Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch Demsky; December 9, 1916 February 5, 2020) was a famous American actor and producer, who started his career in The Golden Age of Hollywood and remained active for roughly half a century.
Douglas grew up in poverty in Amsterdam, New York. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Chavusy, Mogilev Region, in the Russian Empire (present-day Belarus), who fled pogroms. While studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, he met one Betty Joan Perske, who would greatly help him launch his career in the movie industry.
Known for depicting tough, square-jawed men and once quoted as saying he "made a career out of playing sons of bitches"; actually quite nice in real life (depending on who you ask). Had something of a Large Ham reputation, though he proved that he could tone it down and still act pretty well. Often tag-teamed onscreen with Burt Lancaster, though some sources claim the two men strongly disliked each other. Following the example of Lancaster, Kirk created his own production house, Bryna Productions (named after his mother) in 1955.
He also played a very important role in ending The Hollywood Blacklist going on in the film industry during the '50s and '60s, most notably by defending the screenwriter he chose for Spartacus, Dalton Trumbo. His career was largely ended by a stroke that permanently affected his speech in 1996. He was one of the last living legends from the classic Hollywood era, eventually passing away at age 103 in 2020. More can be found in his autobiography, The Ragman's Son.
He is the father of Michael, Joel, Peter and Eric Douglas.
- The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) as Walter O'Neil; his film debut
- Out of the Past (1947) as Whit Sterling
- A Letter to Three Wives (1949) as George Phipps
- Champion (1949) as Midge Kelly
- The Glass Menagerie (1950) as Jim O'Connor
- Ace in the Hole (1951) as Chuck Tatum
- The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) as Jonathan Shields
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) as Ned Land
- Ulysses (1954) as Ulysses
- Lust for Life (1956) as Vincent van Gogh
- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) as Doc Holliday
- Paths of Glory (1957) as Col. Dax
- The Vikings (1958) as Einar
- Last Train from Gun Hill (1959) as Matt Morgan
- The Devil's Disciple (1959) as Dick Dudgeon
- Spartacus (1960) as Spartacus
- Town Without Pity (1961) as Maj. Garrett
- The Last Sunset (1961) as Bren O'Malley
- Lonely Are the Brave (1962) as Jack Burns
- The List of Adrian Messenger (1963) as George Brougham
- For Love or Money (1963) as Deke Gentry
- Seven Days in May (1964) as Col. Jiggs Casey
- The Heroes of Telemark (1965) as Dr. Rolf Pedersen
- In Harm's Way (1965) as Cdr. Paul Eddington
- Is Paris Burning? (1966) as Gen. George S. Patton
- The War Wagon (1967) as Lomax
- The Arrangement (1969) as Eddie Anderson
- There Was a Crooked Man... (1970) as Parris Pitman Jr.
- The Light at the Edge of the World (1971) as Will Denton
- A Gunfight (1971) as Will Tenneray
- Holocaust 2000 (1977) as Robert Caine
- The Fury (1978) as Peter Sandza
- The Villain (1979) as Cactus Jack
- The Final Countdown (1980) as Capt. Matthew Yelland
- Saturn 3 (1980) as Adam
- Tough Guys (1986) as Archie Long
- Oscar (1991) as Eduardo Provolone
- Diamonds (1999) as Harry Agensky
- It Runs in the Family (2003) as Mitchell Gromberg
Portrayals in fiction:
- Albert Uderzo, who loved using the likeness of actors for some of his comic book characters, gave Kirk's face to former slave Spartakis in the Asterix adventure Asterix and Obelix All at Sea.
- Dean O'Gorman portrayed Kirk in Trumbo, about the life of Dalton Trumbo.