(Issure Daniélovich Demsky, Amsterdam, New York, 1916) American film actor. Born into a poor family of immigrants in 1916. He studied at the St. Lawrence University between 1935 and 1939. After graduating in Arts, joined the Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he studied acting for two years. In 1943 he married for the first time Diana Hill, whom he divorced in 1951 and who had two sons, Joel and fellow actor and producer Michael. While attending acting classes began his career as an amateur actor in plays in New York and Pennsylvania and a professor of theater at the Settlement House in the suburb of Greenwich.
In 1941 she debuted on Broadway with the work Spring Again. Among his first works in the theater highlights entitled The Three Sisters, Which appears under the pseudonym George Spelvin Jr. During World War II he enlisted in the Navy and had reached the rank of lieutenant, and was to end the conflict when it debuted in the film giving life to the bitter husband of Barbara Stanwyck in the melodrama directed by Lewis Milestone The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). His second big screen role came in Back to the past (1947), by Jacques Tourneur. In that same year signed a five-year contract with independent producer Hal B. Wallis, but broke only a year later.
The clay idol (1949), Mark Robson, was his first starring role, in which released its strong physical and the characteristic dimple in her chin. He portrayed a boxer whose character was perfectly suited to the characteristics of film personality: ambitious fighter and without too many scruples. This film got his first Oscar nomination for the Academy.
After signing an exclusive contract to Warner Brothers, starred in a series of films that consolidated their position in the spotlight, as Young man with a horn (1950), film biography of jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke directed by Michael Curtiz and Douglas shared the stage with Lauren Bacall and Doris Day. One of his first major characters was that of journalist Chuck Tatum The Big Carnival (1951), Billy Wilder, which delayed the rescue of a man buried in a cave to get his big story and recover the prestige lost.
In The Bad (1952), Vincente Minnelli, added a touch of sophistication to another role in the line hard and unyielding characters, for which he won his second Oscar nomination, playing the movie producer Jonathan Shields, that manipulates and destroys almost lives of his closest collaborators, the director, the writer and star, played by Lana Turner, for the best artistic results.
Minnelli became one of the key principals in his career, both returned to work in The Lust (1956), biography of painter Vincent Van Gogh by Douglas, in one of his great performances, earned his third Oscar nomination and the Critics Award in New York. Anthony Quinn playing with him his friend, the painter Paul Gauguin. Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) was the third and last of the collaborations of director and star. Set in the world of film, Douglas gives it life dramatically declining a struggling actor desperate for one last chance.
In 1954 he married Anne Badyens, who bore him two sons, Peter and Eric. During the fifties played on the orders of some of the best directors of the moment, a series of papers that forged his legend as an actor and made him a favorite of audiences and critics during this period. Brigade 21 (1951), William Wyler film directed police or Big Sky (1952), where he worked under the orders of Howard Hawks, are two of the titles that earned him more fame.
His strength and character made him stand out in action genres such as western, in the context of which deserve special mention his collaborations with director John Sturges. The first was Duel (1957), in which he played Doc Holliday in a review of the legendary fight at the OK Corral, in the second, Last Train from Gun Hill (1959), gave birth to a sheriff pursuing the murderers of his Indian wife. Also within the genre of western starred The lawless prairie (1955), King Vidor, in which he played a cowboy fighting the harassment of civilization and wire fencing of the fields.
If the paper gave Vincente Minnelli was instrumental in his career, no less important was his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick. Paths of Glory (1957) was his first job in common. Written by Kubrick himself in collaboration with the great writer Jim Thompson novels, his virulent anti-militar prevented its production until Kirk Douglas took a personal interest in the project and decided to produce it through his company, Bryna Productions, reducing his salary to hundred thousand dollars, nearly a third of normal.
Paths of Glory tells the story of Colonel Dax, sent during the First World War on a suicide mission and bombed during the withdrawal by their own artillery. Three years later he returned to work with Kubrick on Spartacus (1960). Douglas In that film he played the slave who rebelled against the power of their masters in imperial Rome, one of the great roles of his career. Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis completed the deal. In both films of Kubrick played with his usual intensity to an iron-willed hero, a noble leader who suffers in the end an unjust defeat.
Among the films produced by Douglas highlights another epic spectacle, Vikings (1962), by Richard Fleischer. Shot in Europe and starring Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine and Janet Leigh, as well as Douglas himself, was between the most violent movies of his filmography. During the sixties, thanks to the pole reached in Hollywood, had greater artistic and commercial control over their films, many of them produced by himself. During this period particularly stressed Seven Days in May (1964), John Frankenheimer, which played a patriotic officer dark personality that reveals a military plot to overthrow the president. This time also began to work occasionally on television.
In the seventies, because his strong personality led him to clash often with directors, took a chance and start directing his own films, debuted in this facet with Pegleg (1973), which was a resounding failure. Between his work as director noted Posse (1975), western convincing and devastating in returning to play a selfish and greedy.
None of the films starring Douglas since the seventies has been the impact of his earlier films, but the actor has managed to remain one of the first-rate performers of his generation. In recent years race has devoted much of his energies to the production and the writing of his autobiography, Ragman’s son and published in 1988.
In 1981 he received the Medal of Freedom, awarded by the U.S. president, and in 1985 the Legion of Honor of the Republic of France, in recognition of one of the greatest actors of the recent history of American cinema, able to interpret with equal intensity heroes or villains. In 1996, the Academy Awards was awarded an Oscar for his film career in 2001, the Berlin Film Festival awarded him the Golden Bear award in recognition of their professional career as an actor. Two years later, the patriarch of the clan Douglas starred alongside his son Michael It runs in the family.
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