Kirk Douglas was born on December 9, 1916, as Issur Danielovitch Demsky in Amsterdam, New York. His parents, Herschel Danielovitch and Bryna Sanglel were poor Belarusian Jews, originally from Homel. Although, Douglas grew up in a poor ghetto, he was a good student and eventually attend St. Lawrence University. Douglas was first noticed as an actor at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, where he obtained an acting scholarship. From 1941 to 1945, Douglas served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Following the war, Douglas returned to New York and began doing commercials and radio theatre. Douglas’ first screen role came in 1946, in the Hal B. Wallis movie, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. In 1955, Douglas began his own production company, Bryna Productions.
Kirk Douglas has received three Academy Award nominations for his roles in Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful, and Lust for Life. In 1996, Douglas was award a special Oscar for "50 years as a moral and creative force in the motion picture community."
Douglas has been married twice, first to Diana Dill on November 2, 1943, divorced in 1951. Dill and Douglas have two sons, actor Michael Douglas and producer Joel Douglas. Douglas married his second wife, Anne Buydens on May 29, 1954 and are still married. Buydens and Douglas have two sons, producer Peter Vincent Douglas and actor Eric Douglas (who died on July 6, 2004, of a drug overdose).
Unknown to much of the public, Kirk Douglas has dedicated his life to humanitarian efforts. Since 1963, he has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.S. State Department.
In 1996, Kirk Douglas suffered a stroke, which partly impaired his speech ability.
• Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
• Presidential Medal of Freedom (1981)
• Jefferson Award (1983)
• Western Performers Hall of Fame (1984)
• French Legion of Honor (1985)
• American Cinema Award (1987)
• German Golden Kamera Award (1987)
• The National Board of Reviews Career Achievement Award (1989)
• Honorary Academy Award (1995)
• Recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award (1999)
• National Medal of Arts (2001)
• UCLA Medal of Honor (2002)