I Am Kirk!
This December (9th) sees acting legend Kirk Douglas reach his 100th birthday! To celebrate, Inspirational Magazine takes a look over the extraordinary career and life of one of Hollywood’s most enduring stars.
With his cleft chin, chiselled jaw and movie star good looks it could be easy to think that our favourite centenarian was always destined to be a star.
In fact Kirk, born Issur Danielovitch in 1916 to Russian-born immigrant parents, was born in to poverty, with his parents trying to make ends meet on his father’s meagre earnings as a ragman working the streets of New York.
From this less than auspicious start, Kirk was determined to make a life for himself and as he grew up, his natural talents began to shine. Despite being a talented wrestler, following a taste of acting in High School plays, Kirk had caught the acting bug.
Keen to make the most of his talents and break free from a life on the breadline, Kirk gained a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, which counts Robert Redford, Anne Hathaway and Lauren Bacall as alumni.
His early career was interrupted when he signed up to the US Navy during World War II. Serving from 1941 to 1945, Kirk was now a bona fide hero.
It was when Kirk hit 30 that his big break came when in 1946, he was cast as District Attorney, Walter O’Neil in the drama, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Receiving critical acclaim – Kirk was on his way to stardom.
With over 90 movies to his name, it is arguably Douglas’ defining onscreen performance in the historical epic, Spartacus, that he is most remembered for.
Famed for the ‘I am Spartacus’ scene, the film also marked Kirk’s challenge of the Hollywood Blacklist. The list, which went largely unchecked, denied those working within the entertainment industry, such as actors, writers and directors, employment due to alleged communist ties.
The Blacklist was responsible for ruining many careers, with those appearing on the list unable to get work, in some cases, for many years.
Challenging the process, Kirk insisted that screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, a firm critic of the communist investigations, was credited with writing the screenplay for Spartacus, marking the beginning of the end of the blacklisting process.
During his sixty-five year career, Kirk has received much critical acclaim, including several Academy Award nominations for his on-screen skills as well as, in 1996, an honorary Academy Award for “fifty years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.”
As well as a long and established career within the movie industry, Kirk has worked as a producer and director and written 10 books. Kirk has also devoted much of his life to his philanthropic works including the ‘Anne & Kirk Douglas Playground Award’, which has distributed millions of dollars to building and refurbishing neglected school playgrounds for the children of Los Angeles.
Father to four sons, including fellow Hollywood legend, Michael Douglas, Kirk’s last on-screen performance came in the 2009 documentary – Before I Forget, in which he shares stories about his life and work.