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BURT LANCASTER 1913-1994

He rolled in the surf with Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity. He preached hellfire and damnation in Elmer Gantry. He did hard time in The Birdman of Alcatraz.

Burt Lancaster was all those roles and more _ acrobat, actor, producer, gymnast and iconoclast.

He died at home Thursday of a heart attack. Mr. Lancaster was 80.

"He was patting my hair and touching my face," said his wife, Susan, "and he took a sigh, and that was it."

There will be no funeral and burial will be private, she said.

Mr. Lancaster, who won an Academy Award in 1960 for his performance as the salesman turned evangelist in Elmer Gantry, had been in failing health since a stroke nearly four years ago.

"It's the passing now of a giant. But Burt will never die. We'll always be able to see him swinging from a yardarm in The Crimson Pirate . . . and shooting with me in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," said fellow actor Kirk Douglas.

Mr. Lancaster had been in relative seclusion since he was hospitalized in November 1990. He suffered the stroke while visiting a friend near Los Angeles and lately had refused visits, even from such old friends as Douglas.

The stroke proved the last in a series of physical maladies that had befallen the virile and versatile star of more than 70 films.

In 1983 he underwent multiple coronary-artery bypass surgery and he continued to suffer from a heart condition.

Even though he filmed Little Treasure six months after the surgery and continued working steadily in film and television, Mr. Lancaster was denied the title role in The Old Gringo in 1988 because of his health. Columbia decided that insurance on him would be too expensive and hired Gregory Peck instead.

But he bounced back from that setback to give a heralded performance in Field of Dreams in 1989.

Mr. Lancaster took no acting classes, played no second leads and was a bonafide star from his first screen appearance _ as the doomed hero in The Killers in 1946.

The Academy Award he won in 1960 and the Venice Festival award he received two years later for Birdman were remembered. But many forgot the earlier Oscar he had shared with Harold Hecht as co-producer of Marty, the Best Picture of 1955.

It was a romantic role _ as the elderly chronic loser dreaming of a happy life with Susan Sarandon in Atlantic City _ that won him the Los Angeles and New York film critics' awards in 1981 and nearly brought his second performance Oscar.

"There are lots of good actors, but there are very few one-of-a-kinds. Like Cagney and Bogart, Burt was one of a kind," said Gantry co-star Shirley Jones.

His work in such major dramatic productions as Come Back Little Sheba, From Here to Eternity, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Rainmaker, Seven Days In May and Atlantic City tended always to overshadow his work in efforts such as Trapeze, The Flame and the Arrow and The Crimson Pirate, which displayed the lighter side of his nature.

"Burt was not just an actor," Douglas said. "He was a curious intellectual with an abiding love of opera who was constantly in search of unique characters to portray."

Burton Stephen Lancaster was born Nov. 2, 1913, the son of a postal clerk. He grew up in New York's tough East Harlem neighborhood. He said he might have become a juvenile delinquent had it not been for the local library.

He attended New York University on a basketball scholarship but left without completing studies. With a friend, he formed an acrobatic team, and for several years they toured with circuses and vaudeville.

Mr. Lancaster quit that act for a while to appear with the depression-era WPA Theater Project. But it was difficult living.

Over the next three years he was a floorwalker in the lingerie department of the Marshall Field's store in Chicago and a haberdashery salesman and held other blue-collar jobs.

Eventually he returned to New York, but before he could take a new job he was drafted.

After World War II, he was invited to read for a part in a play called A Sound of Hunting.

Mr. Lancaster got the part. The play survived only for five weeks, but reviewers were unanimous in their praise.

The result: seven screen contract offers.

Instead, he signed with agent Hecht, who came backstage to make the kind of offer no one else had mentioned:

"In five years," Hecht told him, "we'll be making our own pictures."

They shook hands on that, and began an association that yielded an almost unbroken supply of movies, millions and Oscars for the next quarter century.

"Why, I'd still be the same punk kid I used to be back in East Harlem during the Depression," Mr. Lancaster once said, "if I was afraid to take a chance."

_ Information from the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Dallas Morning News and New York Times was used in this report.

Films of Burt Lancaster

The Killers 1946

Desert Fury 1947

Variety Girl 1947

Brute Force 1947

I Walk Alone 1948

Sorry, Wrong Number 1948

Kiss the Blood Off My Hands 1948

All My Sons 1948

Criss Cross 1949

Rope of Sand 1949

Mister 880 1950

The Flame and the Arrow 1950

Vengeance Valley 1951

Ten Tall Men 1951

Jim Thorpe All-American 1951

The Crimson Pirate 1952

Come Back Little Sheba 1952

South Sea Woman 1953

From Here to Eternity+ 1953

His Majesty O'Keefe 1954

Apache 1954

Vera Cruz 1954

The Kentuckian (also directed) 1955

The Rose Tattoo 1955

Trapeze 1956

The Rainmaker 1956

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral 1957

Sweet Smell of Success 1957

Separate Tables 1958

Run Silent Run Deep 1958

The Devil's Disciple 1959

The Unforgiven 1960

Elmer Gantry++ 1960

The Young Savages 1961

Judgment at Nuremberg 1961

Birdman of Alcatraz+ 1962

A Child Is Waiting 1963

The Leopard 1963

The List of Adrian Messenger 1963

Seven Days in May 1964

The Train 1964

The Hallelujah Trail 1965

The Professionals 1966

The Swimmer 1968

The Scalphunters 1968

Castle Keep 1969

The Gypsy Moths 1969

Airport 1970

Lawman 1971

Valdez Is Coming 1971

Ulzana's Raid 1972

Scorpio 1973

Executive Action 1973

The Midnight Man (co-director) 1974

Conversation Piece 1975

Moses _ The Lawgiver (TV) 1975

Buffalo Bill and the Indians 1976

1900 1976

Twilight's Last Gleaming 1976

Victory at Entebbe (TV) 1976

The Cassandra Crossing 1977

The Island of Dr. Moreau 1977

Go Tell the Spartans 1978

Zulu Dawn 1979

Arthur Miller on Home Ground 1979

Atlantic City+ 1980

Cattle Annie and Little Britches 1980

Marco Polo (TV) 1982

Local Hero 1983

The Osterman Weekend 1983

Little Treasure 1985

Scandal Sheet (TV) 1985

Tough Guys 1986

Barnum (TV) 1986

On Wings of Eagles (TV) 1986

Sins of the Fathers (TV) 1986

Rocket Gibraltar 1988

Field of Dreams 1989

Voyage of Terror (TV) 1990

The Jeweler's Shop 1990

Separate but Equal (TV) 1991

+ _ Oscar nomination, Best Actor.

++ _ Oscar, Best Actor.

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