Kirk Douglas

Legendary Film Icon

A Hollywood Golden Age icon whose rugged good looks and muscular intensity made him a commanding presence in films like Spartacus and Paths of Glory.

Kirk Douglas was an American actor, producer, director, philanthropist and writer, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, who rose from an impoverished childhood to become a silver screen legend. His film career included the historical drama, ‘Spartacus’, a Stanley Kubrick film which won four Oscars.

The legendary actor had more than 90 acting credits and about 75 movies under his belt – ranging over six decades from the 1940s to the 2000s. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 1959 for Champion and earned two Oscar nominations for producing ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ and ‘Lust for Life.’ In 1975, Kirk Douglas was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award. He served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the US State Department and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Jimmy Carter in 1981.

Kirk Douglas, one of the greatest screen legends of the 20th century, died On February 5, 2020, at the age of 103 of natural causes. His son, Michael 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.’

Name:   Kirk  Douglas
Born:   9 December 1916
Star Sign: Sagittarius
Died:   5 February 2020
Birthplace: Amsterdam, New York,
Country: New York (NY) United States
DetailsOther Names
Issur Danielovitch Demsky, Issur Danielovitch, Izzy Demsky,
Herschel 'Harry' Danielovitch.
Bryna Sanglel Danielovitch
Married Anne Buydens in 1954 until his death in 2020. Married Diana Douglas in 1943 and they divorced in 1951
Four sons: Michael Douglas, Eric Douglas, Joel Douglas and Peter Douglas

Childhood and family
Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York. He was the fourth child and only son of Herschel Danielovitch and Bryna Sanglel Danielovitch who were poor Jewish immigrants who in 1910, immigrated to America from Belarus, Russia to escape anti-Jewish pogroms. One of seven children, Kirk grew up with six sisters and spoke Yiddish at home.

Since the local factories refused to hire Jews, his father collected rags, scrap metal and junk. (This was why Douglas titled his 1988 autobiography, The Ragman's Son.) Later the family changed their name to Demsky and Issur called himself Isidore Demsky promptly earning him the nickname Izzy.

Early Life
Douglas was a keen student and an athlete and worked odd jobs until he received a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, where among his classmates were Betty Joan Perske, later Lauren Bacall, and the Bermudian actress Diana Dill who became his first wife. Douglas started his acting career with some minor roles in various Broadway productions. His fellow actor, Karl Malden, convinced him to change his name.

In 1939, as World War II began, Issur Danielovitch who became Isadore Demsky took the name Kirk Douglas as he worked his way through the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He choose “Douglas” because he wanted his last name still to begin with “D” and “Kirk” because he liked the hard, jagged sound of the “K.”

Military Service
In 1941, Douglas enlisted in the Navy, serving as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. After being injured in an accidental explosion, Douglas was discharged from the Navy in 1944. He returned to New York, did some stage work, and then headed for Hollywood. In 1943, he married his fellow drama student, Diana Dill. On September 25, 1944, Michael was born and on January 23, 1947, Joel was born.

Movie Roles
Douglas landed his first movie role in 'The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,' with Barbara Stanwyck, which was released in October 1944 and it brought rave reviews. In 1948, Douglas acted in ‘I Walk Alone’ alongside Burt Lancaster. He gained further attention with the classic 1947 film 'Out of the Past' and the Oscar-winning 'A Letter to Three Wives.' He first made his name as a washed-up boxer, Midge Kelly, in Champion in 1949, which earned him the first of three Oscar nominations.

Memorable Roles
In the 1950s, Douglas played a jazz musician in 'Young Man with a Horn' which also starred Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day. In February, 1951, Diana and Douglas divorced. In 1951, Douglas acted in the film ‘Ace in the Hole' and in 1952, in 'The ‘Bad and the Beautiful’ which brought him his second Oscar nomination. Douglas enjoyed liaisons with some of the golden age's brightest stars, among them Marlene Dietrich and Gene Tierney.

Bryna Productions
In 1953, while filming an 'Act of Love' in Paris, Douglas met Anne Buydens in a courtesy interview as he was looking for someone to handle his publicity. In May, 1954 he married Anne, and they had two sons - Peter and Eric.. Later that year, Douglas showed he could carry a tune in this Technicolor sci-fi adventure in '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,' a smash with critics and at the box office.

