10 things to know about Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas

One of the last living actors of the industry's 'Golden Age', the 103-year-old Douglas was hardworking and charitable

Dannie Higginbotham |

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Screen legend Kirk Douglas, pictured here in the 1960 movie 'Spartacus", died at the age of 103.

Hollywood is mourning the loss of Kirk Douglas, one of the most famous actors of his time, who was known for his perseverance and charity. If he sounds unfamiliar to you, here are 10 things that will help you learn a little more about the man behind the legend:

1. He was one of the last living actors of Hollywood's 'Golden Age', the time from the silent movie era to the 1960s, when movies were still new and the film industry was just developing. Other famous actors during this time were Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Charlie Chaplin.

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2. His real name was Issur Danielovitch and his parents were Russian Jewish immigrants in New York. His family first changed their surname to Demsky and he changed his first name to Isadore. It was common for immigrants to change their name, especially if they were Jewish, as Jews faced a lot of discrimination in the US at this time. He changed his name to Kirk Douglas when he began acting.

Kirk (sitting) and his son Michael at Kirk's Hollywood Walk of Fame star presentation in 2018.
Photo: Shutterstock

3. He was in the Navy during WWII and trained in antisubmarine warfare. He was injured in an accidential explosion in 1944, and went back to New York before he decided to try his luck in Hollywood.

4. He received his first Oscar nomination in 1949 for the film Champion, in which he played a boxer who does anything he can to succeed. He would never receive a competitive Oscar, but did earn the lifetime achievement award nearly 50 years later.

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5. Douglas is perhaps most famous for his role in Spartacus, directed by the infamous Stanley Kubrick, which told the story of a slave revolt in Ancient Rome. The film won four Academy Awards and held the record as the biggest moneymaker for the film studio, Universal Studios, for the next 10 years. In 2017, the film was preserved in the United States National Film registry for its cultural significance. You may recognise it from its famous line, "I'm Spartacus!

6. In 1991, Douglas was injured in a helicopter crash when it collided into a small airplane; two other passengers onboard died. His near-death experience made him turn to religion and he began to embrace his Jewish faith, after he surpressed it for years because of discrimination.

7. As of 2008, he was the oldest celebrity blogger in the world. He started blogging on social media site Myspace and moved on to the online news site The Huffington Post.

8. Douglas and his wife, Anne, were known for their charitable work. They funded over 400 playgrounds in Los Angeles and opened a centre for homeless women with addictions. On his 99th birthday, he and his wife donated US$15 million for a facility to help people in the movie industry with Alzheimer's disease.

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9. He played a huge role in ending the Hollywood blacklist, a time during the Cold War in which people suspected of being Communist sympathisers were denied jobs. He hired a writer called Dalton Trumbo to work on Spartacus, even though he was on the blacklist, and even used his real name in the credits - which was a big deal at the time.

10. His son Michael Douglas is also a famous actor. He's starred in some movies you may know, like Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame