Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky on December 9, 1916. He was an American actor and filmmaker who made his movie debut with “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (1946). At the time of his death, Douglas was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, having appeared in more than 90 feature-length films during his career. He became a leading box office star throughout the 1950s and was best known for his performances in serious dramas, war stories, and Westerns. He received an honorary Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As an author, he wrote 10 novels and memoirs.
Issur Danielovitch Demsky
December 9, 1916
February 5, 2020 (age 103)
Kirk Douglas was born in Amsterdam, New York, during the second decade of the 19th Century. He was the son of Herschel “Harry” Danielovitch and Bryna “Bertha,” Jewish-Russian immigrants. As the fourth child and only son, he had three older and an equal number of younger sisters. His family adopted the surname Demsky after his father’s brother, who had immigrated earlier, began using the name. Issur Danielovitch became Isador Demsky, and he was nicknamed Izzy. Before entering the United States Navy during World War II, he legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas.
Douglas joined the military in 1941 and served until he was medically discharged for injuries, in 1944. He then returned to New York City and found work in radio, theater, and commercials. Following his debut screen appearance in 1946, Douglas made his Broadway debut in the play “Three Sisters,” produced by Katharine Cornell. In his movie “Champion” (1949), Douglas’ image as a tough character was soon established; the film won six nominations, and Douglas received his first Academy Award mention.
Douglas became a major box office star throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955, his movie production company Bryna Productions finally began to operate after he broke off contracts with Hal J. Wallis and Warner Brothers. Through this company, Douglas produced and starred in the films “The Indian Fighter” (1955), “Paths of Glory” (1957), “The Vikings” (1958), “Spartacus” (1960), “Lonely are the Brave” (1962), and “Seven Days in May” (1964). Besides being an actor and producer, Douglas was a philanthropist. On December 9, 2015, he and his wife donated $15 million to Harry’s Haven to celebrate his 99th birthday.
Douglas joins the United States Navy, serving as a communications officer.
Douglas is medically discharged from the military for injuries sustained from the premature explosion of a depth charge.
Douglas makes his movie debut in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.”
His movie production company, Bryna Productions, begins to operate.
Douglas begins to appear regularly in big screen features and is recognized as a major star.
Why We Love Kirk Douglas
He’s an icon
Douglas was one of the last surviving movie stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood and died at the age of 103. He appeared in more than 90 movies throughout his career.
He’s a philanthropist
During his career, Douglas and his wife donated to various nonprofit organizations. In 1964, he and his spouse, Anne, founded the Douglas Foundation, one of the largest and oldest private philanthropic institutions in the entertainment industry.
He served in the Navy
Before entering the motion picture industry, Douglas joined the United States Navy in 1941. He was medically discharged due to injury three years later.
5 Surprising Facts
He had two bar mitzvahs
Douglas had two bar mitzvahs — the traditional celebration at age 13, and to reaffirm his faith when he turned 83 years old.
He survived a helicopter crash
At the age of 75, Douglas survived a helicopter crash that killed two other people.
He often wore lifts in his shoes
Douglas often wore lifts in his shoes on screen due to his short stature, measuring a modest 69 inches.
He appeared on screen with his son
Kirk Douglas appeared in two movies with his son, Michael Douglas: “Cast a Giant Shadow” (1966) and “It Runs in the Family” (2003).
He would’ve starred in “Rambo: First Blood”
Douglas almost starred in the film however, he left after Sylvester Stallone refused script changes.
Kirk Douglas FAQs
What was Kirk Douglas’ cause of death?
Douglas died of natural causes.
Who did Kirk Douglas leave his money to?
Reportedly, Douglas left $50 million of his $60 million fortune to the Douglas Foundation.
Did Kirk Douglas perform his own stunts?
Douglas was known among directors and producers for doing his own stunts.
Kirk Douglas’s birthday dates