From famed big screen tough guy to the patriarch of a Hollywood family to centenarian, the road to 101 wasn't always easy for Kirk Douglas.
Growing up poor as the child of Russian immigrants, Douglas' combination of work ethic, talent, the ability to hustle and an undeniable resiliency got him through everything from the rigours of Tinsletown to a helicopter crash and stroke that both nearly claimed his life.
Much has been written about the movie legend, from his turns in classics like Spartacus and Champion to his role in ending the Hollywood blacklist (the accuracy of which, for the record, had been disputed by those involved at the time).
But what about some of the lesser-known, yet equally fascinating, moments that occurred throughout his 100 years—like the time his wife, Anne, saved his life, or the Oscar-winning roles he turned down, or the fact that, not only is he a Hollywood trailblazer, but he's also the oldest celebrity blogger in the world?
As Kirk Douglas celebrates his 101st birthday (December 9, 2017), we mark the occasion with 15 things you might not know about the centenarian star.
1. At a time, early in life, when most of us are barely out of diapers, Kirk Douglas was plotting his career path. He wrote once that, "I wanted to be an actor since I stepped in front of an audience to recite [the poem] The Red Robin of Spring when I was in kindergarten. Something happened when I heard applause. I loved it. I still do."
2. Douglas celebrated two Bar Mitzvahs. He had his first at age 13 and the second at 83—at which time he re-dedicated himself to his faith after decades of suppressing it.
3. As an aspiring actor, Douglas scored himself a scholarship to New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts, which he attended alongside Betty Joan Perske and Diana Dill. Perske later changed her name to Lauren Bacall, while Dill became Douglas' first wife and mother to their two sons, including Michael Douglas. Meanwhile, Douglas supported himself while in school with a waiter job at the restaurant chain Schrafft's on Broadway where one of his co-workers was John Forsythe.
4. Acting not only brought Douglas fame and fortune, but it also led him to his true love—or, perhaps more accurately, it led his true love to him. The actor met his second—and current—wife, Anne, in France while shooting the 1953 film Act of Love. She had come to vie for the job of his assistant.
5. Douglas' wife Anne saved his life when, in 1958, producer Michael Todd, husband of Elizabeth Taylor, asked him to fly with him to New York on his private plane. Anne begged him not to go, noting she didn't feel right about the trip. As Douglas explained to People magazine, "Mike asked me to go on his private plane with him, and we were going to stop and see Harry Truman and then go on to New York. I was very excited. When I told my wife [about the plane ride], she said, 'I don't want you to go.' We had a big argument." Later, after their spat, Douglas recalled, "We were driving and not talking to each other, so we turned the radio on." That's when they heard the news of the crash. "Why was I spared? I was so grateful. My wife has saved my life many times."
6. Kirk Douglas appeared a musical guest in a "Jam Session at Jack's" on the October 17, 1955 episode of The Jack Benny Program. You can watch his performance in this video:
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