Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster (November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994) was an American film actor, noted for his athletic physique, distinctive smile (which he called "The Grin") and, later, his willingness to play roles that went against his initial "tough guy" image. Initially dismissed as "Mr Muscles and Teeth", in the late 1950s Lancaster abandoned his "all-American" image and gradually came to be regarded as one of the best actors of his generation.
Lancaster was nominated four times for Academy Awards and won once, for his work in Elmer Gantry in 1960. He also won a Golden Globe for that performance, and BAFTA Awards for The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Atlantic City (1980). His production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, was the most successful and innovative star-driven independent production company in 1950s Hollywood, making movies such as Marty (1955), Trapeze (1956), and Sweet Smell of Success (1957).
Lancaster also ventured in directing, with two films: The Kentuckian (1955) and The Midnight Man (1974).
Marriages and relationships
Lancaster vigorously guarded his private life. He was married three times. His first two marriages ended in divorce — to June Ernst from 1935 to 1946 and to Norma Anderson from 1946 to 1969. His third marriage, to Susan Martin, was from September 1990 until his death in 1994. All five of his children were with Norma Anderson: Bill (who became a screenwriter), James, Susan, Joanna, and Sighle (pronounced Sheila). He was romantically involved with Deborah Kerr during the filming of From Here to Eternity in 1953. He also had an affair with Joan Blondell. In her 1980 autobiography, actress Shelley Winters claimed to have had a long affair with him.
Lancaster was a vocal supporter of liberal political causes, and frequently spoke out with support for racial minorities. He was also instrumental in the formation of many liberal groups, through financial support. At one point, he was rumored to be a member of the Communist Party, because of his involvement in many liberal causes. He was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and political movements such as McCarthyism, and he helped pay for the successful defense of a soldier accused of fragging another soldier during the war. In 1968, Lancaster actively supported the presidential candidacy of antiwar Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, and frequently spoke on his behalf in the Democratic primaries. In 1985, Lancaster, a longtime supporter of gay rights, joined the fight against AIDS after his close friend, Rock Hudson, contracted the disease. He campaigned for Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election.
Health problems and death
As Lancaster grew older, heart trouble increasingly hindered him from working. He nearly died during a routine gall bladder operation in January 1980. Following two minor heart attacks he had to undergo an emergency quadruple heart bypass in 1983, after which he was in frail health. He suffered a severe stroke in November 1990, which left him partly paralyzed and with restricted speech. Lancaster died in his Century City apartment in Los Angeles from a third heart attack on October 20, 1994. He is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Westwood Village in Los Angeles.