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February 6, 2020 - Kirk Douglas, the three-time Oscar-nominated actor who played gladiators, cowboys and boxers in more than 80 movies, including Spartacus and Gunfight at the OK Corral, has died at the age of 103.
Kirk Douglas was born into poverty in Amsterdam, New York, in December 1916, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants and the only boy among six sisters.
As a student he showed a talent for drama and was a keen amateur boxer, a skill which would be put to good use in his breakthrough movie, Champion, in 1949. The story of a prizefighter seduced by success, the film set the tone for a career in which Douglas found himself cast repeatedly as a tough, uncompromising character, often in a western -- he cites Lonely Are The Brave (1962) as one of his favourite performances -- and in military epics, such as Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 classic, Paths of Glory, an anti-war tale of a French court martial set in World War One.
Instantly recognisable, with that celebrated dimple in his chin, Douglas’s path ran parallel to that of Burt Lancaster, the pair co-starring in seven pictures over five decades, among them Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) and the 1976 Israeli hostage drama, Victory at Entebbe.
Nominated three times for a Best Actor Oscar, he never won, but was given an honorary Academy Award in 1996, just weeks after he suffered a major stroke.
The author of four volumes of autobiography, including the 1988 best-seller The Ragman’s Son, in which he traces his early life as Issur Danielovitch Demsky, and the 2003 account of his illness, My Stroke of Luck, Douglas wrote frankly about everything from his legendary love-life to his near-death experiences -- but for his wife’s misgivings, he would have been on film producer Michael Todd’s plane when it crashed in 1958, killing all on board.
In a self-deprecating footnote on his website, the man who, for many, will always be the sandal-clad slave leader, Spartacus, from the 1960 Roman tearjerker, described his life as “…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.”
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