Tommy Lee Jones
Date of Birth
9 December 1916, Amsterdam, New York, USA
Issur Danielovitch Demsky
5' 9" (1.75 m)
Cleft-chinned, steely-eyed and virile star of international cinema who rose from being "the ragman's son" (the name give to his best-selling 1988 autobiography) of Russian-Jewish ancestry to become a bona fide superstar, Kirk Douglas, also known as Issur Danielovitch Demsky, was born in Amsterdam, New York, in 1916. Although growing up in a poor ghetto, Douglas was a fine student and a keen athlete and wrestled competitively during his time at St. Lawrence University. However, he soon identified an acting scholarship as a way out of his meager existence, and was sufficiently talented to gain entry into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
He only appeared in a handful of minor Broadway productions before joining the US Navy in 1941, and then after the end of hostilities in 1945, returned to the theater and some radio work. On the insistence of ex-classmate Lauren Bacall movie producer Hal B. Wallis screen-tested Douglas and cast him in the lead role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). His performance received rave reviews and further work quickly followed, including an appearance in the low-key drama I Walk Alone (1948), the first time he worked alongside fellow future screen legend Burt Lancaster.
Such was the strong chemistry between the two that they appeared in seven films together, including the dynamic western Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), the John Frankenheimer political thriller Seven Days in May (1964) and their final pairing in the gangster comedy Tough Guys (1986). Douglas once said about his good friend: "I've finally gotten away from Burt Lancaster. My luck has changed for the better. I've got nice-looking girls in my films now".
After appearing in "I Walk Alone", Douglas scored his first Oscar nomination playing the untrustworthy and opportunistic boxer Midge Kelly in the gripping Champion (1949). The quality of his work continued to garner the attention of critics and he was again nominated for Oscars for his role as a film producer in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and as tortured painter Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956), both directed by Vincente Minnelli. In 1955 Douglas launched his own production company, Bryna Productions, the company behind two pivotal film roles in his career. The first was as French army officer Col.
Dax in director Stanley Kubrick's brilliant anti-war epic Paths of Glory (1957). Douglas reunited with Kubrick for yet another epic, the magnificent Spartacus (1960). The film also marked a key turning point in the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy "Red Scare" hysteria in the 1950s. At Douglas' insistence Trumbo was given on-screen credit for his contributions, which began the dissolution of the infamous blacklisting policies begun almost a decade previously that had destroyed so many careers and lives.
Douglas remained busy throughout the 1960s, starring in many films,. He played a rebellious modern-day cowboy in Lonely Are the Brave (1962), acted alongside John Wayne in the World War II story In Harm's Way (1965), again with The Duke in a drama about the Israeli fight for independence, Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), and once more with Wayne in the tongue-in-cheek western The War Wagon (1967). Additionally, in 1963 he starred in an onstage production of Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", but despite his keen interest, no Hollywood studio could be convinced to bring the story to the screen. However, the rights remained with the Douglas clan, and Kirk's talented son Michael Douglas finally filmed the tale in 1975, starring Jack Nicholson. Into the 1970s Douglas wasn't as busy as previous years; however, he starred in some unusual vehicles, including alongside a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in the loopy western comedy The Villain (1979), then with Farrah Fawcett in the sci-fi thriller Saturn 3 (1980) and then he traveled to Australia for the horse opera/drama The Man from Snowy River (1982).
Unknown to many, Kirk has long been involved in humanitarian causes and has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the US State Department since 1963. His efforts were rewarded in 1981 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1983 with the Jefferson Award. Furthermore, the French honored him with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. More recognition followed for his work with the American Cinema Award (1987), the German Golden Kamera Award (1987), The National Board of Reviews Career Achievement Award (1989), an honorary Academy Award (1995), Recipient of the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award (1999) and the UCLA Medal of Honor (2002). Despite a helicopter crash and a stroke suffered in the 1990s, he remains active and continues to appear in front of the camera.
Anne Douglas (29 May 1954 - present) two children
Diana Douglas (2 November 1943 - 23 February 1951) (divorced) 2 children
Frequently played manipulative, angry and often cruel leading characters that bordered on unsympathetic but were always compelling
Recipient of American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement award, with screening of 16 his films, Decemer 1999.
