Fabrice Pierre-Toussaint Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local
Kirk Douglas’s real name is Issur Danielovitch. He was born in Amsterdam, New York in the year 1916. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Belarus. He grew up speaking Yiddish at home. He served in the U.S Navy in 1941 and was medically discharged in 1944 for war injuries. After the war, he went back to New York where he worked in radio, theater and commercials, giving him his first experience in the entertainment industry. His first brush with theater acting was when he replaced the role of Richard Widmark in Kiss and Tell, and that led to other offers.
He has two sons with actress Diana Dill, whom he married in 1943 and divorced in 1951. Michael Douglas is an actor, known for Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct and Joel Douglas is a producer. Douglas’s second and current wife, Anne Buydens escaped Nazi Germany to come work in Hollywood film studios as a translator for subtitles. They married in 1954 and recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. They have two children, Peter and Eric Douglas. Peter is a producer. Eric Douglas was an actor. He passed away in 2004 from drug overdose.
Kirk Douglas wanted to remain a stage actor but a friend, Lauren Bacall, recommended him for his first film role, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, in which he played the alcoholic and emotionally abused husband of a wealthy heiress. Douglas’s breakthrough eventually came from the movie Champion in which he played a boxer. From that role, he decided to work more on his on-screen persona to appear more assertive and overcome his shyness. He wanted to be independent and show complete control in his projects, creating his own film company called Bryna Productions, named after his mother.
Douglas once said about his acting style, “You can make a statement, you can say something, but it must be entertaining.” He expressed vitality, determination and practice to survive in the entertainment industry. In short, he was a method actor. As a producer, he had a way of being a hard worker who expected the same amount of energy from others, so he was demanding and strict with people on his projects. He constantly reinforces the statement that “To me it is the most important art form, it is an art, and it includes all the elements of the modern age.”
Douglas himself has admitted that he is not an easy man to deal with, and that he is probably the most disliked actor in Hollywood because of his strong will and brutal honest truths. He states that his personality originates from his tough childhood, dealing with an alcoholic father which in turn made him hold on to rage. In 1991, he nearly died from an aircraft accident, which in turn made him reconnect to his original Jewish faith. He has donated to several non-profit organizations and plans on giving away most of his net worth. He suffered a stroke in 1996 which temporarily impaired his ability to speak. He slowly recovered. As of 2016, he became a centenarian. He blogs, originally starting on MySpace. As of 2008, he was recognized to be the oldest living celebrity blogger in existence.