Prince Don Fabrizio Corberta is a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity who has a great love for a way of life he understands must come to an end. He is a natural patriarch, a man who was born to have authority. Yet the Prince is greatly aware of his age and mortality, always having several spiritual conversations with his friend Father Pirrone, and is prepared to compromise his family name in order to preserve his families fortunes. Luchino Visconti's The The Leopard is one of the greatest and most beautifully shot Italian epics of all time, with many critics over the years calling it 'The Italian Gone with the Wind.' Legendary film critic Roger Ebert says, "The Leopard was written by the only man who could have written it, directed by the only man who could have directed it, and stars the only man who could have played its title character. The first of these claims is irrefutable, because Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, a Sicilian aristocrat, wrote the story out of his own heart and based it on his great-grandfather. Whether another director could have done a better job than Luchino Visconti is doubtful; the director was himself a descendant of the ruling class that the story eulogizes.
Burt Lancaster brings to the role of the Prince Don Fabrizio Corberta an extraordinary physical presence and also a remarkable sense of the difficulty of growing old and losing political prestige. Director Martin Scorsese states, "The Leopard is was one of the greatest film's I've ever seen, and it's a film I live by. Every day, it's a part of my life." The Leopard is known for its extraordinary ballroom sequence that lasts 45 minutes. "This is a set piece that has rarely been equaled," writes the critic Derek Malcolm, and critic Dave Kehr called it "one of the most moving meditations on individual mortality in the history of the cinema." Lancaster embodies the role of a prince who is in mourning of a lost past, as we watch him drift through room to room and carefully study his facial expressions and mannerisms which project everything about his thoughts, fears, and sadness of the last glorious celebration of the dying age of the social order. The graceful waltz between the Prince and Angelica is one of greatest moments in Italian film and is tenderly shot by Giuseppe Rotunno, as we see the prince's high style and perfect grace, knowing that in the end, he is leaving a world that we are still living in.