Kirk Douglas @ 95

The DailyKirk Douglas

Issur Danielovitch Demsky was to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents in Amsterdam, New York, on this day in 1916 and, to celebrate, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Telegraph have posted photo galleries. Both are fine as these things go, but not nearly as much fun as Douglas's own official site, which greets you with a clip (you know which one) from Kubrick's Spartacus (1960).

It was while serving in the US Navy during World War II that Izzy Demsky changed his name to Kirk Douglas, by which time he'd already made a name for himself as a champion wrestler and as a performer in plays at Saint Lawrence University in upstate New York. He'd attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, where he met Betty Joan Perske (later to become better known as Lauren Bacall), who'd eventually score him a screen test for his first film role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, starring Barbara Stanwyck.

Kirk Douglas

Among the most notable roles in an outstanding career stretching over more than 90 films: Michael "Midge" Kelly in Mark Robson's Champion (1949), newspaper reporter Chuck Tatum in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951), film producer Jonathan Shields in Vincente Minnelli's The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Vincent Van Gogh in Minnelli's Lust for Life (1956) and Colonel Dax in Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957).

It's noted in his Wikipedia entry (where you can also take a look at one of filmdom's most fruitful family trees) that "Douglas made seven films over the decades with Burt Lancaster; I Walk Alone (1948), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Devil's Disciple (1959), The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), Seven Days in May (1964), Victory at Entebbe (1976) and Tough Guys (1986), which fixed the notion of the pair as something of a team in the public imagination."

Douglas has been nominated three times for a Best Actor Oscar and finally received an Honorary one in 1995, four years after accepting the AFI Life Achievement Award.

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  • Stu Witmer

    Excellent story.
    “I am Izzy Demsky!”

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