In 1955, Douglas starred with his ex-wife, Diana, in 'The Indian Fighter.' He also established his own production company, Bryna Productions, named after his mother, Bryna, and produced hits such as 1960's Spartacus, "Paths of Glory," "The Vikings," "Lonely Are the Brave" and "Seven Days in May." In the 1950s and 1960s he was part of a small group of artists who helped to break the Hollywood blacklist.

Great Movies
Douglas next challenge was to play the tortured artist, Vincent van Gogh in 'Lust for Life.' The film, which was released in 1956, earned Douglas his third Oscar nomination, but he lost that year to Yul Brynner. After' Lust for Life', Douglas worked with filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick on 'Paths of Glory,' released in 1957.

In 1962 Douglas acted in the western film, ‘Lonely Are the Brave.' In 1963, he appeared in the stage adaptation of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ which was made into a film in 1975 by his son Michael. Douglas also made some Westerns, including 1957's 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral', and 1967's 'The War Wagon', which also starred John Wayne.

More great movies
In 1964, Douglas acted in the political thriller ‘Seven Days in May’ and in 1965, alongside John Wayne in the Second World War film ‘In Harm’s Way’. He also starred in ‘Cast a Giant Shadow’ in 1966 based on the Israeli freedom struggle. He starred with Burt Lancaster in a gangster comedy called ‘Tough Guys’ in 1968, and with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Western comedy film ‘The Villain’ in 1979.

Douglas sci-fi film ‘Saturn 3’ with Farah Fawcett came out in 1980 and in 1982, he starred in ‘The Man from Snowy River’ in Australia. Douglas produced two great movies - ‘Dance with the Devil’ and ‘The Gift’ in 1990 and 1992 respectively. In 1999, he starred in the comedy ‘Diamonds.' In 2000, he was nominated for the Emmy Award for a guest appearance in ‘Touched by an Angel.' In 2003 he acted with his son, Michael in - ‘It Runs in the Family’.

In 1988, Douglas brought out his best seller autography titled ‘The Ragman’s Son.' He published the non-fiction, ‘Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning’ in 1997. He authored and co-authored 12 books, including: 'My Stroke of Luck,' which was published in 2002 and delved into how he recovered from a stroke in 1996. That year Douglas was to receive an honorary Oscar for his work.

Douglas was the ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ of the US government since 1963 and he and Anne traveled over 40 countries. In 1981, Douglas received the American ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ and in 1983, he received 'The Jefferson Award' for his humanitarian service. In 1985, he received ' The French Legion of Honor', and also 'The ‘American Cinema Award’; the ‘German Golden Kamera Award’ in 1987; and the ‘National Board of Reviews Career Achievement Award’ in 1989.

Though he never actually won an Academy Award, Kirk Douglas was granted an Honorary Oscar in 1996 - for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture. In 1999, he received the ‘Recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award’ and the ‘UCLA medal of Honor’ in 2002. In 2007, Douglas published the biographical work ‘Let’s face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning’ in 2007 and ‘I am Spartacus!

Family and marriage
Douglas married his first wife, Diana Dill, on November 2, 1943. They had two sons, actor, Michael Douglas and producer, Joel Douglas, before divorcing in 1951. On 29 May, 1954, Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens married, and had Peter, a producer, and Eric, an actor who died on July 6, 2004.

The legendary actor had seven grand-kids before he died. Michael's three children - Cameron, Dylan and Carys. Pete's four children - Kelsey, Tyler, Ryan, and Jason. In 2017, the couple released a book - Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood, that revealed intimate letters they shared through the years. The couple were together until Kirk Douglas death on February 5, 2020.

The Douglas Foundation
Douglas and Anne became one of Hollywood’s leading philanthropists. Over the years, they, were involved in numerous charitable projects, including establishing a foundation that built playgrounds for children throughout Los Angeles and Israel, making significant gifts to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and providing funds for an Alzheimer’s unit at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills.

