Perhaps one of the last actors of the golden age, Kirk Douglas was a Hollywood star worthy of the title with a career spanning seven decades. Spartacus, Paths of Glory, Lust for Life, Gunfight at O.K. Corral, Kirk Douglas was a powerhouse. From humble beginnings, Douglas earned his way to fame, born Issur Danielovich Demsky to Jewish immigrants in 1916, Douglas was one of seven children. He would later go on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest names but that was never handed to Douglas on a platter. He worked to feed his family, even after his father fled, and according to his autobiography worked more than 40 jobs.
Whether it was the rebellious Spartacus, or Doc Holliday, or Colonel Dax, Douglas was always the tough guy on screen, but off the screen too Douglas really always was the tough guy. Once Douglas discovered his passion for acting, he wouldn’t let anything get in his way he very literally fought his way to Hollywood, paying for drama college by fighting professionally (a wrestling champion at the time), working as a bellhop and a car park attendant.
In order to achieve anything, you must be brave enough to fail.
Douglas was determined to succeed, attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts where he began using the name Kirk Douglas. After small roles in plays, he finally made his break in Hollywood in 1949’s Champion where he earned his first Oscar nomination. His career since then has been nothing short of remarkable, quickly becoming an icon in Hollywood. However, even after reaching his once seemingly impossible dreams Douglas’ journey would become riddled with difficulty.
The health problems began in 1986 and in 1991 Douglas was involved in a devastating helicopter crash that killed two others, however perhaps the hardest blow was in 1996 when Douglas suffered a severe stroke that permanently affected his speech. Douglas had every reason to quit. He didn’t. Douglas fought his way back, and in 1996 received an honorary Oscar for his contributions with a career spanning five decades at the time. He returned to the screen in 1999’s Diamonds at the age of 83.
Kirk Douglas was a fighter. Life put him in every situation to fail, he pushed on. He said, In order to achieve anything, you must be brave enough to fail. It’s this fearlessness, his unwavering determination and his commitment to his craft that built his mighty legacy. He may never have won an Oscar for a performance but his character stands above any award he could have won and remains an inspiration to everyone out there who dares to dream big.