Credit: Shutterstock/Burt Lancaster

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Film star Burt (short for Burton) Lancaster was born in 1913 in Manhattan to a working-class family of Irish Protestants. Athletic, he took up gymnastics and basketball in school. He gained an athletic scholarship to NYU. But he dropped out and instead formed a circus act, capitalising on his acrobatic skills in the 1930s.

Soon, the Second World War overtook the world and he entertained the troops with the USO.

Afterwards, he broke into Hollywood, spotted in a Broadway show that only ran three weeks. His first movie was The Killers (1946). He and his co-star Ava Gardner became fully fledged Hollywood stars. He became known as the leading man and starred in such classics as From Here to Eternity (1953).

"They were fun days,” he said, “and we set the town on fire with every movie we did."

Burt won an Oscar for Elmer Gantry in 1960, a film about a grifter pretending to be an evangelist preacher. During his career, he won many other film awards for his acting.

He continued acting into the 1970s and 80s with high-grossing blockbusters like Airport (1970). But he suffered ill-health for the last few years of his life.

Burt died in 1994 of a heart attack. He requested no memorial or funeral service. But he is remembered as one of the greatest actors of his age.