Douglas, Kirk

Douglas, Kirk, 1916–2020, American film actor, b. Amsterdam, N.Y., as Issur Danielovitch, later Isadore Demsky. A leading man with a muscular physique and handsome cleft-chin face that made him a natural for tough, hard-edged roles, he had his first star turn as an intense, amoral boxer in Champion (1949). Subsequent noteworthy performances include a jazz musician in Young Man with a Horn (1950), a hard-nosed cop in William Wyler's Detective Story (1951), an unscrupulous movie producer in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), an intense portrayal of painter Vincent van Gogh in Vincent Minnelli's Lust for Life (1956), and a French colonel in Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957). Other important films were Spartacus (1960), based on a novel by Howard Fast, Seven Days in May (1964), and In Harm's Way (1965). Later films were of lesser importance. Douglas was awarded an Acadamy Award for lifetime achievement in 1996, among other honors. He wrote an autobiography (1988), several memoirs including one on making Spartacus (2012), three novels, and other books.

See biographies by J. McBride (1978) and M. Eliot (2012); T. Thomas, The Films of Kirk Douglas (upd. ed. 2000).

His son, Michael Douglas, 1944–, b. New Brunswick, N.J., is an actor, producer, and director. Films in which he starred are The China Syndrome (1987, Academy Award), Romancing the Stone (1984), Fatal Attraction (1987), Wall Street (1987), War of the Roses (1989), Basic Instinct (1992), The American President (1995), Wonder Boys (2000), and Traffic (2000). He has also appeared in a number of television shows and series, winning an Emmy for Behind the Candelabra (2013).

J. Parker, Michael Douglas: Acting on Instinct (2d ed. 2011); biography by M. Eliot (2013).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Film and Television: Biographies