Kirk Douglas through his words

Kirk Douglas liked to remember his humble origins when he had the chance and let it be known that he, the iconic Hollywood actor, was poor in solemnity in his childhood to the point of starving, a speech he repeated in countless interviews marked by his overwhelming personality .

Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch Demsky in Amsterdam (New York) in 1916, was the only son of a Russian Jewish peasant couple who arrived in the United States in 1910 in search of a better life, which they did achieve for their offspring. .

“My parents did the most essential thing. They did not lose the boat”, told the protagonist of “Spartacus” (1960) to the critic Roger Eberet in 1969, to whom he confessed that show business was too big for his parents, both illiterate.

“They never understood my success. He said: ‘Mom! I just signed a million dollar contract! But son,” she said, “you are so skinny …”, the artist recalled.

His parents separated when he was a child and Douglas stayed to live with his mother and six sisters. His father “drank too much”, as he explained to the BBC in 1978, and was quite a character, he intimidated him. Trapper by profession, he left a strong mark on the actor who as an adult would be known for not giving his arm to twist.

“I am very impatient. I would never win a popularity contest in Hollywood,” he told Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” in 1988 on the occasion of the launch that year of the first of a dozen books he would publish, “The Ragman’s Son,” his autobiography.

“Writing it I discovered that I had a lot of anger in me. I am angry with things that happened when I was little. That anger has been a lot of fuel that has helped me do what I have done. It has been something positive,” said the actor of “Lust for Life “(1956).

It was necessity that led him to move from New York to Los Angeles to work in film. His dream had been to work in the theater, he knew it since he received his first applause in a school play, he assured The Hollywood Reporter in 2012.

Douglas tried to get ahead on Broadway, but after the birth of his son Michael Douglas “he was bankrupt” and accepted an opportunity in Hollywood where he found his way to stardom without seeking it and became, for script reasons, addicted to tobacco, according to he himself narrated in an article in The New York Times in 2003.

Douglas made his debut in “The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers” (1946) with the then famous Barbara Stanwyck and on his first day of filming the director (Lewis Milestone) interrupted his performance to indicate that his character smoked.

“I don’t smoke,” Douglas replied. “Learning is easy,” Milestone replied. After several puffs, the actor ran out and ended up vomiting in his dressing room.

“Soon I was smoking two or three packs a day. Who knows how many viewers will have started smoking from what they saw on the screen?” wondered Douglas, to whom tobacco companies provided free cartons of cigarettes every month when he became famous.

His vice lasted a few years. In 1950, overwhelmed by the image of his father who died of tobacco-related cancer, he left it: “I stubbed out the cigarette in the ashtray and threw the pack in the trash.” He only kept a cigarette to remind himself that he was stronger than his addiction.

In that decade, Douglas was already one of the highest paid people in Hollywood and he was concerned about his “lack of privacy”, he said in 1957 on the television program “Mike Wallas Interviews.”

“Nothing ever prepares you to manage success. When you are a star it becomes a tremendous business, a kind of monster. It is difficult to deal with that,” he acknowledged, although he said he succumbed to flattery.

“If tomorrow I went out on the street and nobody recognized me, I don’t think I would like it,” he said.

In that interview, when the “witch hunt” of McCarthyism began its decline, Douglas declared that he supported the Zionist cause and was not willing to hire a communist in one of its shootings, although finally the actor and producer declined and contributed to putting end to that dark time in Hollywood when in 1960 he credited screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, accused of being a communist, in “Spartacus.”

In January 1996, the actor suffered a stroke that left him speechless and nearly shot himself, but found a reason to live in helping others. Just two months later he collected an honorary Oscar, the only one of his career, and gave a memorized and rehearsed speech that brought tears to his family.

He then learned the “true meaning of love” (Newsweek, 2008) and his hard face, already riddled with wrinkles, gradually became smiling. The anger of yesteryear gave way to a sense of humor. While he, the fierce Douglas, always considered his life to be never more than a “B movie,” he told Eberet in 1969.

“The true American life, the typical one, is a movie of series B, like mine. The boy who comes out of poverty working until being a champion But you have to fight!”, Sentenced Kirk Douglas.

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Kirk Douglas through his words