In Memoriam: Kirk Douglas, Golden Globe Winner, 1916-2020

by Ana Maria Bahiana February 5, 2020
Kirk Douglas and his Golden Globe for Lust For Life, 1958

With his Best Actor-Drama Golden Globe for Lust For Life, 1957.

bettman/getty images

Kirk Douglas, Golden Globe winner, multiple Golden Globe nominee, Cecil B. deMille Award recipient and a giant of the Golden Age of Hollywood,  has died. He was 103. On a note in social media, his son Michael Douglas announced his passing  “with tremendous sadness”. He added: “To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

Actor, producer, and father to a lineage of filmmakers – his sons, actor, and producer Michael Douglas, and producers Joel and Peter Douglas, and grandson Cameron Douglas – Kirk Douglas left a large footprint on the history of American cinema. Born Issur Danielovicth in Amsterdam, New York, in a family of Russian Jewish immigrants of meager means, Douglas has always dreamed of being an actor. He worked odd jobs throughout his adolescence and, thanks to scholarships, he got himself into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After a brief stint in the theater, he signed up for the Navy during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1944. On a referral from AADA colleague Lauren Bacall, Douglas got his first part in movies – a small role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, starring Barbara Stanwyck.

His long and distinguished career covers classics like Lust for Life (which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama in 1957), Gunfight in the OK Corrall, Exodus, Seven Days in May and Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory. His next partnership with Kubrick was a landmark – Spartacus, that Douglas produced and starred in, and that virtually put an end to the backlist, openly featuring the name of (until then blacklisted) Dalton Trumbo as the author of the screenplay.

An active humanitarian, Douglas launched the Douglas Foundation in 1964, which, among others, installed 240 playgrounds throughout Southern California and created the Anne Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission.

In a press conference with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1988, when his autobiography "The Ragman’s Son" came out, Douglas said: “I’ve said to my kids, my four boys: You haven’t had my advantages. Because I had the advantage of coming from abject poverty. I had to go nowhere but up.”

More Kirk Douglas here.