Burt Lancaster wasn't sure he wanted to be an actor. Thankfully, he did it anyway.

In the 1940s and '50s, Burt Lancaster (1913 - 1994) starred in dozens of classic films and was one of Hollywood's most in-demand leading men. Today, we're remembering him by watching a few fan favorites.

In the early days of his career, Lancaster — who initially was not too sure he wanted to be an actor — was seen as an all-American kind of guy. That all-American image was thanks in part to being a veteran, Lancaster having served in the Army during World War II. His starring role in the movie "Jim Thorpe—All-American" may have helped a little, too.

Two years later, art imitated life when Lancaster played a soldier in "From Here to Eternity" — though his real-life stint in a USO division of the Army probably never included moments like his iconic kiss on the beach with Deborah Kerr.

As the '50s ended, Lancaster strove to take on more challenging roles. One of his greatest earned him his first (and only) Academy Award — the con-man title character in 1960's "Elmer Gantry."

Lancaster was nominated for another Oscar two years later, for "Birdman of Alcatraz." Though his performance was marvelous and the movie became a cinema classic, the competition was intense. Lancaster lost to Gregory Peck, who won for his incredible performance in the film adaptation of the Harper Lee book "To Kill a Mockingbird." ("Birdman," "Mockingbird" ... it was a feathery year at the Oscars.)

Late in his career, Lancaster was nominated for one more best actor Oscar — for his performance in "Atlantic City." This time, the Oscar went to Henry Fonda for his performance in "On Golden Pond." Lancaster didn't win, but he wasn't alone — "Atlantic City" is one of only a few films to be nominated for all five of the top Oscars and not win a single one of them.

Five years after his death in 1994, the American Film Institute declared Lancaster the 19th greatest male star of all time. Not bad for a guy who wasn't sure he wanted to be an actor.


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