Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster (November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994) was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique, blue eyes and distinctive smile (which he called "The Grin"). After initially building his career on "tough guy" roles Lancaster abandoned his "all-American" image in the late 1950s in favor of more complex and challenging roles, and came to be regarded as one of the best actors of his generation as a result.
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 Hollywood of the 1950s, making movies such as Marty (1955), Trapeze (1956), and Sweet Smell of Success (1957).
In 1999, the American Film Institute named Lancaster 19th among the greatest male stars of all time.
Lancaster was born in Manhattan, New York City, at his parents' home at 209 East 106th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, today the site of Benjamin Franklin Plaza. Lancaster was the son of Elizabeth (née Roberts) and James Henry Lancaster, who was a postman. Both of his parents were Protestants of working-class origin. Lancaster's maternal grandparents were Northern Irish immigrants to the U.S. from Belfast and descendants of English immigrants to Ireland. The family believed themselves to be related to Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts. Lancaster grew up in East Harlem and spent much of his time on the streets, where he developed great interest and skill in gymnastics while attending the DeWitt Clinton High School, where he was a basketball star. Before he graduated from DeWitt Clinton, his mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Lancaster was accepted into New York University with an athletic scholarship but subsequently dropped out.