1. After initially building his career in “tough guy” roles, Lancaster abandoned his all-American image in the late 1950s in favor of more complex and challenging parts, and came to be regarded as one of the best motion picture actors in history.
2. Lancaster was nominated four times for Academy Awards and won once for his work in Elmer Gantry in 1960.
3. He also won a Golden Globe for that performance and BAFTA Awards for The Birdman of Alcatraz .
4. His production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, was the most successful and innovative star-driven independent production company in Hollywood in the 1950s, making movies such as Marty .
5. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Lancaster 19th among the greatest male star of classic Hollywood cinema.
6. Lancaster was the son of Elizabeth and James Henry Lancaster, who was a mailman. Both of his parents were Protestants of working-class origin.
7. Before he graduated from DeWitt Clinton, his mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
8. Lancaster was accepted into New York University with an athletic scholarship, but subsequently dropped out.
9. At the age of 19, Lancaster met Nick Cravat, with whom he continued to work throughout his life.
10. However, in 1939, an injury forced Lancaster to give up the profession, with great regret.
11. He then found temporary work, first as a salesman for Marshall Fields and then as a singing waiter in various restaurants.
12. The tall, muscular actor won significant acclaim and appeared in two more films the following year.
13. Subsequently, he played in a variety of films, especially in dramas, thrillers, and military and adventure films.
14. In two, The Flame and the Arrow and The Crimson Pirate, a friend from his circus years, Nick Cravat, played a key supporting role, and both actors impressed audiences with their acrobatic prowess.
15. In 1953, Lancaster played one of his best-remembered roles with Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity.
16. The American Film Institute acknowledged the iconic status of the scene from that film in which Deborah Kerr and he make love on a Hawaiian beach amid the crashing waves.
17. Lancaster won the 1960 Academy Award for Best Actor, a Golden Globe Award, and the New York Film Critics Award for his performance in Elmer Gantry.