Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky on December 9 in Amsterdam, New York
Douglas married Diana Dill on November 2. The couple had two sons, Michael (1943) and Joel (1947), before they divorced in 1951
Douglas starred in his first film, playing Walter O’Neil in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Douglas starred in Champion and received his first Oscar nomination for his role
Douglas married his second wife Anne Buydens on May 29
RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY
After a near-death experience, Douglas embraced Judaism
Douglas celebrated his 100th birthday on December 9
It Runs in the Family
Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, in 1916, is the patriarch of an acting family*, one of the last living actors (with Olivia de Havilland) from Hollywood’s Golden Age**, and known for breaking up the Hollywood Blacklist. He was raised in New York State with his Russian immigrant parents and six sisters. He began using “Kirk Douglas” during summer stock theatre on summer breaks from college along with Betty Joan Perske (Lauren Bacall) and his first wife, Diana Dill.
Movies You’ve Seen Him In and Stars You’ve Seen Him With
In his over 60 years of movie making, Kirk Douglas has appeared in 90 films (40 of which were made between 1970 and 2000) along with such stars as Lauren Bacall, Anthony Quinn, Laurence Olivier, and Jean Simmons. His breakthrough role came in Champion (1949), for which he received an Academy Award nomination. His second Academy Award nomination came with The Bad and the Beautiful, and his third for playing Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life. He also acted in Lonely Are the Brave and Seven Days in May.
During 1946, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and a number of other Hollywood colleagues were accused of being members (and sympathizers) of the Communist Party and blacklisted from Hollywood.*** Douglas lobbied for inclusion and recognition of his blacklisted colleagues, but it wasn’t until Spartacus (1960) that Dalton Trumbo and others like him were finally allowed to put their names on movies. Douglas took a risk in publically announcing Trumbo’s writing of the film – President elect John F. Kennedy crossed American Legion picket lines to attend the movie, hoping to help to dispel the blacklisting.
Along with his long and stellar acting career, Douglas and his second wife of 60 years, Anne Buydens, have donated large sums to education and the rebuilding of 400 Los Angeles school district playgrounds. Another large donation ($55 million) has been made to Harry’s Haven, an Alzheimer’s care facility. They intend to donate the remainder of their worth upon their deaths. Douglas had not been particularly religious, but after nearly dying in a helicopter crash in 1991 that killed two others, he renewed his Jewish faith; he celebrated a second Bar Mitzvah at age 83.
* He acted with his son Michael Douglas in Cast a Giant Shadow, and his grandson Cameron, and his ex-wife Diana in It Runs in the Family.
** The Golden Age of Hollywood lasted from 1930 through 1959.
*** Being blacklisted meant being denied employment to act, write, direct, or make music.
Did You Know?
- Kirk Douglas wanted the part in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that went to Jack Nicholson.
- Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster made seven movies together.
- Kirk Douglas is the oldest celebrity blogger in the world, originally hosted at Myspace, but now blogs on Huffington Post.
Watch one of Kirk’s best scenes ever – Paths of Glory
View a list of Kirk’s filmography (1946-2008)
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