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Burton Stephen Lancaster (November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994) was an American actor and producer. Initially known for playing "tough guys", he went on to achieve success with more complex and challenging roles. He 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).
During the 1950s, his production company Hecht-Hill-Lancaster was highly successful, making films such as Trapeze (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), and Separate Tables (1958). The American Film Institute ranks Lancaster as #19 of the greatest male stars of classic Hollywood cinema.
Lancaster vigorously guarded his private life. He was married three times. His first two marriages, to June Ernst from 1935 to 1946 and Norma Anderson from 1946 to 1969, ended in divorce. His third marriage, to Susan Martin, lasted from September 1990 until his death in 1994. All five of his children were with Anderson: Bill (who became an actor and screenwriter), James, Susan, Joanna, and Sighle (pronounced "Sheila"). Friends say he claimed he was romantically involved with Deborah Kerr during the filming of From Here to Eternity in 1953. However, Kerr stated that while there was a spark of attraction, nothing ever happened. He reportedly had an affair with Joan Blondell.
In her 1980 autobiography, Shelley Winters claimed to have had a long affair with him. Recent biographers and others believe that Lancaster was bisexual, and that he had intimate relationships with men as well as women. According to testimony in Kate Buford's Burt Lancaster: An American Life, Lancaster was devotedly loyal to his friends and family. Old friends from his childhood remained his friends for life.
As Lancaster grew older, he became increasingly plagued by atherosclerosis, barely surviving a routine gall bladder operation in January 1980. Following two minor heart attacks, he had to undergo an emergency quadruple coronary bypass in 1983, after which he was extremely weak. However, he still managed to continue acting. In 1988, Lancaster was well enough to attend a Congressional hearing with old colleagues such as James Stewart and Ginger Rogers to protest media magnate Ted Turner's plan to colorize various black-and-white films from the 1930s and 1940s.
Lancaster's acting career ended after he suffered a stroke on November 30, 1990, which left him partly paralyzed and largely unable to speak. He died in his apartment in Century City, California, from a third heart attack at 4:50 am on October 20, 1994, at the age of 80. just 13 days shy of his 81st birthday. He was cremated and his ashes were buried under a large oak tree in Westwood Memorial Park located in Westwood Village, California. A small, square ground plaque inscribed only with "BURT LANCASTER 1913–1994" marks his final resting place. Upon his death, as he requested, he had no memorial or funeral service.
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