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Kirk Douglas

Kirk DouglasAKA Issur Danielovitch Demsky

Born: 9-Dec-1916
Birthplace: Amsterdam, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish [1]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Spartacus

Military service: US Navy (WWII)

Kirk Douglas worked his way through St. Lawrence University as a waiter, where he studied drama and wrestled on the school team. He merged these crafts by briefly becoming a professional wrestler, and palled around with big-time wrestling's immortal but now departed Lou Thesz for years. He joined the Navy in World War II, and his first big break after the war was playing a dead soldier on Broadway in The Wind is 90, with 17-year-old Dickie Van Patten. The reviews were good, and he started getting offers from Hollywood. In his first film, he was Barbara Stanwyck's wimpy husband in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). He quickly molded a screen persona as a tough, cocky, guy -- a dim gangster in Out of the Past (1947), a jazzman in Young Man with a Horn (1950). Douglas later starred in the super-cynical Paths of Glory (1957) and The Big Carnival (also known as Ace in the Hole, 1951). In the former he's a military man, hung out to die by his superiors. In the latter he's a washed-up reporter looking for a big story.

Douglas was one of the first big name actors to establish his own production company. The Bryna Company, named after his mother, produced Paths of Glory, Lonely Are the Brave (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964). Douglas starred as Spartacus in that slave-revolt epic (1960), and Bryna produced it, which leveraged his Hollywood power into an unwavering demand: Dalton Trumbo, who had decades of screenwriting experience but had been blacklisted for his political views and jailed for refusing to "name names" -- would write the screenplay, and not behind a front. It was a pivotal moment in crumbling the Hollywood blacklist.

Douglas starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on Broadway, and bought the movie rights in 1963. But it took more than a decade to get the film financed, and by then he felt he was too old to play the lead. His son Michael Douglas produced the film, and it starred Jack Nicholson. He survived a helicopter crash in 1991 in which two people were killed. He flirted with killing himself after being hobbled by a stroke in 1996, but decided "suicide is stupid and selfish". Instead he wrote another book, My Stroke of Luck.


[1] Golda Shira and Pauline Dubkin Yearwood, "Kirk Douglas returns to Judaism", Chicago Jewish News, reprinted in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, 30 May 2003: "Kirk Douglas wanted to talk about the movie and he wanted to talk about Judaism. It's well known from the first volume of his autobiography, The Ragman's Son, that he experienced a resurgence of interest in his religion after a helicopter crash and, later, a stroke that left him partially disabled. He even had a second bar mitzvah at the age of 83, and he continues to recommit himself to the richness of the very heritage from which he had been so estranged for so very long."

Father: Herschel Danielovitch ("Harry")
Mother: Bryna Sanglel Danielovitch
Sister: Pesha
Sister: Kaleh
Sister: Tamara
Sister: Haska (twin)
Sister: Siffra (twin)
Sister: Rachel
Wife: Diana Dill Douglas (actress, m. 2-Nov.1943, div. 1950, two sons)
Son:
Michael Douglas (actor and producer, b. 25-Sep-1944)
Son: Joel Douglas (producer, b. 23-Jan-1947)
Wife: Anne Buydens Douglas (m. 29-May-1954, two sons)
Son: Peter Vincent Douglas (producer, b. 23-Nov-1955)
Son: Eric Anthony Douglas (actor, b. 21-Jun-1958, d. 6-Jul-2004, drug overdose)

    High School: Wilbur H. Lynch High School, Amsterdam, NY (1934)
    University: BA, St. Lawrence University (1939)
    University: American Academy of Dramatic Arts

    Afghanistan Relief Committee Honorary Board of Directors
    Jefferson Awards Board of Selectors
    Obama Victory Fund 2012
    Oscar (honorary) 1996
    Golden Globe 1957 for Lust for Life
    National Cowboy Hall of Fame 1984
    American Film Institute Life Achievement Award 1991
    Kennedy Center Honor 1994
    Hollywood Walk of Fame 6263 Hollywood Blvd.
    National Medal of Arts 2001
    Tonsillectomy
    Rhinoplasty
    Visited Disneyland on Opening Day
    Plane Crash helicopter collided with a small plane, Santa Paula, CA (1991)
    Stroke 1996
    Paralyzed right side of face
    National Cowboy Hall of Fame (1984)
    Wedding: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones (2000)
    Wedding: David Gest and Liza Minnelli (2002)
    Asteroid Namesake 19578 Kirkdouglas
    Russian Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Pacemaker

    FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
    Posse (22-Aug-1975)
    Scalawag (14-Nov-1973)

    FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
    Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (5-May-2010) · Himself
    Trumbo (10-Sep-2007) · Himself
    Illusion (Oct-2004) · Donald Baines
    It Runs in the Family (25-Apr-2003) · Mitchell Gromberg
    Diamonds (6-Sep-1999) · Harry
    Completely Cuckoo (16-Dec-1997) · Himself
    Greedy (4-Mar-1994) · Uncle Joe
    Oscar (26-Apr-1991)
    Inherit the Wind (20-Mar-1988)
    Queenie (10-May-1987)
    Tough Guys (3-Oct-1986)
    Amos (29-Sep-1985)
    Draw! (15-Jul-1984)
    Eddie Macon's Run (4-Nov-1983) · Marzack
    The Man from Snowy River (25-Mar-1982) · Spur
    The Final Countdown (9-Jul-1980) · Capt. Matthew Yelland
    Home Movies (16-May-1980)
    Saturn 3 (15-Feb-1980) · Adam
    The Villain (20-Jul-1979)
    The Fury (10-Mar-1978) · Peter
    Holocaust 2000 (25-Nov-1977)
    Victory at Entebbe (13-Dec-1976)
    Posse (22-Aug-1975)
    Once Is Not Enough (18-Jun-1975)
    Cat and Mouse (9-Mar-1974)
    Scalawag (14-Nov-1973)
    The Master Touch (1972)
    To Catch a Spy (6-Sep-1971)
    A Gunfight (25-Aug-1971)
    The Light at the Edge of the World (16-Jul-1971)
    There Was a Crooked Man... (19-Sep-1970) · Paris Pitman, Jr.
    The Arrangement (18-Nov-1969) · Eddie & Evangelos
    The Brotherhood (16-Jan-1969)
    A Lovely Way to Die (6-May-1968)
    The War Wagon (27-May-1967) · Lomax
    The Way West (24-May-1967) · Tadlock
    Is Paris Burning? (26-Oct-1966)
    Cast a Giant Shadow (30-Mar-1966)
    The Heroes of Telemark (Nov-1965)
    In Harm's Way (6-Apr-1965) · Eddington
    Seven Days in May (12-Feb-1964) · Col. Jiggs Casey
    For Love or Money (7-Aug-1963)
    The List of Adrian Messenger (29-May-1963)
    The Hook (15-Feb-1963)
    Two Weeks in Another Town (17-Aug-1962) · Jack Andrus
    Lonely Are the Brave (24-May-1962) · Jack Burns
    The Last Sunset (7-Jun-1961) · Brendan O'Malley
    Town Without Pity (24-Mar-1961)
    Spartacus (6-Oct-1960) · Spartacus
    Strangers When We Meet (29-Jun-1960)
    The Devil's Disciple (21-Aug-1959) · Richard Dudgeon
    Last Train from Gun Hill (29-Jul-1959) · Marshal Matt Morgan
    The Vikings (11-Jun-1958)
    Paths of Glory (25-Dec-1957) · Col. Dax
    Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (30-May-1957)
    Top Secret Affair (30-Jan-1957) · Maj. Gen. Melville Goodwin
    Lust for Life (17-Sep-1956) · Vincent Van Gogh
    The Indian Fighter (21-Dec-1955)
    Man Without a Star (24-Mar-1955)
    Ulysses (8-Feb-1955) · Ulysses
    The Racers (4-Feb-1955)
    20000 Leagues Under the Sea (23-Dec-1954) · Ned Land
    Act of Love (17-Dec-1953)
    The Juggler (5-May-1953) · Hans Muller
    The Story of Three Loves (5-Mar-1953)
    The Bad and the Beautiful (25-Dec-1952) · Jonathan
    The Big Sky (6-Aug-1952) · Jim Deakins
    The Big Trees (5-Feb-1952) · Jim Fallon
    Detective Story (6-Nov-1951) · Det. James McLeod
    Ace in the Hole (15-Jun-1951) · Charles Tatum
    Along the Great Divide (16-May-1951) · Len Merrick
    The Glass Menagerie (28-Sep-1950) · Jim O'Connor
    Young Man with a Horn (9-Feb-1950) · Rick Martin
    Champion (9-Apr-1949) · Midge
    A Letter to Three Wives (20-Jan-1949) · George Phipps
    My Dear Secretary (12-Jan-1949) · Owen Waterbury
    The Walls of Jericho (4-Aug-1948)
    I Walk Alone (16-Jan-1948) · Noll Turner
    Mourning Becomes Electra (19-Nov-1947) · Peter Niles
    Out of the Past (13-Nov-1947) · Whit
    The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (24-Jul-1946) · Walter O'Neil

Author of books:
The Ragman's Son: An Autobiography (1988, memoir)
Dance with the Devil (1990, novel)
The Gift (1992, novel)
Last Tango in Brooklyn (1994, novel)
Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning (1997, memoir)
My Stroke of Luck (2002, memoir)
Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning (2007, memoir)


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