Lancaster, Burt

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lancaster, Burt

Burt Lancaster (Burton Stephen Lancaster), 1913–94, American film actor, b. New York City. A superb athlete, he began his career as an acrobat. Best known for his roles as a cerebral tough guy, he achieved stardom as a washed-up boxer in his first film, The Killers (1946). Lancaster showed his versatility in a wide variety of roles in more than 70 films—dramas, westerns, action pictures, war movies, and many more—during his long career. He won the Academy Award for best actor for his compelling portrayal of a corrupt preacher in Elmer Gantry (1960) and was nominated for Oscars for From Here to Eternity (1953), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and Atlantic City (1981). Among his other films are All My Sons (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1955), Trapeze (1956), The Leopard (1963), The Swimmer (1968), 1900 (1976), Local Hero (1983), and Field of Dreams (1989). Beginning in the late 1970s, Lancaster made a graceful transition from leading-man roles to character parts, the most notable of which was a gangster past his prime in the elegiac Atlantic City.

See biographies by R. Windeler (1985), G. Fishgall (1995), R. Karney (1996), and K. Buford (2000).

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