Kirk Douglas Story
Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch on December 9, 1916, is a popular American actor, director, producer, and author. His childhood was mired in poverty and he rose to stardom through hard work and persistence. He had an exciting career in films and was crowned with the Oscar Life Time Achievement Award.
He is also a philanthropist and has worked for many humanitarian causes.
Kirk Douglas was born to Bryna and Jacob Danielovitch who were Jewish migrants from Chavusy, Mogilev Region, presently in Belarus. His childhood was steeped in poverty but he excelled in studies. His father was a ragman who collected old iron, pennies, nickel and sold them. He lived along with his six sisters. As he grew up, he had to support the family by doing small jobs such as selling snacks to mill workers and delivering newspapers. He was also good in athletics and wrestling.
Education and Early Life
After high school, he was unable to fund his studies and went to meet the Dean of Lawrence University, showing him the honors he received in school for plays and acting. He was given admission on the basis of a loan which he repaid by doing work as a gardener and a janitor. His creative talents came to be noticed by American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He appeared in minor roles in Broadway production before joining the Navy in 1941; that career ended after the war in 1945.
His major break in acting happened with a lead role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in 1946. He was introduced to the movie producer Hal B Wallis by his former classmate Lauren Bacall. His performance was highly appreciated and it enabled him to get a role in the drama, I Walk Alone in which he worked alongside Burt Lancaster. He appeared along with Burt Lancaster, the legend in seven movies.
Early in his career, Kirk Douglas was able to get recognition by way of nominations for Oscar awards. He played the role of a boxer in The Champion (1949) that got nominated for Oscars. Other nominations included The Bad and the Beautiful ( 1952) as producer, Vincent van Gogh’s Lust for Life, in which he played the role of a tortured painter.
He started his own production company- Bryna whose major films were Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960)
In the two decades from 1960 to 1980, Douglas continued to do noteworthy roles in major films- he played the rebellious modern day cowboy in Lonely are the Brave (1962), In Harm's Way (1965), a World War II story, Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), The War Wagon (1967), The Villain (1979) along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Saturn 3 (1980), and The Man from Snowy River (1982).
Not known to many people, he has undertaken humanitarian activities and has been a Goodwill Ambassador to the US State Department.
He has written ten novels and memoirs. His autobiography- The Ragman’s Son was published in 1988.
Despite setbacks in life including a helicopter crash in 1991 and a stroke in 1996, he turned more spiritual and religious. He lives with his wife Anne Buydens, a companion for the past sixty years and has two children in the relationship.
He turned 100 Years Old on Dec 9, 2016.
Screen Actors Guild
Academy Honorary Award
AFI Life Achievement Award
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Golden Globe Award
Golden Globe Award