongue was Sicilian and French) and Terence Hill (Mario Girotti). In the Italian-language 185-minute version, Lancaster's lines are dubbed into Italian by Corrado Gaipa; while in the 161-minute U.S. English-dubbed version, Lancaster's original voice work is heard.[citation needed]


In Sicily in 1860, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina enjoys the customary comforts and privileges of an ancient and noble name. War has broken out between the armies of Francis II of the Two Sicilies and the insurgent volunteer redshirts of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Among the rebels is the Prince's remarkably handsome and dashing nephew, Tancredi, with whose romantic politics the Prince shares some whimsical sympathy. Moved by the uprising, the Prince departs for nearby Palermo. Garibaldi's army conquers the city and Sicily from the Bourbons. The Prince muses upon the inevitability of change, with the middle class displacing the hereditary ruling class while on the surface everything remains the same.

Refusing to bend to the tide of necessity, the Prince departs for his summer palace at Donnafugata. A new national assembly has called a plebiscite which the nationalists win 512-0, thanks to the corruption of the town's leading citizen, Don Calogero Sedara, who sees his daughter, the exquisitely beautiful Angelica, as a ticket of admittance to the high-class soirées of the nobility. Bringing her with him to the villa of the Salinas, he watches as both the Prince and Tancredi fall abjectly in love with her. Realising his chance, he effectively pimps his daughter to the aristocracy, and Tancredi offers his hand.

The Prince sees the wisdom of the match because he knows his nephew's vaulting ambition and need for ready cash, which Angelica's father, greedy for familial prestige, will happily make available. With the mutual blessing of the Prince of Salina and Don Calogero, Tancredi and Angelica become engaged.

A visitor from the constituent assembly comes to the villa. He begs the great scholar and nobleman to join the senate and help direct the ship of state; he hopes that the Prince's great compassion and wisdom will help alleviate the poverty and ignorance to be seen everywhere on the streets of Sicily. However, the Prince demurs and refuses this invitation, claiming that Sicily prefers its sleep to the agitations of modernity because its people are proud of who they are. He sees a future when the leopards and the lions, along with the sheep and the jackals, will all live according to the same law, but he does not want to be a part of this democratic vision.

He notes that Tancredi has shifted allegiances from the insurgent Garibaldi to the king's army, and wistfully recognises that his nephew is the kind of opportunist and time-server who will flourish in the new Italy.

A great ball is held at the villa of a neighboring Prince, and the Salinas and Tancredi attend. Afflicted by a combination of melancholia, the ridiculousness of the nouveau riche, and age, the Prince wanders forlornly from chamber to chamber, increasingly disaffected by the entire edifice of the society he so gallantly represents – until Angelica approaches and asks him to dance. Stirred and momentarily released from his cares, the Prince accepts, and once more he resembles the elegant and dashing figure of his past.

Disenchanted, he leaves the ball alone and asks Tancredi to arrange carriage for his family, and walks with a heavy heart to a dark alley that symbolises Italy's inordinate and fading past, which he inhabits.




The original novel had been a best-seller. In August 1960 the Italian company Titanus announced that they would make a film based on the novel in Sicily the following summer on a budget of at least $2 million. The movie would be an Italian-American co-production, shot in English, with a combination of Italian and American stars. Ettore Giannini was preparing a script although it was expected he would collaborate with an English speaking writer to finish it.[4]

Several treatments were reportedly done before Visconti became involved.[5] "The book is seen through the eyes of a Sicilian prince who has no sense of the people," said Visconti. "The people were for Garibaldi and then they were destroyed by the Piedmontese. The popular conscience was strangled by the way the Piedmont upper class tried to keep the social structure of the south just as it was."[6]

In July 1961 MGM announced they had signed a co-production deal with Titanus to make the movie. Warren Beatty was in discussions with Visconti to play the nephew, while Visconti approached Laurence Olivier and Spencer Tracy to play the lead.[7]

When Visconti was told by producers that they needed to cast a star in order to help to ensure that they'd earn enough money to justify the big budget, the director's first choice was one of the Soviet Union's preeminent actors, Nikolai Cherkasov. Learning that Cherkasov was in no condition, the producers stipulated that the star should be either Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Spencer Tracy or Burt Lancaster.[8] The producers chose Hollywood star Burt Lancaster without consulting Visconti, which insulted the director and caused tension on the set; but Visconti and Lancaster ended up working well together, and their resulting friendship lasted the rest of their lives.[9]

