When his raucous laugh, which showed off his wonderful set of teeth and his lovely face with his twinkling eyes, shook the entire cinema, the big screen seemed small to accommodate his sparkling imposing presence. Again, when it got dark, his brooding look could tear the psyche of his millions of fans to pieces. And always the haughty, athletic performance of an acrobat, which made those around him look like caricatures. Burt Lancasterwho by an incredible stroke of luck, became an actress, had the talent, but above all she had the divine gift, that inexplicable attraction of the lens, the love affair with celluloid, that created a cinematic legend, a star synonymous with brilliance, which will never dim.

Burt Lancaster gave sensational performances, while rarely not being good, in whatever he did, from dramas and adventures, comedies and romances to westerns and film noirs, despite never going through drama school. An imposing actor, who could also become suggestive, play with silences, a look, a spasm of the face. His acting skills were exploited by dozens of important and great directors, while in addition to the stars who always wanted him by their side, there were also many leading actors who considered coexistence with him a divine gift, as they gained a lot from his decisive presence. Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis are typical cases. But Lancaster was also an important figure, an ideologue, who was not satisfied with riches and glory, but fought for the despised people. He felt their pain, knowing what poverty means since he was a child and stood proudly against powerful agencies that targeted him and all they succeeded in doing was to tarnish his memory, after his death, by spreading rumors and baseless accusations.

110 years ago, on November 2, 1913, Burt Lancaster will be born, in difficult times and even more difficult for him. He will overcome his poverty and social exclusion, to reach the top of world cinema, to become a legend.

From a child to biowrestling

He was born in New York as the fourth of five children born to his poor parents, immigrants from Ireland, who lived in the miserable suburb of Harlem. The family’s income was so meager, that it forced little Bart and his siblings to start wrestling as children. Before he is even 14 years old, he will go out for a living, as a polisher, a newspaper seller or shoveling snow from the sidewalks. But he was also a good student, while in his teens he managed to read all the books in the school library.

The well-behaved boys

He loved books, the only way out of his difficult childhood, but he loved cinema. Nevertheless, he did not see it as a profession, as he preferred classical music, while due to his athletic performance, he also had an appeal in sports. He will, however, be persuaded to act in a school play due to his unparalleled beauty, which will attract the interest of some professionals in the field, but he will reject the proposals, believing that acting is only for “sensitive well-behaved boys”. So he turned to gymnastics and the New York Gymnastics Academy, but quickly dropped out to become a professional circus acrobat, earning his first paycheck.

Acrobat on the forehead

Lancaster, working in a circus, will meet fellow acrobat June Ernst, whom he fell madly in love with and married in 1935, when he was only 21 years old – she was 18. They would divorce two years later, while at the same time he would injure his hand and leave forever the circus. He would take various jobs until he enlisted in the US Army in 1942, where he excelled in entertaining the soldiers. On a tour of Italy in 1944, he met his second wife, Norma Anderson, who was also having fun.

Burt Lancaster

Waking up star

By coincidence, he will find himself at ABC radio, where his wife used to work, and there he will impress everyone when he appears and will receive offers to act in a play. With few appearances he convinced producers that he could make a career in cinema, given that he looked even better on camera. Thus, with the first, he will take a leading role in the film noir “The Killers” by Robert Siodmak, with Ava Gardner next to him. Excellent film and huge box office success that will turn the spotlight on him. As he himself said, “I woke up one day and I was a star. It was terrifying.”

Burt Lancaster, very quickly will become one of the hottest names in Hollywood and will start playing in many good movies. In his third film, “Bloody Chains”, he will work with Kirk Douglas, with whom they will develop a great friendship, but it also had its downsides, while they will star together in seven films, including the classic western by John Sturges “Duel in the Green Swamp”.

Great movies – great performances

His course will be triumphant until his old age, causing awe and admiration. He will work with great directors and actors, while in 1960 he will win the Oscar for Best Actor, the only one of the four total nominations, for the drama “We Are Corrupt” by Richard Brooks. However, his best performances – which were not few – will be in the classic films “As Long as Men” by Fred Chineman, with the scene of the kiss on the beach with Deborah Kerr passing into the cinematic pantheon, “Dark Assassins” by Alexander Mackendrick, having by his side an excellent Tony Curtis, with whom he worked several times, John Frankheimer’s “The Alcatraz Alcatraz”, “The Rainmaker” by Joseph Anthony, Stanley Kramer’s “Nuremberg Trial”, “Atlantic City” by Louis Malle, “The Unforgiven” by John Huston, “Seven Days of May” by Frankheimer, “The Swimmer” by Frank Perry, “The Train” by Arthur Penn, “The Cheetah” by Luchino Visconti, but also a number of excellent westerns (“Vera Cruz”, “The Professionals”, “The Man of the Law”, etc.).

Social struggles

Lancaster, though busy as he always had several scripts to choose from, but also a man of immense success with women, actresses and non-actors, would never forget his humble origins and take part in many social and political struggles. In 1947, while the Un-American Activities Committee was terrorizing all of Hollywood, Lancaster would oppose and create a committee against the prosecutions, gathering many big names of the cinema. He also helped Martin Luther King financially, while participating in the great historic march to Washington. His political activism for liberties and social rights, his defense of his left-wing colleagues, and his many other actions against the conservative establishment would put him in the crosshairs of the FBI and other agencies, who sought to harm him by spreading rumors and putting many of his co-workers were eager to challenge him and make his life difficult, but he always put them in their place, even using his huge husky hands.

As long as there are people…

From his 60s, problems with his heart began, which plagued him until the end. Despite this, Burt Lancaster will continue to have social and political action and work until old age. In 1988 a serious stroke will leave him partially paralyzed and without a voice and on October 20, 1994 he will take his last breath in his apartment in Los Angeles. As he had requested, there will be no funeral or memorial service. A small ground plaque, bearing his name, is located over his grave. Why, Burt Lancaster may have been scared when he woke up to stardom in one day, but he was never afraid to act on what he believed in.