Born November 2, 1913, he went from street-wise tough to art-collector liberal-activist, from circus-acrobat hunk to Academy Award winner. Burton Stephen Lancaster - later Burt Lancaster - ... See full summary »
Born November 2, 1913, he went from street-wise tough to art-collector liberal-activist, from circus-acrobat hunk to Academy Award winner. Burton Stephen Lancaster - later Burt Lancaster - was one of five children of a New York City postal worker. Burt recalled family life as warm and mutually supportive. At the Union Settlement House, he and boyhood friend Nick Cravat formed an acrobatic team. By eighteen, Burt was 6'2'' and blessed with the athletic physique and dynamic good looks that helped make him famous. A basketball scholarship was not enough to keep him in NYU beyond his sophomore year. That's when he and the 5'2'' Cravat joined a circus, earning $3 weekly between them. A stint in the Army introduced Burt to acting and led him to Hollywood where his first release, The Killers (1946), propelled him to stardom at age 32. He took control of his own career and seldom faltered. He was married three times and had five children. Upon his death in 1994, four-time Academy ... Written by
Burt Lancaster started his storied career as an anti-hero in 40s Film Noir drama and an athletic action hero playing roles that would have gone to Errol Flynn a decade earlier. However, he was savvy enough to realize he couldn't be an action hero forever and wanted to grow as an actor.
He began to alternate his physically demanding, swashbuckling roles like "His Majesty O'Keefe,", "The Flame and the Arrow," "Ten Tall Men," and "The Crimson Pirate," which relied on his training as a circus acrobat, with serious dramas with more veteran co-stars like Joan Fontaine in "Kiss the Blood Off My Hands,", Shirley Booth in "Come Back, Little Sheba," Anna Magnani in "The Rose Tattoo," and Katharine Hepburn in "The Rainmaker."
Lancaster usually came off second best to these more experienced performers, but he was learning the craft of screen acting from these seasoned players and expanding his dramatic range while maintaining his original fan base. Ultimately Lancaster evolved into a superb screen actor with an Oscar for "Elmer Gantry" and nominations for his two finest performances in "Birdman of Alcatraz" and "Atlantic City." He continued to keep his legion of fans happy with his more boisterous roles like "The Professionals" and "The Scalphunters." I can't think of another actor with that kind of career arc.
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