Ranked #53 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list, October 1997.
Born Issur Danielovitch to father Jacob Danielovitch, and mother Bryna, from Russia, who came to America in 1912.
Suffered a stroke in 1995 that made it very difficult for him to talk. Speech therapy over the years alleviated the problem greatly.
Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter on 17th January 1981. This is the highest US honor a civilian can receive.
Turned down two Oscar-winning roles: Lee Marvin's in Cat Ballou (1965) and William Holden's in Stalag 17 (1953).
Father of 4 sons: Michael Douglas, Eric Douglas, Joel Douglas and Peter Douglas.
Earned $50,000 for saying the only English word at the end of a 1980s Japanese TV commercial: "Coffee".
Speaks German (fluently, but not accent-free) and also French.
Survived a helicopter crash on 23 February 1991 in which two people were killed. He was left with a debilitating back injury.
Kirk has celebrated his Bar Mitzvah twice. Once, obviously, when he was 13 years old and the other time when he was 83 years old.
President Class Of 1939, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. Graduated with a degree in English.
Received a UCLA Medal of honor 14 June 2002 from the University of California, Los Angeles, during school's graduation ceremony for theater, film and television students. Previous recipients include former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and actors Laurence Olivier and Carol Burnett.
Granddaughter Carys Zeta Douglas born April 21, 2003.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1984.
Father-in-law of Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Was originally cast to play Col. Sam Trautman in First Blood (1982), but walked out on the project. Douglas wanted substantial changes made to the script, specifically that John Rambo die at the hands of Trautman, like the character did in the novel. The writers held their ground and refused. Richard Crenna was eventually cast in the role.
He was voted the 36th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
He wore lifts in many of his films, which made him appear about 5' 11" or 6 feet on screen. Once, as a prank, Burt Lancaster found Douglas's lifts on a film set and hid them from him, which allegedly infuriated the shorter actor.
Kirk had a fully Jewish upbringing, but did not practice extensively as an adult. This changed when, in his 80s, he had a second Bar Mitzvah, reaffirming his faith and causing him to practice again.
Was named #17 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute.
Had a pacemaker fitted following a heart attack in a restaurant in August 1986.
President of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980.
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970.
He and Burt Lancaster acted together in 7 movies: Victory at Entebbe (1976) (TV), Tough Guys (1986), Seven Days in May (1964), The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), I Walk Alone (1948), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) and The Devil's Disciple (1959).
He was not as good of a friend with Burt Lancaster as was often perceived. The closeness of their friendship was largely fabricated by the publicity-wise Douglas, while, in reality, Lancaster was often cruel and dismissive to Douglas.
He had both knees replaced in 2005, against the advice of his doctors. The operation was a success.
After his son Michael Douglas was fired from the stage production of the play "Summer Tree", Kirk bought the stage and film rights to the story and gave it to Michael to star in.
Grandfather of 7 children: Cameron Douglas (b. 13 December 1978), Dylan Michael Douglas (b. 8 August 2000), Carys Zeta Douglas (b. 20 April 2003) (children of his son Michael Douglas), Kelsey (b. 1992), Tyler (b. 1996), Ryan (b. 2000) and Jason (b. 2003) (children of his son Peter Douglas)
Former father-in-law of Diandra Douglas.
Appeared in a stage production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and later bought the film rights. He didn't make a movie of it and eventually turned the rights over to his son Michael Douglas, who was able to secure financing and produce the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).
If he had not heeded wife Anne Douglas's advice, he would have been on producer Michael Todd's private plane in 1958 when it crashed and killed all onboard. Todd's wife Elizabeth Taylor was also scheduled to be on the plane but canceled to to a bad cold.
Met his German wife-to-be, Anne Douglas, when she applied for a job as his assistant on the French location shoot for the movie Act of Love (1953).
He was awarded the American National Medal of Arts in 2001 from the National Endowment of the Arts.
He lived in Palm Springs, CA, for more than 40 years. In October 2005 the city honored him by naming a lushly-landscaped drive "Kirk Douglas Way". It winds around part of Palm Springs International Airport. A lavish ceremony and party was given by the Palm Springs International Film Society and International Film Festival and was attended by the actor, his wife Anne Douglas and their three surviving sons. His son Joel, also a Palm Springs resident, was responsible for the campaign.
