One of the most renowned actors of the 20th century was Kirk Douglas. The native of New York came from a difficult upbringing, but despite attempts by others to put him down, he never gave in and pursued his career in his own way.
At the age of 103, Douglas passed away in February 2020, but his memory will endure forever. He built a lovely home, raised children, and returned favors to those who had always supported him as he rose to fame as an actor and worked alongside some of the finest.
Kirk Douglas had amassed a fortune by the time of his death. But according to reports, none of his children—including actor Michael Douglas—received even a single cent. Why? Here is everything you need to know regarding the story of Kirk Douglas.
On December 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, New York, Issur Danielovitch was given the name Kirk Douglas. Kirk Douglas would eventually become his new name because he believed it would benefit his acting career.
Douglas was up in a large household of seven children, the only son of Russian Jewish immigrants. Growing up was difficult for Douglas. He stated that his family was the poorest family on “a street of poor families” and that they slept on a “shabby living-room sofa” in an unheated clapboard home.
Hershel Douglas, Kirk Douglas’ father, became a junk dealer because he was unable to work at the nearby mills because he was Jewish.
“Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung on the ladder,” Mr. Douglas wrote in his best-selling autobiography. “And I was the ragman’s son.”
Because the family occasionally went without food, Douglas had to steal from his neighbors or even produce booths.
As he described in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, growing up in Amsterdam, New York meant “living in the East End, the opposite side of town from the rich people on Market Hill. It meant living at 46 Eagle Street, a run-down, two-story, gray clapboard house, the last house at the bottom of a sloping street, next to the factories, the railroad tracks, and the Mohawk River.”
Kirk Douglas was frequently made fun of for being Jewish and was once attacked by neighborhood gangs. Douglas, though, was unfazed and continued to work hard to support his family and improve his own situation. From newspaper boy to dishwasher, he thought he worked at about 40 different occupations.
“I also was a hard worker. I’d invent jobs, like selling soda and candy to workers at the mill at the end of our street. Amsterdam was one of the largest mill towns in the country. There were dozens of factories but no jobs for Jews.”
When Kirk Douglas initially developed an interest in theater, he was a student at Wilbur Lynch High School, which is now Amsterdam High School. He engaged in all types of theatre events, received encouragement from his English instructor Louise Livingston, and was given an introduction to the world of poetry.
“I would have been run out of town if I had ever admitted to liking poetry or said out loud, ‘I want to be a great actor.’ Because of her, I sent away for college and drama school catalogs and saved every penny so I could get there,” Douglas reminisced.
“Mrs. Livingston was cool and detached when she walked into the classroom. She never raised her well-modulated voice. Emotion crept in only when she read poetry. She thought I was wonderful. She encouraged me and kept me after school. What a sparkle came into her eyes as she read poem after poem with me sitting by her side.”
Despite Kirk Douglas’ best efforts, he was unable to save enough money for his tuition. In order to get to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, he made the brave decision to hitchhike 200 miles.
Douglas had all of his high school honors, transcripts, poetry, and a letter of recommendation from his teacher, Mrs. Livingston, with him. He was able to persuade the faculty dean to grant him a scholarship after securing a meeting with him.
Kirk worked as an actor at the Tamarack Playhouse on Lake Pleasant throughout the summer. And it was there that he decided to adopt the name Kirk Douglas.
¨ “One day, a few of my friends insisted I needed a more American name. Someone suggested Douglas,” he recalled. “My new first name took longer. Someone finally said, Kirk. My new name sounded masculine and strong.”
After honing his craft as an actor, Douglas landed his first Broadway part in the show Spring Again in 1941. He kept landing more and more Broadway jobs, but just before his big break, events in the globe changed everything.
As soon as the Second World War began, Kirk Douglas made the decision to enlist. He claimed to have experienced “a wave of patriotism and a wave of Jewishness” when he made the decision to join the Army as a pilot, but he actually wound up as a communication officer on a submarine.
However, a submarine disaster in 1943 sent Kirk Douglas to the hospital with wounds. He received an amoebic dysentery diagnosis and was later released from the Navy as a junior grade lieutenant.
He returned to the US and carried on with his show business endeavors. Kirk Douglas’ singing voice was wrecked by an illness, which may have put an end to his career. However, as is well known, it didn’t. Hal Willis, a Hollywood director, spotted him at one of his performances and hired him for his 1946 movie The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers.
