Burt Lancaster played the famous ‘Bird Man’ Robert Stroud, a man serving a life sentence at Alcatraz who takes comfort from birds (the feathered kind).
In 1912, Stroud was transferred to Leavenworth Prison convicted for murdering a man.
When a guard cancelled the visit of his mother, Elizabeth, due to a violation of internal rules, Stroud stabbed and killed the guard and stood trial three times.
He was sentenced to be executed by the gallows, but his mother appealed to President Woodrow Wilson who commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.
Warden Harvey Shoemaker decided to keep Stroud in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.
Though the movie moved public sympathy towards Stroud and letters were sent begging for his release, the film glossed over his villainy.
In fact, he killed two people in prison, wrote child pornography and complained to a parole hearing that he “had a lot of people left to kill”.
On 21 November 1963, Robert Stroud died at the Springfield Medical Center at the age of 73, having been incarcerated for the last 54 years of his life, of which 42 were spent in solitary confinement.
Robert Franklin Stroud