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
Vera Cruz 1954
The Kentuckian (also directed) 1955
The Rose Tattoo 1955
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
Valdez Is Coming 1971
Ulzana's Raid 1972
Executive Action 1973
The Midnight Man (co-director) 1974
Conversation Piece 1975
Moses _ The Lawgiver (TV) 1975
Buffalo Bill and the Indians 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.