On December 9, Kirk Douglas turns 100. Let’s cheer him on that week with a look at some of his finest work.
Born Issur Danielovitch Demsky, a self-described “ragman’s son” (as he titled his first autobiography), Douglas worked in the theater and served in the wartime Navy before he made his film debut in the 1946 film The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. His lead performance as an unscrupulous boxer in Champion in 1949 earned him his first Oscar nomination, and it also made him a star. In 1955 he formed Bryna Productions to achieve more control over his work, and as executive producer of Spartacus he helped “break” the Hollywood Blacklist by publicly crediting Dalton Trumbo for its screenplay.
Douglas received three Oscar nominations for his performances, and he received an honorary Oscar in 1996, walking and talking on stage only two months after a debilitating stroke. Always proud of his physical versatility, Douglas continued to write and perform and never retired. From film noir, through action spectacles, to films that tackle challenging subject matter, Kirk Douglas remains a true original and one of the last of a breed of Hollywood star.