Burt Lancaster became a star in The Killers (1946), his very first film. There is probably a combination of many different reasons as to why: the time the film was released in, the story, the production, the role, the performance. Surely, Burt Lancaster’s looks had a lot to do with it. And on top of that, how Robert Siodmak directed cinematographer Woody Bredell to light him was surely the perfect mise-en-scène not only for his looks but for his stardom.
You can see him below as a man in the throes of suffering, physically and emotionally. In the movie, he’s looking, mainly at Ava Gardner, and to-be-looked at, by us; the desiring subject in pain pictured as that which is most desirable:
Ron Moule has pointed out to me the similarity of the image above to Bernini´s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa below:
You can see other images, only from the first forty minutes of the film, below:
Sheldon Hall informs me that The Killers was first shown on British TV under the intriguing and suggestive title, A MAN AFRAID, presumably so as not to confuse it with the 1964 Don Siegel version: