Kirk Douglas Early Life
Kirk Douglas (Issur Danielovitch) born 9 December 1916, Douglas was prolific as a film actor, with more than 90 credits to his name – ranging from the 1940s to the 2000s. He is perhaps best-known for Spartacus, a Stanley Kubrick film which won four Oscars and was so popular that its iconic “I am Spartacus” scene entered the pop cultural lexicon. The actor was a larger-than-life character, a titan of the entertainment industry, and someone — by virtue of his longevity — one of the last surviving links to a particular era of Hollywood’s past. Rarely was he an unvarnished hero. Douglas’ protagonists were full of shades of gray. Douglas’ tough-guy persona often overshadowed a shrewd business acumen and thoughtful intellect. In the interview with the late critic Roger Ebert, he attacked film critic Pauline Kael for her misconceptions.
“Don’t crucify me because of what your idea of a movie star is,” he said, referring to Kael. “I didn’t start out to be a movie star. I started out to be an actor. … You lose track of the human being behind the image of the movie star.”
Kirk Douglas Personality Traits
Kirk Douglas, the muscular, tempestuous actor with the dimpled chin, lived out an epic American story of reinvention and perseverance, from the riches he acquired and risked to the parts he took on and the boundaries he defied. Among the most popular, versatile and recognizable leading men of the 20th century, he could will himself into a role or a favorite cause as mightily as he willed himself out of poverty.
Kirk Douglas rose to prominence during Hollywood’s “golden age”, earning his first Oscar nomination for the 1949 film Champion. Douglas was himself nominated for an Oscar three times – for Champion (1949), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Lust for Life (1956). He eventually won the honorary award in 1996 in recognition of his 50 years in the industry.
Kirk Douglas Biography and Profile
Kirk Douglas (Issur Danielovitch), born 9 December 1916, to Russian immigrant parents. Kirk Douglas was an American actor, producer, director, and author. After an impoverished childhood with immigrant parents and six sisters, he made his film debut in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers with Barbara Stanwyck. The self-made star established himself as an actor following World War II, capitalizing on his looks and athleticism. In that regard, he had a good deal in common with another titan of those years, Burt Lancaster, with whom Douglas co-starred in seven movies, including “Gunfight at O.K. Corral” and the political thriller “Seven Days in May.”
The athletic Douglas, who had acted in plays while growing up, attended St. Lawrence University on a wrestling scholarship, paying his way by working as a gardener and janitor. He then won a scholarship to the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and moved to the Big Apple. His classmates included a young woman named Betty Perske — soon to become Lauren Bacall — and another beauty named Diana Dill.
In 1941, Douglas made his Broadway debut. Two years later, he married Dill. The couple had two children, Michael and Joel, before divorcing in 1951. Upon being discharged from the Navy, where he served during World War II, Douglas expected to return to the stage. However, his old colleague Bacall recommended him to Hollywood producer Hal Wallis, and Douglas found himself heading for the West Coast.
Kirk Douglas Movies
After a handful of nondescript films, “Champion” — which cast him as a ruthless boxer, who stepped on those around on him on the way up — made him a star and earned him an Oscar nomination. Douglas exhibited a range that went beyond what was available to stars during an earlier stretch of the studio system. And like Lancaster, he seized control of his career in the mid-1950s by forming his own production company, using that leverage not only to find interesting parts for himself but to champion prestige material, as well as talent like director Stanley Kubrick, with who he collaborated on two memorable films, “Paths of Glory” and “Spartacus.”
Perhaps foremost, Douglas was as comfortable — and as good, if not better — playing a bad guy, a heel, as he was a traditional hero. His steely edge shone through starting with the film noir classic “Out of the Past” in 1947, followed by “Champion,” “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “The Vikings.”
Douglas was equally adept playing action and serious drama, combining a nasty streak with a wry sense of humor. He excelled at playing terrible characters who nonetheless left the audience feeling a measure of sadness, in spite of themselves, when they met an untimely end. The actor earning Oscar nominations for playing Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life,” “Champion” and “Bad and the Beautiful,” but never won. He did receive a lifetime achievement award in 1996, and crooned a memorable duet with Lancaster at the 1958 Academy Awards, insisting how happy they were not to be among the nominees.
Douglas famously used his clout in other ways, perhaps most famously by allowing blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to put his name on “Spartacus.” Although there has been some dispute over just how significant that was in “breaking” the blacklist, as Douglas suggested in his autobiography, it did make clear his commitment to working with top talent, also employing Trumbo on one of his best films, “Lonely Are the Brave,” which cast Douglas as a modern-day cowboy.
Studios were nervous about giving credit to blacklisted writers, who struggled to find work and gave their credits to “fronts.” Actors in the same position sometimes found themselves unemployed, though a handful — such as Edward G. Robinson — eventually worked again.
“All my friends told me I was being stupid, throwing my career away. It was a tremendous risk,” Douglas wrote in “The Ragman’s Son.”
With the blockbuster success of “Spartacus” and another Trumbo-penned film, Otto Preminger’s “Exodus” (1960), the blacklist finally faded away. Douglas later wrote a memoir about the period, “I Am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist.”
Like those of many of his old Hollywood cohorts, Douglas saw his career go into decline in the late ’60s, though he had occasional success in such films as “The Fury” (1978) and “The Man From Snowy River” (1982). He did better on television, where he starred in such TV movies as “Victory at Entebbe” (1976) and “Amos” (1985).
Kirk Douglas Role in Ending Hollywood Blacklist
Douglas was particularly proud of his role in ending the Hollywood blacklist, when he defied the ban on working with filmmakers with alleged communist ties or sympathies. He drew on “the impulsive qualities of younger Kirk” in making his decision to give the blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo a screen credit under his own name for his work on Spartacus.
He also devoted time to charitable works, founding the Douglas Foundation with his wife, Anne Buydens, whom he married in 1954. The charity worked on such causes as elder abuse and homelessness. Douglas and Anne Buydens donated millions of dollars to charitable causes and helped build hundreds of school playgrounds. He said their philosophy was: “Before you die, try to do something for other people.”
Kirk Douglas Books
Let’s Face it: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning
Kirk Douglas was one of the brightest stars in Hollywood, a hard–charging actor whose intensity on the screen mirrored in his personal life. As Kirk Douglas grew older – he turned ninety in December 2006 – he became less impetuous and more reflective. In this poignant and inspiring memoir, Douglas contemplated what life was all about, weighing events from his frame of mind while summoning the passions of his younger days.
Kirk Douglas a born storyteller, and throughout Let’s Face It he told wonderful tales and shares favorite jokes and hard–won insights.
In “Let’s Face it: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning”, he explored the mixed blessings of growing older and looked back at his childhood, his young adulthood, and his storied, glamorous, and colorful life and career in Hollywood. He told delightful stories of the making of such films as Spartacus, Lust for Life, Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful, and many others. He included anecdotes about his friends Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Lauren Bacall, Ronald Reagan, Ava Gardner, Henry Kissinger, Fred Astaire, Yul Brynner, John Wayne, and Johnny Cash.
Kirk Douglas revealed the secrets that kept him and his wife, Anne, happily married for more than five decades, and talked fondly and movingly of times spent with his sons, Michael, Peter, Eric, and Joel, and his grandchildren. Douglas’s life was filled with pain as well as joy. In Let’s Face It, he wrote frankly for the first time about the tragic death of his son Eric from a drug overdose at age forty–five. Douglas told what it was like to recover from several near–death episodes, including a helicopter crash, a stroke, and a cardiac event.
He wrote of his sadness that many of his closest friends are no longer with us; the book included many moving stories such as one about a regular poker game at Frank Sinatra’s house at which he and Anne were fixtures along with Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, and their wives. Though many of the players are gone, the game continues to this day.
In Let’s Face It, Douglas reflected on how his Jewish faith became more and more important to him over the years. He offered strong opinions on everything from anti–Semitism to corporate greed, from racism to Hurricane Katrina, and from the war in Iraq to the situation in Israel. He wrote about the importance in his life of the need to improve education for all children and about how to care more about the world and less.
A must–read for every fan, this engrossing memoir provides an indelible self–portrait of a great star – while sharing the wit and wisdom Kirk Douglas has accumulated over a lifetime.
Kirk Douglas Autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son”
His aforementioned 1988 autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son,” was a classic Hollywood tell-all, detailing various affairs with well-known actresses and settling some old scores. As the New York Times described it, the book read “like a collection of stories the actor has been telling over dinner for years.”
Kirk Douglas Difficulties in His Personal Life
Kirk Douglas faced difficulties in his personal life. He narrowly survived a helicopter crash in 1991 that left two people dead. Douglas also remained a colorful and outspoken figure even after a 1996 stroke impaired his speech — mounting a one-man show in its aftermath. The stroke temporarily deprived him of his ability to speak intelligibly and was even more damaging to his psyche, he told People magazine in 1997.
“I must admit I’m not as brave as I am in the movies. I’m human, and like many people after a stroke, I faced severe depression,” he said.
Kirk Douglas and his second wife had two sons, Peter and Eric. Eric Douglas, an actor, died of a accidental drug overdose in 2004 at the age of 46. However, Kirk Douglas always tried to look forward.
Kirk Douglas Death
Kirk Douglas died 5 February 2020, Beverly Hills, California, United States. According to his son, actor Michael Douglas:
“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” Michael Douglas wrote on his verified Instagram account. “To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to. But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband.”
Michael Douglas said that his father’s life “was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet.”
He added: “Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday and which will always remain true. Dad- I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son.”
Kirk Douglas Family
Kirk Douglas Wife
Anne Buydens (m. 1954–2020), Diana Douglas (m. 1943–1951)
Kirk Douglas Children
Michael Douglas, Eric Douglas, Joel Douglas, Peter Douglas
Kirk Douglas Awards
Kirk Douglas always tried to look forward. Among his many honors — which included an honorary Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Kennedy Center Honors award and a prize named for him at the Santa Barbara Film Festival — was making the list of the American Film Institute tally of greatest film legends. Douglas was No. 17 on the men’s list. In perhaps the most famous — and certainly most lampooned — scene from “Spartacus,” his fellow rebels, captured by the Roman army, rise to proclaim, “I’m Spartacus!” when told their lives will be spared if they identify him.
Kirk Douglas Legacy
Many actors, before and since, have played the sort of roles at which Douglas excelled. But in terms of breadth, volume and variety, there was only one Kirk Douglas. World-famous director Steven Spielberg, who knew Douglas personally, told the Hollywood Reporter that he made a “breathtaking body of work”.
“Kirk retained his movie star charisma right to the end of his wonderful life and I’m honoured to have been a small part of his last 45 years,” Spielberg said.
Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch, a ragman’s son. Kirk Douglas died Kirk Douglas, a Hollywood king.
Kirk Douglas Fans Reactions to His Death
After the news of his death broke, fans gathered at his star set in the ground on the Hollywood walk of fame.
“He was one of the last Hollywood legends of the golden era. That’s it. Not a superstar, a legend,” one man, Gregg Donovan said.
“It’s devastating. I mean, I know he lived to 103, God bless him, but you just don’t think he’s going to leave us and it’s such a sad day in Hollywood, I’ll tell you.”
Kirk Douglas Biography and Profile