Nationality: American. Born: Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York, 9 December 1916. Education: Attended St. Lawrence University, 1935–39, B.A.; American Academy of Dramatic Art, 1939–41. Military Service: 1943–44—served as lieutenant in U.S. Navy. Family: Married 1) Diana Dill, 1943 (divorced 1951), sons:
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Milestone) (as Walter O'Neil)
Mourning Becomes Electra (Nichols) (as Peter Niles); Out of the Past ( Build My Gallows High ) (J. Tourneur) (as Whit); I Walk Alone (Haskin) (as Noll Turner)
The Walls of Jericho (Stahl) (as Tucker Wedge); My Dear Secretary (Martin) (as Owen Waterbury); A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz) (as George Phipps)
Champion (Robson) (as Midge Kelly)
Young Man with a Horn ( Young Man of Music ) (Curtiz) (as Rick Martin); The Glass Menagerie (Rapper) (as Jim O'Connor)
Along the Great Divide (Walsh) (as U.S. Marshal Clint Merrick); The Big Carnival ( Ace in the Hole ) (Wilder) (as Charles Tatum); Detective Story (Wyler) (as Jim McLeod)
The Big Trees (Feist) (as Jim Fallon); The Big Sky (Hawks) (as Deakins); The Bad and the Beautiful (Minnelli) (as Jonathan Shields)
"Equilibrium" ep. of The Story of Three Loves (G. Reinhardt) (as Pierre Narval); The Juggler (Dmytryk) (as Hans Muller); Act of Love ( Un Acte d'amour ) (Litvak) (as Robert Teller)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (Fleischer) (as Ned Land); Ulisse ( Ulysses ) (Camerini) (title role)
The Racers ( Such Men Are Dangerous ) (Hathaway) (as Gino); Man without a Star (King Vidor) (as Dempsey Rae); The Indian Fighter (de Toth) (as Johnny Hawks)
Lust for Life (Minnelli) (as Vincent Van Gogh)
Top Secret Affair ( Their Secret Affair ) (Potter) (as Major General Melville Goodwin); Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (John Sturges) (as Doc Holliday); Paths of Glory (Kubrick) (as Colonel Dax)
The Vikings (Fleischer) (as Einer)
Last Train from Gun Hill (John Sturges) (as Matt Morgan); The Devil's Disciple (Hamilton) (as Richard Dudgeon)
Strangers When We Meet (Quine) (as Larry Coe); Spartacus (Kubrick) (title role, + exec pr)
The Last Sunset (Aldrich) (as Brendan O'Malley); Town without Pity (G. Reinhardt) (as Major Steve Garrett)
Lonely Are the Brave (D. Miller) (as Jack Burns); Two Weeks in Another Town (Minnelli) (as Jack Andrus)
The Hook (Seaton) (as First Sergeant P. J. Briscoe); For Love or Money (Gordon) (as Deke Gentry); The List of Adrian Messenger (Huston) (as George Brougham)
Seven Days in May (Frankenheimer) (as Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey)
In Harm's Way (Preminger) (as Commander Paul Eddington); The Heroes of Telemark (Anthony Mann) (as Dr. Rolf Pedersen)
Cast a Giant Shadow (Shavelson) (as David "Mickey" Marcus); Paris brûle-t-il? ( Is Paris Burning? ) (Clément) (as General George Patton)
The Way West (McLagen) (as Senator William J. Tadlock); The War Wagon (Kennedy) (as Lomax)
A Lovely Way to Die ( A Lovely Way to Go ) (Rich) (as Jim Schuyler)
The Brotherhood (Ritt) (as Frank Ginetta, + pr); The Arrangement (Kazan) (as Eddie Anderson); French Lunch (Cox—short)
There Was a Crooked Man (Mankiewicz) (as Paris Pitman Jr.)
A Gunfight (Johnson) (as Will Tenneray); La luz del fin del mondo ( The Light at the Edge of the World ) (Billington) (as Denton, + pr); Catch Me a Spy (D. Clement) (as Andre)
Un uomo da rispettare ( The Master Touch ; Hearts and Minds ; A Man to Respect ) (Lupo) (as Wallace); Mousey ( Cat and Mouse ) (Petrie) (as George Anderson)
Once Is Not Enough (Green) (as Mike Wayne)
Victory at Entebbe (Chomsky—for TV) (as Hershel Vilnovsky)
The Fury (De Palma) (as Peter); The Chosen (De Martino) (as Caine)
The Villain (Needham) (as Cactus Jack)
The Final Countdown (Don Taylor) (as Capt. Matthew Yelland); Saturn Three (Donen) (as Adam); Home Movies (De Palma) (as Dr. Tuttle)
La Luz del Fin del Mundo (Billington) (+ pr)
Remembrance of Love (Smight—for TV); The Man from Snowy River (George Miller) (as Spur)
Eddie Macon's Run (Haley and Rauch) (as Marzack)
Draw! (Stern—for TV) (as Harry H. Holland)
Amos (Tuchner—for TV) (as Amos Lacher)
Tough Guys (Kanew) (as Archie Long)
Inherit the Wind (Greene—for TV) (as William Jennings Bryan)
Oscar (Landis) (as Snaps's father); Bienvenido a Veraz ( Welcome to Veraz ) (Xavier Castano) (as Quentin)
The Secret (Arthur—for TV) (as Mike Dunmore)
Greedy (Lynn) (as Uncle Joe McTeague); Take Me Home Again (for TV) (as Ed Reece)
Diamonds (Asher) (as Harry)
Scalawag (+ ro)
Posse (+ ro, pr)
Summertree (Newley and Record) (pr)
The Ragman's Son: An Autobiography , New York, 1988.