In November, Lancaster agreed to play the lead with filming to start in April.[10] Lancaster said he had been "long fascinated" with The Leopard even before being offered the role. "I think it is the best written and most perceptive study of a man and his background that has appeared for many years."[11]

He had doubts about accepting the part because "the novel was so perfect as a novel" but decided to accept.[12]

All the scenes with Lancaster would be shot in English, and dubbed into Italian for the Italian version; other scenes would be filmed in Italian then dubbed into English for the English version.[11]

In April 1962 20th Century Fox announced it had bought the distribution rights to the movie.[13]


Filming started in May 1962 in Palermo. The first two weeks of the two month location shoot in Sicily were dedicated to battle scenes. After 22 weeks of location scenes, interiors would be shot in Rome.[14]

Lancaster called Visconti "the finest director I've ever worked with."[11]

Archibald Colquhoun worked as dialogue director.[15]

By May 1963 it was reported the film had cost Titanus $5 million.[16]


The Leopard has circulated in at least four different versions. Visconti's first cut was 205 minutes long, but was felt to be excessive in length by both the director and producer, and was shortened to 195 minutes for its Cannes Film Festival premiere.

Visconti then cut the film further to 185 minutes for its official release, and considered this version to be his preferred one.

The U.S English-dubbed version, in which the Italian and French actors were dubbed over (except for Burt Lancaster, whose original English voice work is heard), was edited down to 161 minutes by its distributor 20th Century Fox. This was done without Visconti's input - the director was unhappy at the American premiere with the cuts, dubbing and print.[17][18]

Visconti threatened to sue Fox, who threatened to counter-sue the director, arguing that Lancaster supervised the American cut.[19]

"I don't feel it's my film at all," said Visconti of the American cut.[20]


The film debuted at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d'Or for best picture.[21]


Box officeEdit

The film was successful in Europe. It grossed $370,000 in its first 10 days from 8 Italian cities[22] and was the sixth most popular film of the year at the French box office, with admissions of 3,688,024.[2][23] Despite being cut for US release by Fox, the film didn't perform as well in the United States with theatrical rentals of $1.8 million.[1][18]


At the time of its release in the summer of 1963, the majority of American critics panned the film. According to Newsweek, Lancaster looked "as if he's playing Clarence Day's Life with Father in summer stock."[24] Jonathan Miller of The New Yorker derided Lancaster as "muzzled by whiskers and clearly stunned by the importance of his role."[24] However, Time Magazine praised the characterisation of the titular Leopard as solid and convincing.[24]


The 185 minute edition was released in the US in 1983.[25]

New York magazine called the now-famous ballroom scene "almost unbearably moving."[26] The New York Times wrote "The reappearance of this enchanting work proves that, under the right circumstances, two decades make no difference whatsoever but 25 minutes can transform a very good film into a possibly great one."[27]

The film's reputation continues to rise. Director Martin Scorsese considers the film to be one of the greatest ever made.[28]

In the decennial poll made by the British Film Institute, it was named the 57th greatest film of all time selected by critics.[29] Review website Rotten Tomatoes reports the film has a 98% "Fresh" rating, based on 47 reviews.

Awards and honorsEdit


The original 8-perforation Technirama camera negative for The Leopard survives and was used by The Criterion Collection to create their video master for DVD and Blu-ray, with color timing supervised by the film's cinematographer, Giuseppe Rotunno. New preservation film elements were created using a 4K digital scan of the film, done with the cooperation of the Cineteca di Bologna, L'Immagine Ritrovata, The Film Foundation, Gucci, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Twentieth Century Fox, and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia-Cineteca Nazionale.[31] This restoration premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival to great fanfare.[32]

Home mediaEdit

There are several DVD editions available.

  • Region 2 (Italy) The Medusa Home Entertainment release (released in 2001) contains the 185-minute Italian version with several bonus features and interviews. This release is not English-friendly.
  • Region 2 (U.K.) The BFI Video release offers a restored version of the Italian cut with an audio commentary by David Forgacs and Rossana Capitano.
  • Region 2 (Japan) The Toho release contains an unrestored version of the Italian cut in the original audio (Japanese subs), and a rare alternative English dubbed track (different than the shorter U.S version). Extras are text based bios and facts in Japanese. This release is also not English-friendly.
  • Region 1 (U.S.) The Criterion Collection release is a 3-disc set containing a restored version of the 185-minute Italian version (with optional English subtitles), several bonus features, interviews, an audio commentary by Peter Cowie, and the 161-minute U.S English dubbed version as an extra.

