Los Angeles (USA) / Actor of humble origin, Kirk Douglas was the quintessential Hollywood gladiator where he devoted himself thanks to his hard gesture and serious voice with heroic films such as “Spartacus” (1960) or dramatic profiles such as “The crazy red hair ”(1956).
Fatigue companion of Burt Lancaster, another iconic gallant of the big screen, Douglas earned his way to stardom after serving as a waiter, gardener, janitor and professional wrestler and while paying for drama studies.
His death today, at 103, means saying goodbye to the last survivor of the golden age of Hollywood, four days after the delivery of the Oscars.
The long-time interpreter was born in a family of Jewish Russian emigrants on December 9, 1916 in the New York town of Amsterdam with the name of Issur Danielovitch Demsky, an appellation that would change in his student age to Isadore Demsky before becoming known as Kirk Douglas.
The beginnings of Kirk Douglas
The actor, who in his last years of life would publish several books, including his autobiography (“The Ragman’s Son”, 1988), took his first professional steps with small roles on Broadway just in the years before the start of the Second War World, where he was called up and served in the US Navy.
The wounds received in battle withdrew him early from the front and in 1943 he resumed his artistic efforts in the theater, where he had relative success with the comedy “Kiss and Tell.”
It was actress Lauren Bacall, whom she had met at the acting school, who recommended a film producer and in 1946 she would make her Hollywood debut with “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”, a film starring Barbara Stanwyck.
Douglas and Lancaster
Two years later he would perform the first of his seven works with Lancaster (“When he came back to life”), who at that time was already a celluloid star.
That relationship of the two hard guys would bear fruit titles such as “Duel of the Titans” (1957), “The Devil’s Disciple” (1959), “The Last on the List” (1963), “Seven Days of May” (1964) ), “Victoria en Entebbe” (1976) and one last reunion in 1986 with “Another city, another law”.
Douglas, with his characteristic dimple on his chin, did not need the complicity of his colleague Lancaster to win criticism and spectators.
Three-time Oscar candidate
The actor was a three-time Oscar candidate throughout his career – although he only received an honorary statuette in 1996 – for his roles in “Champion” (1949), “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952) and “Lust for Life ”(1956), one of his reference films in which he played the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.
With an entrepreneurial personality, he decided to move freely in the mecca of cinema when the “star-system” directed by the great studios still prevailed and founded his own company, Bryna Productions (1955), to make films that had him as the protagonist.
Thus would arrive “Paths of glory” (1957) or “Spartacus” (1960), an epic film about a slave who becomes a gladiator and organizes a revolt against the Roman Empire.
That film, in which Laurence Olivier or Peter Ustinov also worked, won four Oscar and became the hallmark of Douglas’s career, already elevated to the status of world star.
Then they would come “The Last Sunset” (1961) with Rock Hudson, “Is Paris Burning?” (1966) with Jean-Paul Belmondo, “Oregon Trail” (1967) with Robert Mitchum, or “Armored Car Attack” ( 1967) hand in hand with John Wayne.
In the 70s he continued very active and premiered a dozen titles on the big screen, such as “The Day of the Cheats” (1970) or “The Light of the End of the World” (1971), and continued with some more productions in the 80s.
He suffered a helicopter accident
His health deteriorated severely in February 1991 when he suffered a helicopter accident, forcing him to be bedridden for four years with severe back pain.
A thrombosis he suffered in 1996 and paralyzed his left side ended up almost moving him away from the cinema, where he returned with his friend Lauren Bacall in 1999 with the dramatic comedy “Diamonds“.
His last work on the big screen was with “Illusion” (2004), although he had a brief return on television to participate in the 2008 documentary “Empire State Building Murders”.
Tribute in the Golden Globes
When he was over 100 years old, the Golden Globes paid him a surprise tribute.
He took the stage accompanied by his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones – wife of her son Michael – to present an award, but before unveiling the winner the audience stood up and gave a big applause to the living legend.
Douglas had an intense romantic life with romances with Debbie Reynolds, Terry Moore, Gene Tierney, Rita Hayworth, Ana María Pierangeli and Patricia Neal and married twice.
Two children were born from his first marriage to Diana Dill (1943-1950): Michael, the also popular actor, and Joel Andre. In 1954 he married again, this time with Anne Buydens with whom he was married 65 years and had two other children: Peter and Eric Anthony, who died of an overdose in 2004. (February 6, 2020, EFE/Practica Español)
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Review grammar notes: past tenses, 100 sentences in Castilian (Spanish) to practice conditional tense