Anne Douglas Center for Homeless Women,
Kirk and Anne Douglas establishing the Anne Douglas Center for Homeless Women, for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction; the Kirk Douglas High School, a program to help troubled students finish their education; and the Kirk Douglas Theater, to nurture young theatrical artists.

Kirk Douglas was an acrobat, a juggler, a self-taught man who learned French in his 30s and German in his 40s.

He continued to act and write for years and was past 100 when he and his wife published “Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood.

He took the name Kirk Douglas because he wanted his last name still to begin with “D” and “Kirk” because he liked the hard, jagged sound of the “K.”

Douglas was one of Hollywood’s leading philanthropists. The Douglas Foundation, which he and Anne Douglas co-founded, has donated millions to a wide range of institutions, from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

Douglas landed a spot on the university's wrestling team, and was voted President of the Class of 1939. He graduated with a degree in English and won a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City,

Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster were quite competitive with each other, and occasionally took little "digs" at the other in public.

In 1958, producer Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands, tragically crashed during a flight and everyone on board was killed. Incredibly, Douglas was meant to be on that plane but his wife talked him out of it. Small wonder that he always credited his wife for his incredible longevity.

Douglas’s friendship with Lauren Bacall resulted in the actor getting his first film role.

Douglas regret turning down two specific opportunities that William Holden and Lee Marvin both won Academy Awards for - in Stalag 17 and Cat Ballou, respectively.

In 'Lust for Life', Douglas played the tortured Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. When Van Gogh cut off his own ear, young Michael Douglas fled the cinema in terror because he was convinced that his father had actually mutilated himself!

"Through failure comes great success. In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail."

"I came from abject poverty. There was nowhere to go but up."

"Virtue is not photogenic. What is it to be a nice guy? To be nothing, that's what. A big fat zero with a smile for everybody."

"Love has more depth as you get older."

"I have studied religion, and I have concluded that there is some power. We don't understand it."

"If you want to know about a man you can find out an awful lot by looking at who he married."

"The learning process continues until the day you die."

"Always remember to be grateful. No matter how bad things things are, they can always be worse. So what if my stroke left me with a speech impediment? Moses had one, and he did alright"

"You know, you have to have some inner philosophy to deal with adversity."

"Nobody's perfect, and that's what makes us all unique."


Kirk Douglas, one of the biggest stars of the silver screen during Hollywood's heyday, died on 5 February 2020, surrounded by his wife and three sons. He died of natural cause at his home in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 103. Family members and friends including Steven Spielberg attended Westwood Memorial to say their final farewell to the Spartacus icon.

WatchRelated Shows
PopularShows To Watch


Staff Picks




Bucket List

MoreRelated Shows
HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh
Born a Prince of Greece and Denmark, the beloved husband of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom was the longest-serving royal consort in British history....
Shirley Temple Actress, Singer, Diplomat
An American actress, singer, dancer, businesswoman and diplomat who was Hollywood's number one box-office draw as a child actress from 1935 to 1938....
Leonardo Da Vinci The Renaissance man
One of the most intellectual mind of the Italian Renaissance. This natural genius crossed so many disciplines that he epitomized the term - “Renaissance man."...
Marie Curie Most Inspirational Scientist
One of the world's greatest scientists, who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She won the Nobel Prize twice in two different fields of science....
ExploreLots Of Shows







ShowsYou Might Like
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Challenging UAE International Rally
One of the world’s most prestigious international cross country rallies, is the legendary UAE Desert Challenge, held in the United Arab Emirate of Abu Dhabi....
Glass Slipper Church A blue architectural marvel
Visually stunning, a church shaped like a high-heeled shoe is certified by the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest high-heel shoe-shaped structure....
La Isla de las Munecas Mysterious Island of the Dolls
A strange attraction on the Mexican island of Xochimilco, where mutilated dolls hanging eerily from trees, drawing tourists fascinated by the strange spectacle....
Four Seasons Lion Hotel Exquisite Dining in a Russian Palace
In spectacular surroundings, the luxury St. Petersburg hotel offers exclusive dining options of international and regional cuisine at its three restaurants....
ShowstaEnjoy The Show