Blu-ray release.

  • Region A (U.S.) The Criterion Collection 2-disc Blu-ray set boasts a transfer of the 185-min Italian version in 1080P, most of the DVD bonus materials plus newly created ones, and the 161-minute U.S English dubbed version in 1080i.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Top Rental Features of 1963". Variety. 8 January 1964. p. 71.
  2. ^ a b Box office information for The Leopard at Box Office Story
  3. ^ The Leopard at the American Film Institute Catalog
  4. ^ ITALIAN-U.S.FILM SET ON GARIBALDI: ' Leopard,' di Lampedusa's Novel, to Be Produced in Sicily by Titanus of Rome By EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times 6 Aug 1960: 9.
  6. ^ A conversation with VISCONTI Gilliatt, Penelope. The Observer 10 Sep 1961: 17.
  7. ^ Archer, Eugene (1 July 1961). "M-G-M TO RELEASE FILM OF 'LEOPARD': Warren Beatty Sought for a Top Role in Italian Movie". The New York Times. p. 9.
  8. ^ Buford, Kate (2000). Burt Lancaster: An American Life. London: Aurum. p. 222. ISBN 1-85410-740-2.
  9. ^ Buford, Kate (2000). Burt Lancaster: An American Life. London: Aurum. pp. 222–227. ISBN 1-85410-740-2.
  10. ^ NEXT ROSSEN FILM TO BE 'COCO BEACH': Carnival Atmosphere of Cape Canaveral to Be Subject By EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times 8 Nov 1961: 40.
  11. ^ a b c Burt Lancaster Discovers a Sicilian Prince By Derek Prouse. The Christian Science Monitor 18 July 1962: 6.
  12. ^ BURT LANCASTER: CIRCUS ACROBAT CHANGES SPOTS FOR 'LEOPARD' Waldo, George. Los Angeles Times 21 Oct 1962: 6.
  13. ^ "2 SHORTS CHOSEN FOR FILM FESTIVAL". The New York Times. 18 April 1962. p. 30.
  14. ^ SOCIETY TO SHOW FILMS IN QUEENS: Programs of Shorts Planned for May 23 and June 19 By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times 12 May 1962: 15.
  15. ^ 'THE LEOPARD' IN ITS ORIGINAL LAIR: Care and Authenticity Mark screen Version of Modern Classic By HERBERT MITGANG. New York Times 29 July 1962: 69
  16. ^ Hawkins, Robert F. (5 May 1963). "NOTED ON THE ITALIAN FILM SCENE: Overextension Blamed By Industry Experts For Roman Crisis". The New York Times. p. 139.
  17. ^ Davies, Brenda (Spring 1964). "Can the Leopard...?". Sight and Sound. Vol. 33 no. 2. p. 99.
  18. ^ a b "Traumatic 'Leopard' Experience Made Visconti Skeptical, But Extols WB". Variety. 17 December 1969. p. 7.
  19. ^ "Backers of Film May Site to Stop Director's Attack". Chicago Tribune. 20 December 1963. p. b19.
  20. ^ Archer, Eugene (18 August 1963). "ARTFUL ODYSSEY OF AN ARISTOCRAT". The New York Times. p. 107.
  21. ^ Ress, Paul (24 May 1963). "'The Leopard' Is Winner of Cannes Film Award". Chicago Tribune. p. a4.
  22. ^ "'Leopard' Racks Up $370,000 In 10 Days". Variety. 17 April 1963. p. 4.
  23. ^ "French Box Office in 1963". Box Office Story.
  24. ^ a b c Buford, Kate (2000). Burt Lancaster: An American Life. London: Aurum. p. 232. ISBN 1-85410-740-2.
  25. ^ Thomas, Kevin (30 October 1983). "MOVIES: VISCONTI'S 'LEOPARD' ROARS ANEW". Los Angeles Times. p. u27.
  26. ^ "New York Magazine". New York Media, LLC: 101. 10 October 1983. ISSN 0028-7369.
  27. ^ Canby, Vincent (11 September 1983). "FILM VIEW; AT 20, 'THE LEOPARD' IS FLEETER THAN EVER". The New York Times. p. A21.
  28. ^ "Scorsese's 12 favorite films". Archived from the original on 26 December 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Leopard". Retrieved 27 February 2009.
  31. ^ "Gucci Extends Five-Year Partnership with Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation". Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  32. ^ "Scorsese Restores The Leopard and Revives Cannes's Golden Age". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 20 March 2011.

External linksEdit