Nick Cravat: Burt Lancaster’s Vaudeville Partner

An overdue tribute to Hollywood legend Nick Cravat (Nicholas Cuccia, 1912-1994).

Cravat and Burt Lancaster met as teenagers and formed an acrobatic (trapeze) act called Lang and Cravat which they performed in circuses and vaudeville throughout the 1930s. In 1939, Lancaster hurt his hand and pursued acting instead. But Lancaster never forget his friend. Cravat appeared in no less than nine of Lanaster’s pictures: The Flame and the Arrow (1950), Ten Tall Men (1951), The Crimson Pirate (1952), The Scalphunters (1968), Airport (1970), Valdez Is Coming (1971), Ulzana’s Raid (1972), The Midnight Man (1974), and The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) Ironically, Cravat is not in Lancaster’s Trapeze (1956).

But Cravat was in many pictures without Lancaster as well. These include My Friend Irma (1949), The Veils of Bagdad (1953), King Richard and the Crusaders (1954), 3 Ring Circus (1954), The Big Knife (1955), The Story of Mankind (1957), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), Cat Ballou (1965), and The Way West (1967).

Cravat makes an impression on the screen. He moves like a circus performer. He so often played a mute in movies I was tempted to include him in my “other Harpos” post.

Cravat also had a number of notable TV credits. he’s in the Disney TV movie Davy Crockett at the Alamo (1955). He was a regular on the series The Count of Monte Cristo (1956). And perhaps most notoriously, he played the gremlin who rides the airplane wing in that 1963 Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. If I recall directly, at a certain point, he rolls off the wing with a very acrobatic tumble!

The Island of Dr. Moreau was Cravat’s last credit. He died of lung cancer in 1994; Lancaster died just a few months later! They are now a trapeze act in show biz heaven.

To find out more about the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous