Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Kirk Douglas; Actor, Producer, Author and Palm Springs Resident

Kirk Douglas

Recently I watched the movie Spartacus. The film was produced by the Kirk Douglas owned company Bryna Productions. Kirk Douglas, the actor, led the all-star cast in this epic, on-screen, drama of 1960. The movie, Spartacus, was nominated for several Academy Awards and won four Academy Awards.

Kirk Douglas is a very famous American stage and film actor, and also producer and author. He was especially popular during the 1950s and the 1960s. Kirk has starred in several movies throughout the years including Spartacus, Champion, Leagues Under The Sea, 20,000, and Lust For Life just among others.

Born on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York, Kirk was born under the real name Issur Danielovitch. His parents were Harry and Bertha Danielovitch, who were both Jewish immigrants from Russia.

When Kirk was still young, he would often sell snacks to workers in the mill in order to help out his father. He would also deliver newspapers then he worked at many more other jobs before he finally became an actor.  During World War II, before entering the navy, Kirk “Issur Danielovitch” changed his name legally to Kirk Douglas.

In New York City, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts noticed Kirk’s talent and granted him a scholarship. He met Diana Dill, whom he would later marry. After graduating from drama school, Kirk debuted as an actor in Broadway in Spring Again. Then, Kirk went to war in 1941 and in 1944 he came back to New York after being discharged medically for war injuries. He then spent a lot of time working in theatre, as well as radio and commercials. Kirk’s big break on stage came in Kiss and Tell, which helped him land many other roles.

A famous actress/model named Lauren Bacall–who was also Kirk’s former classmate in drama school–helped Kirk get a role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. In the drama, Kirk portrayed a weak man whom a ruthless woman controlled and dominated. After that, Kirk began working on films more than he did on theatre plays. Later, Kirk would leave theatre for the meantime to focus his talents on movies.

Unlike Kirk’s first starring role in The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers, Kirk’s film roles established an image of him being “the tough guy”. The image started in 1949 when Kirk played a selfish boxer in the film Champion. After his role in Champion, Kirk would always play "sons of bitches" roles.

Kirk knew that in order to properly succeed as a stage or film actor, he first had to overcome his shyness and also to choose stronger roles. Later, Kirk formed Byrna Productions, his own movie company even if it meant bringing his studio contracts to a halt so that he could more freely choose his projects. In 1949, after many years, Kirk came back to theater in the play called Three Sisters.

Through the 1950s and the 1960s, Kirk was a major big box office star playing alongside the most popular actresses of that time. After his role in Along The Great Divide (as a frontier peace officer), Kirk became especially in to western films. He also loved playing military men.

Kirk was nominated for 3 Academy Awards for his exceptional acting roles in Bad and Beautiful, Lust for Life, and Champion. Although he might not have won in these nominations, Kirk was nonetheless awarded by the Academy in 1996 with the ever prestigious “Honorary Award”.

People knew Kirk for his great artistic talents and movies, but only very few people know other significant things about him:

  Kirk was a Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970 and President of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980.
  President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.
  Kirk speaks French and German.
  He had celebrated his Bar Mitzvah twice—the first time when he was 13, and then again seventy years later.
  In 1991 Kirk survived a helicopter crash, leaving him with a back injury.
  He underwent speech therapy after suffering from a stroke in 1995 as the illness made it difficult for him to articulate.
  In many of his films he wore lifts in order to make him look taller than he is.
  He had turned down 2 Oscar-winning roles in the films Stalag 17 and Cat Ballou.
  He earned $50,000 dollars just for saying "Coffee", the only English word at the end of an 80s Japanese television commercial.
  He is father-in-law to Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Also, Kirk Dougles is at the same time a writer who has written myriads of books throughout his lifetime. In 1986 he published Wisdom Of The Elders, his first book, and then after its release, he wrote even more books.

His other books include I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist (2012), Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living (2012), Loving and Learning (2012), My Stroke Of Luck (2003), Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning (2001), Young Heroes of the Bible (1999), The Broken Mirror: A Novella (1997), Last Tango In Brooklyn (1994), The Gift (1992), Dance With The Devil (1990), and The Ragman's Son (1988).

Kirk had two sons–Joel and Michael—to Diane Dill, but though Kirk and Diane were happily married for 8 years, in 1951they separated and filed for divorce. Three years later, Kirk married Anne Buydens, with whom he also had two sons—Eric and Peter. His son Eric died in year 2004.

Kirk is father-in-law to actress Catherine Zeta-Jones through Kirk’s son Michael Douglas, who married Catherine in 2000.

For a few years Kirk lived in Palm Springs, the famous celebrity-packed neighborhood in California. Kirk’s first Palm Springs home was  known as the “Tachevah Vista”, and to be exact, its address is 1069 East Marshall Way in the legendary neighborhood, Movie Colony. He had lived in this home since 1955 when it was still brand new but after 2 years he moved to Las Palmas. The 2,095 square feet home sat on a 11,326 square feet lot and has 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a pool.

Kirk Douglas’ second Palm Springs home is located at 515 Via Lola in Old Las Palmas. He had lived here for over 40 years now. The house was 3,790 square foot, and sat on a 3/4 acres of land. It has 5 bedrooms and 5 baths. Richard Harrison and Donald Wexler, widely renowned architects in Palm Springs, had designed it in 1954.

Kirk has exhibited his great charismatic personality and immense talent all his years in the many movies of his that people still watch and enjoy today.  As of date the Empire State Building Murders was his last movie which premiered in year 2008.

Kirk Douglas had said this several times over the span of years: “I love Palm Springs!” He has lived in Palm Springs for quite a long time.

Kirk Douglas Way near Palm Springs International Airport was dedicated to Kirk Douglas in 2004 as a way for Palm Springs to remember and honor Kirk, the talented charismatic Hollywood writer and actor.

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