Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas has long been the patriarch of the acting Douglas clan. On February 5, 2020 died at the age of 103.
A stroke in 1996, while Douglas was in his seventies, threatened to sideline the iconic actor but after three years on the sidelines and overcoming speech difficulties, Douglas returned to the big screen.
A masterful actor, Douglas was most proud of his role in eliminating the Hollywood Blacklist that featured writers and actors who were suspected and alleged to be Communists and Communist sympathizers.
During his 70 plus year career, Douglas was nominated for an Academy Award only three times; but in 1996 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Douglas with an honourary Oscar. His other accomplishments include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Is a Kennedy Center Honors, has a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, was presented the French Legion of Honor, received the National Medal of the Arts, and an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was born Issur Danielovitch on December 9, 1916 the son of Russian Jewish immigrants in Amsterdam, New York; the only son of seven children. His name went through a number of changes before he decided on Kirk Douglas.
His acting career actually began in kindergarten with the reciting of a poem. In college he was a wrestler; which helped to build his strong physique. He served in the United States Navy during World War II.
Among his numerous acting jobs was a multi generational sit com titled “It Runs in the Family” which he starred with son Michael, grandson Cameron, and ex-wife Diana.
In 2009, a 92 year old Douglas starred in a one man show – “Before I Forget” – in a theatre bearing his name. The four night engagement was sold out.
Douglas made his acting debut on the Broadway stage in 1941 with “Spring Again”. His other Broadway roles are “The Three Sisters”, “Kiss and Tell”, “Trio”, “Alice in Arms”, “The Wind is Ninety”, “Woman Bites Dog”, and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
As himself, Douglas appeared in game shows, award shows, documentaries, talk shows, and variety shows. He made his Hollywood acting career in 1946 with “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”. From there he went on to appear in nearly 100 film and television productions including “Champion”, “The Big Trees”, “Ulysses”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, “Lust for Life”, Doc Holiday in “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, “The Final Countdown”, “The Man from Snowy River”, “The Simpsons”, “Diamonds”, “Touched by an Angel”, and his final role in 2008 in the “Empire State Building Murders”.
He was also a producer for several productions including his 1955 debut as the executive producer for “The Indian Fighter”, “Paths of Glory”, “The Vikings”, “Spartacus”, “Lonely are the Brave”, “The Final Countdown”, and “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. He also acted in many of them.
An unheard of act, Douglas created his own production company in 1955 and later added a second company.
He has also created a family foundation – The Douglas Foundation – which contributes millions of dollars to a variety of causes including a full two year scholarship at the American Film Institute.
Predeceased by son Eric, Kirk Douglas is survived by his his wife of over 60 years; sons Michael, Joel, and Peter, grandchildren, and a great grandchild.
Feature photo credit: By Photographer-Henry Grossman, New York – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28399354