Gave up his two- to three-pack-a-day cigarette habit in 1950 after his father died from lung cancer at the age of 72.
In 1955 he was among the first actors to set up his own production company. He called it Bryna, after his mother.
He and his wife Anne Douglas renewed their wedding vows in California around the 50th anniversary of their 1954 marriage. They reaffirmed their vows before 300 friends and family members at the famous Greystone Estate in Beverly Hills. Guests included Dan Aykroyd, Lauren Bacall, Nancy Davis and Tony Curtis. Douglas walked into the traditional Jewish ceremony to the tune of "I'm In The Mood For Love" and later sang a tune he'd written for the occasion, "Please Stay In Love With Me".
Attended the state funeral of former President Ronald Reagan, Gov. with Charlton Heston, Tom Selleck and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, on June 11, 2004.
Helped break the Hollywood blacklist by hiring Dalton Trumbo, a member of the "Hollywood Ten", to write the screenplay. Despite widespread criticism from many in the industry, including John Wayne and Hedda Hopper, Douglas refused to back down and Trumbo received a screen credit under his own name. When presenting Douglas with an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement at The 68th Annual Academy Awards (1996) (TV), Steven Spielberg thanked Douglas for his courage.
Attended the premiere of Basic Instinct (1992).
Fell out with his close friend, former President Jimmy Carter, over Carter's 2006 book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid".
His idol was President Harry S. Truman.
Confirmed his retirement from acting after making Illusion (2004).
While filming The War Wagon (1967) in September 1966, Douglas enraged his co-star John Wayne by recording a television advertisement for Edmund G. Brown, the Democratic Governor of California, after Wayne had recorded an advertisement for Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.
Admitted he made The Big Trees (1952) for nothing just to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. He later said, "It was a terrible movie.".
In his last book, "Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning", he expressed regret at turning down William Holden's Oscar-winning role in Stalag 17 (1953), Stephen Boyd's role in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and Lee Marvin's Oscar-winning role in Cat Ballou (1965).
He was a close friend of Jack Valenti.
He was originally cast in John Wayne's role in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), but pulled out in order to make Champion (1949).
His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6263 Hollywood Blvd.
Is an avid user of the Internet and is registered with MySpace.
Best of friends with Karl Malden (who was also very close with his son Michael Douglas), with whom he co-starred on "The Streets of San Francisco" (1972). After he died, Douglas remarked that their acquaintance was the longest he had with anyone in his life, lasting 70 years.
Made his stage debut in 1942.
He was not close friends with Burt Lancaster as was often perceived. The closeness of their friendship was largely fabricated by the publicity-wise Douglas, while, in reality, they were very competitive with each other and sometimes privately expressed a mutual personal disdain despite a mutual respect for their acting talents.
I've finally gotten away from Burt Lancaster. My luck has changed for the better. I've got nice-looking girls in my films now.
Virtue is not photogenic. What is it to be a nice guy? To be nothing, that's what. A big fat zero with a smile for everybody.
I've made a career of playing sons of bitches.
In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail.
I came from abject poverty. There was nowhere to go but up.
Making movies is a form of narcissism.
People are always talking about the old days. They say that the old movies were better, that the old actors were so great. But I don't think so. All I can say about the old days is that they have passed.
I have always told my sons that they didn't have my advantages of being born into abject poverty.
I think half the success in life comes from first trying to find out what you really want to do. And then going ahead and doing it.
Life is like a B-picture script! It is that corny. If I had my life story offered to me to film, I'd turn it down.
If you want to know about a man you can find out an awful lot by looking at who he married.
My kids never had the advantage I had. I was born poor.
I want my sons to surpass me, because that's a form of immortality.
If the good guy gets the girl, it's rated PG; If the bad guy gets the girl, it's rated R; and if everybody gets the girl, it's rated X.
