Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Birdman of Alcatraz - The Hollywood Myth

When watching the end of the Hollywood film "The Birdman of Alcatraz" and up to that time - 1962 - You would be thinking "How could those brutish yanks treat this man so appallingly?"  Well, now for the truth.   What the film portrayed was complete garbage.  Would you think that Burt Lancaster could have played a man whom was a monster?  Surely not!  In fact, it was due to Burt starring as "The Birdman" that brought public attention to his case and that he was being treated "harshly".

    Robert Franklin Stroud was born on January 28th 1890 to a very dysfunctional family.  His father was never around much and disliked his son.  Stroud had two elder half-sisters from his mothers` first marriage, and later, a brother.  His mother blamed men for her ills, where she was as manipulative as much as her husband was an abuser.  Stroud grew up fighting anything that took his interest, whether it was injustice or just an excuse to whip up trouble.  It was a character trait that stayed with him until his death in 1963.  Not portrayed in the film was that Stroud was an out and out homosexual, although he did have sexual relation with women when young, but his appetite was for boys.  He was also very dangerous, as his sentence bore out.  Stroud murdered two men, one a prison guard, and was twice sentenced to hang but was reprieved.

    His status as a bird authority began in the thirties, not in Alcatraz but in Leavenworth.  Through his own efforts, reading and doing his own autopsys on his birds, he did gain much knowledge on bird diseases and did write two books.  But human and animal medicine always moves on and with the advent of anti-biotics, the work of Stroud fell by the wayside
and later Stroud was moved to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.  He then wrote a history of the US Prison Service that was never published.  What is generally not known, and certainly not in the film, is that this manuscript contained pornographic recollections of his encounters with boys, and at that time, no mainstream publisher would touch the book.  Then the film came out and opinion was on how hard done by he was, ignoring that Stroud never showed any remorse for both murders he committed.  The story of Stroud is much broader than I can put on here but at least some of the story is here, but do not be fooled by the film.