Burt Lancaster received his first Oscar nomination for portraying 1st Sgt. Milton Warden in From Here to Eternity.
Burt Lancaster plays the tough no nonsense 1st Sergeant who basically does all the actual work for the corrupt Captain Holmes. Although tough he is good at heart and attempts to help the very much mistreated Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift). The other major element of his character is his secret romance with Captain Holmes' wife Karen (Deborah Kerr).
The romantic part of Lancaster's performance I actually feel is the weaker half. Lancaster frankly seems overly enthusiastic about the whole thing instantly, and he does not show any sort of transition, he just goes basically right for it. There is only reluctance in him thinking he is just another one of the affairs which she has had before. Lancaster even portrays this aspect of the romance, as more of a technical problem, that a complete major issue, a major issue that they get over quickly. The actual romance of the two is never that special otherwise than the terrifically directed, not so much acted, moment on the beach that certainly is exceedingly memorable, but actually has little to do with either of the two actors' performances.
Kerr and Lancaster are not bad together really, but at the same time their chemistry never is anything that seems all that interesting. They are there, I do not doubt that they would be together, there is a certain degree of naturalism between the two, but it never seems to be a real larger than life love affair which the story seems to act like it is but Kerr and Lancaster do not fully deliver on. Luckily the romance is not the only part of his performance, and he does have his scenes with the men on the army base, these scenes Lancaster is far more effective. Lancaster always has the right command in his scenes reinforcing his position as a strong resilient man. He makes it clear that the Sergeant is a perfectly effective man, always on the ball, and ready for action as he should be.
He also has the right subtle camaraderie with the other enlisted men showing a common bond. Lancaster does this quite well becuase he never goes out and says he really cares for them, but he certainly indicates it through very small but intelligently played reactions which indicate that Warden really does care honestly about the men he trains and commands. Lancaster is never quite amazing in the role, but he certainly is always good in this aspect of the character particularly at the end with the Pearl Harbor attack where Lancaster takes complete command of those scenes showing the true skills of the Sergeant despite being faced with a difficult surprise attack. Lancaster becomes the perfectly steadfast military man completely showing the full ability of Warden at the end of the film. Lancaster is never perfect in the role the whole romance part of his storyline really is underwhelming in the end. Also from time to time Lancaster gives some odd line readings for example when he stats he hates officers, the way Lancaster says that line seems oddly childish and out of character for Warden. Lancaster still through his scenes on the base gives an appropriately commanding and strong performance.