15 Fascinating Facts About Kirk Douglas on His 101st Birthday
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.
7. In 1955, Douglas, ahead of his time, established his own production company—a common practice among actors today. He named the company Bryna Productions after his beloved mother.
8. Like many actors, Douglas turned down multiple roles in various films, some of which he’d later regret. Two of those roles were Kid Shelleen in Cat Ballou and Sgt. J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17. Incidentally, it worked out well for the actors who went on to play those parts—Lee Marvin and William Holden, respectively—as they both eventually won Oscars for the roles.
9. Douglas purchased the film rights to One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest after a successful turn in the stage production. He never managed to bring the story to the big screen, however, and so he turned it over to his son Michael, who eventually produced the famous movie version starring Jack Nicholson.
10. Talk about an easy payday! In 1980 a Japanese company paid Douglas $50,000 to say the word “coffee” in a TV commercial.
11. Kirk Douglas’ father never acknowledged his son’s success. His wife Anne noted, “He was reared by his mother and his sisters and as a schoolboy he had to work to help support the family. I think part of Kirk’s life has been a monstrous effort to prove himself and gain recognition in the eyes of his father…Not even four years of psychoanalysis could alter the drives that began as a desire to prove himself.”