Kirk Douglas was a well-known actor of the twentieth century. The New York native had a tough background, but despite others’ attempts to tear him down, he never gave up and pursued his career uniquely.
Douglas died in February 2020 at 103, but his memories will live on. He raised a gorgeous family and returned favors to people who supported him as he climbed to stardom as an actor and worked alongside some of the best.
Kirk Douglas had acquired quite a wealth by the time he died. According to rumors, none of his children, including actor Michael Douglas, received a penny. Why? Everything you need to know is right here.
Douglas grew up as the sole son of Russian Jewish immigrants in a large family of seven children. Douglas had a rough time growing up. He stated that his family was the poorest household on a “block of impoverished persons,” where they resided in an unheated clapboard house.
Kirk Douglas’ father, Hershel Douglas, became a junk trader. He couldn’t work at the neighboring mills because he was Jewish.
“Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest portion of town, where all the families were struggling,” Mr. Douglas wrote in his best-selling autobiography. “And I was the son of a ragman.”
When the family ran out of food, Douglas would steal from his neighbors or even vegetable stalls.
Growing up in Amsterdam, New York, means “living in the East End, the other side of town from the rich people on Market Hill,” he explained in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. It meant living at 46 Eagle Street, a dilapidated two-story gray clapboard house at the bottom of a sloping street near factories, train tracks, and the Mohawk River.”
Kirk Douglas was constantly mocked and sometimes attacked by neighborhood gangs because he was Jewish. On the other hand, Douglas was unimpressed by it and instead worked hard to support his family and improve his life.
He estimated he had 40 jobs, ranging from dishwasher to newspaper boy.
“I was also a hard worker. I’d make up jobs, like selling Coke and sweets to mill workers at the end of our street. Amsterdam was one of the country’s largest mill towns. There were plenty of factories but no job opportunities for Jews.”
Kirk Douglas was a student at Wilbur Lynch High School, now Amsterdam High School, when he first became interested in theater. He participated in various theatrical events, gained support from his English instructor, Louise Livingston, and was introduced to the world of poetry.
“If I had ever professed to enjoy poetry or declared out loud, ‘I want to be a great actor,’ I would have been kicked out of town.” “I saved every dime and sent away for college and theater school catalogs because of her,” Douglas recalled.
“When Mrs. Livingston entered the classroom, she appeared cool and detached. She never raised her soft-spoken voice. Only when she read poetry did she feel anything. She thought I was fantastic. She supported and encouraged me after school. “What a gleam in her eyes as she read poem after poetry with me by her side.”
Despite his best efforts, Kirk Douglas could not save enough money for his tuition. He boldly chose to hitchhike 200 miles to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
Douglas was carrying all his high school awards, transcripts, poetry, and a letter of reference from his teacher, Mrs. Livingston. After arranging a meeting with the faculty dean, he persuaded him to offer him a scholarship.
Throughout the summer, Kirk worked as an actor at the Tamarack Playhouse on Lake Pleasant. And it was then that he chose the name, Kirk Douglas.
“One day, some friends recommended that I change my name to something more American. “Someone recommended Douglas,” he recalled. “It took a little longer for me to get my new first name. Kirk, someone finally said. My new name sounded strong and macho.”
Douglas honed his acting craft, landing his first Broadway role in the musical Spring Again in 1941. He continued to get more Broadway jobs, but before his big break, international events changed everything.
When World War II broke out, Kirk Douglas immediately chose to enlist. He felt “a wave of patriotism and a wave of Jewishness.” He planned to join the Army as a pilot, but instead, he worked as a communication officer on a submarine.
However, Kirk Douglas was injured after an accident on one of the submarines in 1943. He was released from the Navy as a junior-grade lieutenant after being diagnosed with amoebic dysentery.
He returned to the United States and resumed his career in show business. However, due to an illness, his singing voice was ruined, perhaps ending Kirk Douglas’ career. But, as we all know, it didn’t happen. A Hollywood producer called Hal Willis watched him perform at one of his performances and cast him in his 1946 picture The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers.
Kirk Douglas never looked back after that, and he became a Hollywood legend. Three years later, he made his big break as boxer Midge Kelly in the 1949 picture Boxer. It gave him his first nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the Academy Awards.
All his sons became actors, with Michael Douglas becoming the most successful. The two-time Academy Award winner appeared in films such as Wall Street, for which he earned an Oscar for his performance as Gordon Gecko, Falling Down, and Wonder Boys.
Their relationship did not improve as the picture went on to sweep the Academy Awards, with producer Michael Douglas winning Best Picture and Jack Nicholson winning Best Actor for his performance.
Kirk Douglas starred as Spartacus in the 1960 film, which became one of his true classics. Despite not receiving an Oscar, the film won four Academy Awards, propelling Kirk to the top of the Hollywood food chain.
Douglas appeared in almost 90 Hollywood pictures during his career. His most recent appearance was in the 2008 television film Empire State Building Murders.
Kirk Douglas was a true cinematic star from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Unfortunately, he died on February 5, 2020, at 103.
Kirk Douglas was worth an estimated $61 million at his death. However, his son Michael Douglas and the rest of his family received no monetary compensation because he left a lifetime of donations to various charities.
Douglas donated $50 million to St. Lawrence University, which he attended as a child. Many funds were also distributed to the Sinai Temple of Westwood, the Kirk Douglas Theatre, and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
Kirk and Anne have donated to the institutions listed above through the Douglas Foundation. According to its website, the foundation’s mission is “to assist people who cannot otherwise assist themselves.”
Michael Douglas will not receive any monetary inheritance from his father. At the same time, he won’t need it because he’s estimated to be worth $300 million.
Michael complimented his father’s caring and charitable nature despite their earlier disagreements at his death.
“Kirk’s life was well-lived, and he leaves a legacy in the film that will be remembered for centuries to come, as well as a history as a recognized philanthropist who fought to help the people and bring peace to the world,” Michael Douglas said in a statement.
Kirk Douglas overcame a difficult background to carve his route to becoming a Hollywood movie star of the Golden Age. May his soul rest in peace.
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