Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch; December 9, 1916) is an American actor, producer, director, and author. After an impoverished childhood with immigrant parents and six sisters, he had his film debut in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), with Barbara Stanwyck. Douglas soon developed into a leading box-office star throughout the 1950s and 1960s, known for doing serious dramas, including westerns and war movies. During a sixty-year acting career, he has appeared in over 90 movies, and in 1960 was responsible for ending the Hollywood blacklist.
In 1949, after a lead role as an unscrupulous boxing hero in Champion, for which he was nominated as Best Actor, Douglas became a star. His style of acting relied on expressing great concentration, realism, and powerful emotions, and he subsequently gravitated toward roles requiring strong characters. Among his early films were Young Man with a Horn, playing opposite Lauren Bacall (1950), Billy Wilder's controversial Ace in the Hole (1951), and Detective Story (1951). He received a second Oscar nomination for his dramatic role in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), where he played opposite Lana Turner. And his powerful acting as Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956) is considered one of his finest roles. He is one of the last living actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
In 1955 he established Bryna Productions, which began producing films as varied as Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960). In those two films, he starred and collaborated with then relatively unknown director, Stanley Kubrick. He produced and starred in Lonely Are the Brave (1962), considered a cult classic, and Seven Days in May (1964), opposite Burt Lancaster, with whom he made seven films. In 1963, he starred in the Broadway play One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a story he purchased, which he later gave to his son Michael Douglas, who turned it into an Oscar-winning film.
As an actor and philanthropist, Douglas has received three Academy Award nominations, an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, and the Medal of Freedom. As an author, he has written 10 novels and memoirs. Currently, he is No. 17 on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest male screen legends in American film history, and the highest-ranked living person on the list. After barely surviving a helicopter crash in 1991 and then suffering a stroke in 1996, he has focused on renewing his spiritual and religious life. He lives with Anne, his wife of over 60 years.
By Dean Hanley
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