[December 9, 2006] My name is Kirk Douglas. You may know me. If you don't . . . Google me. I was a movie star and I'm Michael Douglas' dad, Catherine Zeta-Jones' father-in-law, and the grandparents of their two children. Today I celebrate my 90th birthday. I have a message to convey to America's young people. A 90th birthday is special. In my case, this birthday is not only special but miraculous. I survived World War II, a helicopter crash, a stroke, and two new knees. It's a tradition that when a "birthday boy" stands over his cake he makes a silent wish for his life and then blows out the candles. I have followed that tradition for 89 years but on my 90th birthday, I have decided to rebel. Instead of making a silent wish for myself, I want to make a loud wish for The World. Let's face it: The World is in a mess and you are inheriting it. Generation Y, you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, AIDS and suicide bombers, to name a few.
These problems exist and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable. You need to rebel, to speak up, write, vote, and care about people and the world you live in. We live in the best country in the world. I know. My parents were Russian immigrants. America is a country where EVERYONE, regardless of race, creed, or age has a chance. I had that chance. You are the generation that is most impacted and the generation that can make a difference. I love this country because I came from a life of poverty. I was able to work my way through college and go into acting, the field that I love. There is no guarantee in this country that you will be successful. But you always have a chance. Nothing should interfere with it. You have to make sure that nothing stands in the way. When I blow out my candles - 90! . . . it will take a long time . . . but I'll be thinking of you.
I did four movies with [John Wayne]. We were a strange combination. He was a Republican and I was a Democrat. We argued all the time.
[on Michael Moore's interview with Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine (2002)] I cannot forgive the way he treated Charlton Heston. Even if I don't agree with much of Heston's politics, Chuck is a gentleman. He agreed to have an interview with Moore, and Moore took advantage of the situation and made Chuck look foolish. He had been invited to Heston's home and he was treated with courtesy. I winced when I saw the expression on Chuck's face change as he realized that he had been duped. And yet he remained a gentleman and dismissed the interloper with grace.
[on John Wayne] John Wayne was a star because he always played John Wayne. Frankly, he wasn't an excellent actor, but good heavens, what a star! It wasn't John Wayne who served the roles; the roles served John Wayne.
[on Burt Lancaster] John Wayne was a great star. But he always played Wayne. Anything else he didn't regard as manly. Now someone like Burt Lancaster is just the opposite. The living proof that you can be a sensitive actor and macho at the same time.
[on Linda Darnell] Linda Darnell is the most unspoilt star on the screen -- and also the most beautiful.
[on Doris Day] That face she shows the world -- smiling, only talking good, happy, tuned into God -- as far as I'm concerned, that's just a mask. I haven't a clue as to what's underneath. Doris is just about the remotest person I know.
I've always believed virtue is not photogenic, and I think I've always been attracted to a part, uh, I'd rather play the *evil* character, most of the time, than the nice fella. And I think it really *bothered* my mother, because she would tell people, "You know, my son's not like that, he's really a nice boy!"
It isn't a manly profession. It's a childish profession. You couldn't be a complete, grown-up adult and be an actor . . . I mean, if I were a sophisticated adult, how could I say, "Here I am, fighting evil, represented by Yul Brynner"? You have to have a childish part of you! It's true! You know, I watch as my kids have grown up, I've watched, them, you know. Children are natural actors; they pretend they're cops and robbers, and I think all actors retain a certain amount of that within themselves. They have to, or they can't function as actors. And that's why they become self-deprecating. They think, well, it's not
Senator McCarthy was an awful man who was finding Communists all over the country. He blacklisted the writers who wouldn't obey his edict. The heads of the studios were hypocrites who went along with it. My company produced Spartacus, written by Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer, under the name Sam Jackson. Too many people were using false names back then. I was embarrassed. I was young enough to be impulsive, so even though I was warned against it, I used his real name on the screen.
[on the death of Tony Curtis]: Tony Curtis was one of the best-looking guys in Hollywood. He was often described as beautiful, but he was also a fine actor. I worked with Tony in The Vikings (1958) and in Spartacus (1960), and we were friends for a long time. What I will miss most about him is his sense of humor. It was always fun to be with him.
You have to leave your country to get a perspective, to see what makes America great. Now I can say that nowhere in the world is there a match for what we have in Hollywood.