Following that, Kirk Douglas turned into a Hollywood legend and never looked back. Three years later, in the 1949 movie Boxer, in which he played boxer Midge Kelly, he had his big break. He received a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the Academy Awards as a result.
Douglas received two additional nominations for Academy Awards, for Lust for Life in 1956 and The Bad and the Beautiful in 1952, but he was never awarded a prize for a particularly outstanding performance. He did receive an honorary Oscar in 1996 though for “50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.”
Kirk Douglas had already been married once by the 1950s. Joel and Michael Douglas were born during his marriage to actress and model Diana Dill, which lasted from 1943 to 1951.
The then-respected actor met the love of his life just three years later, and they were married for the rest of their lives. Kirk first met Anne Buydens while shooting in Paris.
She helped with the media, and Douglas developed a strong interest in her. However, his initial attempts to impress her were unsuccessful.
“I had been a big movie star with two Oscar nominations by the time I met Anne, and I believed that any woman would be flattered if I asked her out,” he recalled. “Anne was the one who turned me down,” Kirk Douglas recalled.
It turned out that Anne had her reasons.
“Of course, he was charming and sexy, but I had seen too many young women in Paris fall in love with American movie stars who went home to their lives and wives when their pictures wrapped,” she said. “I certainly didn’t want to be another location romance casualty. I had survived war in occupied Paris and knew instinctively how to protect myself from dangerous situations.”
In the end, Kirk managed to approach Anne. As soon as he persuaded her to assist him with the promotions for his 1953 film Act of Love, they got to work together. The two fell in love, and the couple got married in 1954. Peter and Eric Douglas were their two kids.
Michael Douglas was the most successful of his sons who all entered the film industry. The two-time Oscar winner played Gordon Gecko in the great films Wall Street, Falling Down, and Wonder Boys, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
The son and father’s relationship wasn’t always the finest, though. During an interview with the Associated Press, for instance, Douglas objected to being addressed as “dad.”
“In those key years, when Kirk was doing five movies a year… Kirk was all-consumed, was overworked. Probably like myself at a certain time in my life.”
The conflict between Kirk Douglas and Michael widened considerably in 1975. Kirk’s son persuaded him to sell the movie rights to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which he at the time held.
Even though his father had previously played the character on Broadway, once production was scheduled to begin, Michael, who is now the producer, decided not to put his father in the starring role of Randle McMurphy.
“So Michael asked me if he could try to produce it, and I said: ‘Sure!’ Next thing I know, he has a director lined up, and it’s all go. So I said to him: ‘Great! When do we start rehearsing?’” Kirk Douglas.
“Not you, Dad,” Michael replied, devastatingly. “You’re too old.”
“I couldn’t believe it!” Douglas added. “So I said: ‘Who’s playing my part? Jack Nicholson? Never heard of him. Well, at least it will be a flop.”
As the movie went on to win big at the Academy Awards—producer Michael Douglas took home an Oscar for Best Picture, and Jack Nicholson won Best Actor for his performance—their relationship didn’t get any better.
The 1960 motion picture Spartacus starred Kirk Douglas and went on to become one of his all-time favorites. Despite not receiving an Oscar himself, Kirk rose to the top of Hollywood after the movie won four Academy Awards.
Douglas appeared in more than 90 Hollywood movies over the years. His final acting job came in the 2008 television movie Empire State Building Murders.
Kirk Douglas was a genuine cinematic star from the height of Hollywood. Sadly, he died on February 5, 2020, at the age of 103.
Kirk Douglas’ estimated net worth at the time of his passing was $61 million. However, because he left a lifetime of donations to various causes, his son Michael Douglas and the rest of his family did not receive a single penny.
Douglas distributed $50 million to St. Lawrence University, where he attended in his early life. The Sinai Temple of Westwood, the Kirk Douglas Theatre, and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles also received a big chunk of the money.
Kirk and Anne have both given to the aforementioned organizations through the Douglas Foundation in the past. The foundation’s mission statement reads, “To help those who cannot otherwise help themselves.”
Michael Douglas’ father won’t leave him any money. Nevertheless, he won’t require it because his estimated net worth is $300 million.
Michael commended his father’s caring and compassionate character at the time of his dying, despite their past disagreements.
“Kirk’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,” Michael Douglas said in a statement.
Kirk Douglas overcame a difficult upbringing and forged his own way to the top of Hollywood’s film industry. Peace be upon him.
To honor the late Kirk Douglas, kindly ask your friends and family to share this story on Facebook.