Dance with the Devil (novel), New York, 1990.
The Gift (novel), New York, 1992.
Last Tango in Brooklyn (novel), New York, 1994.
Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning (biography), New York, 1997.
Interview in Films and Filming (London), September 1972.
"Kirk Douglas: All American Boy," interview with K. Kelly, in Inter/View (New York), January 1974.
Interviews in Ciné Revue (Paris), 12 July and 27 September 1984.
McBride, Joseph, Kirk Douglas , New York, 1976.
Parish, James, The Tough Guys , New Rochelle, New York, 1976.
Lacourbe, Roland, Kirk Douglas , Paris, 1980.
Farber, Stephen, and Marc Green, Hollywood Dynasties , New York, 1984.
Munn, Michael, Kirk Douglas , New York, 1985.
Kaye, Annene, and Jim Sclavunos, Michael Douglas and the Douglas Clan , London, 1989.
Thomas, Tony, The Films of Kirk Douglas , New York, 1991.
Press, Skip, Michael and Kirk Douglas , New York, 1995.
Current Biography 1952 , New York, 1952.
Meisel, Myron, "Kirk Douglas: Last Angry Man" in Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book , edited by Danny Peary, New York, 1978.
Ebert, Robert, "Kirk Douglas," in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Lantos, J., "The Last Waltz," in American Film (New York), October 1986.
Hibbin, S., "Tough Guy," in Films and Filming (London), April 1987.
Buckley, Michael, "Kirk Douglas" (in 2 parts), in Films in Review (New York), vol. 40, nos. 8/9 and 10, 1989.
Thompson, F., "A Man Cut for the Screen," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), March 1991.
Radio Times (London), 15 January 1994./p>
* * *
Now approaching his sixth decade of movie stardom, Kirk Douglas has played lead roles in the vast majority of the 70-odd films he has made. His screen persona has been characterized by resoluteness and ferocity, the typical ingredients of his steadfast, driven heroes, and occasionally the psychological foundation for his formidable and relentless villains. These variations on a theme of perseverance have pleased audiences who have come to know the Douglas face as a movie icon—eyes blazing with anger or resistance, teeth clenched in determination, a distinctive cleft in his firmly planted chin.
Following a brief Broadway career and Navy service during World War II, Douglas made his movie debut in a supporting role as the ineffectual district attorney husband of Barbara Stanwyck in Lewis Milestone's melodrama The Strange Love of Martha Ivers . After appearing in another half-dozen features, Douglas earned major stardom as an unscrupulous boxer who punches and claws his way to the top in Mark Robson's Champion , a performance which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
The next few years saw him star in a series of exceptional films by front-rank directors, including Michael Curtiz's Young Man with a Horn , Raoul Walsh's Along the Great Divide , Billy Wilder's The Big Carnival , William Wyler's Detective Story , Howard Hawks's The Big Sky , Vincente Minnelli's The Bad and the Beautiful , and King Vidor's Man without a Star . This series of memorable, strong-willed protagonists fixed the Douglas image firmly in the public's consciousness.
The actor's intense portrayal of the tormented Vincent van Gogh in Minnelli's Lust for Life was followed by that of an idealistic French officer fighting a corrupt military bureaucracy during World War I in Stanley Kubrick's powerful antiwar film Paths of Glory . Three years later, he again starred for Kubrick in the historical epic Spartacus as a slave who leads an insurrection against the powerful and oppressive leaders of Imperial Rome. In both Kubrick films, Douglas plays a strong-willed, noble leader who suffers an unjust defeat.
Although the 1950s was his most accomplished decade, Douglas continued to star as a rugged individual in respectable, entertaining movies in the 1960s, including David Miller's Lonely Are the Brave , Minnelli's Two Weeks in Another Town , and John Frankenheimer's Seven Days in May . Nevertheless, many of his film projects of that era—including some through the auspices of Bryna Productions, his own production company—were of mediocre quality.
At the end of the 1960s, Douglas starred in what he has referred to as a trilogy: Martin Ritt's The Brotherhood (as a Mafia leader), Elia Kazan's The Arrangement (as an advertising executive), and JosephL. Mankiewicz's There Was a Crooked Man (as a prison inmate obsessed with escaping). The films were of wildly uneven quality, to be sure, but they served as evidence that Douglas, fast approaching 60, remained a sturdy, effective leading man.
None of his theatrical films since then has made such a strong impact, although as a canny veteran actor Douglas remains a convincing and watchable presence, effortlessly communicating resolve and urgency. Among his better late-career credits are Tough Guys , in which he was cast one final time with longtime friend and frequent co-star Burt Lancaster; the television movie Remembrance of Love , portraying a concentration camp survivor who has an emotional reunion with a woman he had loved decades earlier, in the Warsaw Ghetto; and another television movie, Amos , in which he played an elderly man living against his will in a nursing home.
Finally, in his seventies, Douglas has launched a new career as a writer. In 1988, he published his autobiography, The Ragman's Son , and since has written several novels.
—Bill Wine, updated by Audrey E. Kupferberg