Kirk Douglas: Hollywood career thanks to wrestling scholarship

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It started around 70 years ago and includes over 70 films, the unprecedented career of Kirk Douglas (1916-2020). Now the only true "Spartacus", the father of Michael Douglas (75) and the most distinctive chin of the dream factory, died at the age of 103. During his career, he traveled to places 20,000 miles below the sea, fell into madness when Vincent van Gogh or dealt with the entire Roman Empire.

The struggle for success

It is often just a phrase, but in the case of Kirk Douglas, born in 1916 under the name Issur Danielowitsch Demsky, it is true: At the beginning he literally had to fight for his success. Because only thanks to a wrestling scholarship, he got the chance to study at St. Lawrence University in the state of New York. For the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants, this possibility meant the world. Especially when he got to Broadway with a second scholarship from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

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From villain to hero

When the first film offers fluttered in, it took a while before Kirk "the chin" Douglas was allowed to earn his hero spores. Because of his striking facial features, he was often cast as the villain, the unscrupulous villain. For example, in 1947 in "Golden Gift" or "Fourteen Years Sing-Sing", each as a gangster boss.

It wasn't until the 1950s that Douglas tweaked his hero image. Not least thanks to his own production company Bryna Productions, which he founded in 1955 and named after his mother. His most famous works of the time include "Paths to Glory", "The Vikings" or "The Last Train of Gun Hill".

But his greatest success was not until 1960: "Spartacus". The unknown Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) as director, Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976), who is on Hollywood's "blacklist" because of communist beliefs, as screenwriter, and Douglas as title character and producer of the monumental film: This combination made film history.

However, it was never enough for an Oscar. Although Douglas received the honorary Oscar for his life's work in 1996, his three nominations ("Champion", "City of Illusions", "Vincent van Gogh – A Life in Passion") were never successful.

It stays in the family

The apple does not fall far from the trunk – but it occasionally bruises when it lands. Kirk's son Michael quickly matured into a no less successful actor. One who won two gold boys as a producer for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and as the Best Actor on "Wall Street".

The two of them have been grieving for a long time by Michael’s son Cameron Douglas (41). Because of persistent drug escapades, he was initially sentenced to five and later to ten years in prison. Nothing seemed to stand in the way of family happiness in 2003: In the strip with the appropriate title "It stays in the family" from that year, all three generations consisting of Kirk, Michael and Cameron Douglas could be seen in front of the camera.

Long happiness in marriage

The fact that Kirk Douglas is not a man for a quick number should have been made clear by "Spartacus" alone and with a running time of 198 minutes. But he also has staying power in love. His marriage (1943-1951) to actress Diana Dill (1923-2015), from which the sons Michael and film producer Joel Douglas (73) sprang, lasted for eight years – not a matter of course in fast-moving Hollywood.

However, his second marriage to actress Anne Buydens (100) from Hanover is even more impressive: in 1954 the two married and remained together until his death – that's more than 65 years of marriage! Together they had two sons, TV producer Peter Douglas (64) and actor Eric Douglas (1958-2004).

Hollywood legend dies at 103

The Hollywood legend died on Wednesday. His son Michael Douglas also announced this on behalf of his brothers "with great sadness" via social media. "For the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of film (…) But for me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was just a father, for Catherine a wonderful father-in-law, for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren she was loving Grandfather and a wonderful husband for his wife Anne, "says the touching post.