From his big screen debut in 1946, to his most recent role in 2008, the one and only Kirk Douglas has proven himself to be a true movie star.
He made a name for himself by appearing in Hollywood blockbusters like Spartacus, and started a family acting dynasty, but how much do you actually know about Douglas and his decades-long career?
Here are 13 facts about his life that prove he’s Hollywood royalty:
1. He’s a living rags-to-riches story
Douglas’ parents were dirt poor Russian immigrants. His father supported his seven children by hawking rags and scrap metal, and Kirk had to sell snacks and do odd jobs to support the family.
The actor’s birth name was “Izzy Danielovitch,” and he says he regrets changing it for his job. “It’s more interesting to keep your original name. But can you imagine that name on a marquee?”
2. He smooth talked his way into college
It would be tough for a rag seller to afford his son’s tuition, so instead Douglas took matters into his own hands. He walked into the dean’s office at St. Lawrence University and walked out with a loan for his education.
During his studies, Douglas paid back the loan by working as a janitor at the school. Douglas also spent time in the Navy before he was discharged for injuries he suffered in World War 2.
3. He was a pro wrestler
Before his film career took off, Douglas paid the bills by wrestling tourists at local fairs. “I was the guy who was a plant, the mark, and I’d wrestle people in the audience.”
4. He knew he wanted to be an actor since kindergarten
Douglas was invited in front of his class to read the poem “The Red Robin of Spring,” and says the experience made him a performer for life. “Something happened when I heard applause,” he later explained. “I loved it. I still do.”
5. It seems like he was cursed to never win an Oscar
While he starred in loads of great movies, and was nominated three times, Douglas never took home an Academy Award. He even passed on two roles in Cat Ballou and Stalag 17 that won Oscars for Lee Marvin and William Holden.
Finally, Douglas was given an honorary award in 1996, and gave a very emotional speech. It was the actor’s first major public appearance since he suffered a stroke.
6. His wife Anne saved his life
Douglas famously survived a helicopter crash, but he also nearly died in plane crash. In 1958, producer Michael Todd invited Douglas to fly to New York on his private plane. The actor’s wife Anne had a bad feeling, and begged him not to get on the flight.
While driving to his destination instead, Douglas turned on the radio and heard the news that Todd’s plane had crashed, killing him.
7. His Walk of Fame star was stolen
Bear in mind that the stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame weigh about 300 pounds, so it’s not like you can just pick one up and walk away. Only four stars have ever been stolen from the tourist attraction: James Stewart’s, Gene Autry’s, Gregory Peck’s, and Kirk Douglas’.
The star was later found in a construction worker’s home and returned to its rightful place.