Kirk Douglas was one of the most legendary actors of the 20th century. The New York native came from a rough background, but even though others wanted to push him down, he never caved and pursued his career in his own way.
Douglas passed away in February 2020, at age 103, but his legacy will live forever. At the same time, as he became a well-respected actor, working alongside some of the greatest, he also created a lovely family, raising children and giving back to the ones that always had helped him.
When Kirk Douglas passed away, he had made himself a fortune. However, his children – including actor Michael Douglas – reportedly didn’t receive one single dollar. Why? Here is all you need to know about the legendary Kirk Douglas!
Kirk Douglas – tough childhood
The only son in a large family of seven children, his parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and Douglas’s childhood was challenging. He described his family as the poorest family on “a street of poor families” and slept on a “shabby living-room sofa” in an unheated clapboard house.
Kirk Douglas’ father, Hershel, was prohibited from working at the local mills because he was Jewish, and instead, he became a junk dealer.
“Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung on the ladder,” Mr. Douglas wrote in his best-selling autobiography. “And I was the ragman’s son.”
Sometimes, the family didn’t even have food, making Douglas steal food from his neighbors or even produce stands.
As he described in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, growing up in Amsterdam, New York meant “living in the East End, the opposite side of town from the rich people on Market Hill. It meant living at 46 Eagle Street, a run-down, two-story, gray clapboard house, the last house at the bottom of a sloping street, next to the factories, the railroad tracks, and the Mohawk River.”
Found his passion for drama in high school
He estimated he had around 40 different jobs – from newspaper boy to dishwasher.
“I also was a hard worker. I’d invent jobs, like selling soda and candy to workers at the mill at the end of our street. Amsterdam was one of the largest mill towns in the country. There were dozens of factories but no jobs for Jews.”
Kirk Douglas attended the Wilbur Lynch High School – now Amsterdam High School – where he first became interested in drama. He was encouraged by his English teacher Louise Livingston, participated in various kinds of drama activities, and was introduced to the world of poetry.
“I would have been run out of town if I had ever admitted to liking poetry or said out loud, ‘I want to be a great actor.’ Because of her, I sent away for college and drama school catalogs and saved every penny so I could get there,” Douglas reminisced.
“Mrs. Livingston was cool and detached when she walked into the classroom. She never raised her well-modulated voice. Emotion crept in only when she read poetry. She thought I was wonderful. She encouraged me and kept me after school. What a sparkle came into her eyes as she read poem after poem with me sitting by her side.”
However, the relationship between son and father wasn’t always at its best. For example, when speaking with the Associated Press, Douglas refused to call his father “dad.”
Rift with son, Michael Douglas
“In those key years, when Kirk was doing five movies a year… Kirk was all-consumed, was overworked. Probably like myself at a certain time in my life.”
In 1975, Michael and Kirk Douglas’ rift became even more extensive. At the time, Kirk owned the rights to the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and his son convinced him to sell the rights.
However, once it was set to start filming, Michael – now the producer – didn’t cast his father in the lead role of Randle McMurphy, even though he had played the part on Broadway.
“So Michael asked me if he could try to produce it, and I said: ‘Sure!’ Next thing I know, he has a director lined up, and it’s all go. So I said to him: ‘Great! When do we start rehearsing?’” Kirk Douglas recalled in an interview with The Guardian.
“Not you, Dad,” Michael replied, devastatingly. “You’re too old.”
“I couldn’t believe it!” Douglas added. “So I said: ‘Who’s playing my part? Jack Nicholson? Never heard of him. Well, at least it will be a flop.”
Their relationship didn’t take a turn for the better as the film went on to sweep at the Academy Awards: as producer Michael Douglas took home an Oscar for Best Picture, and Jack Nicholson won Best Actor for his performance.
Kirk Douglas – cause of death & net worth
Kirk Douglas was the title star of the 1960 film Spartacus, which became one of his true classics. The film won four Academy Awards, and Kirk went straight to the top of the Hollywood ladder despite not winning an Oscar himself.
Over the years, Douglas starred in more than 90 Hollywood films. His last ever role was in 2008, when he appeared in the television film Empire State Building Murders.
Kirk Douglas was a true movie star from Hollywood’s golden age. Unfortunately, he passed away on February 5, 2020, at age 103.
At the time of his death, Kirk Douglas had an estimated fortune of $61 million. However, his son Michael Douglas and the rest of his family didn’t get a single penny, as he left a lifetime of donations to several causes.
According to The Mirror, Douglas distributed $50 million to St. Lawrence University, where he attended in his early life. The Sinai Temple of Westwood, the Kirk Douglas Theatre, and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles also received a big chunk of the money.
Both Kirk and Anne have previously donated to the different institutions above through the Douglas Foundation. According to its website, the foundation’s purpose is “to help those who cannot otherwise help themselves.”
Michael Douglas reportedly didn’t inherit one penny
As reported by Page Six, Michael Douglas won’t inherit any money from his father. But, at the same time, he won’t be needing it, as he’s said to be worth around $300 million.
Despite their previous rifts, Michael praised his father’s loving and charitable personality at the time of his passing.
“Kirk’s life was well-lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet,” Michael Douglas said in a statement.
Kirk Douglas overcame a poor and tough childhood and created his own path towards becoming a movie star of Hollywood’s golden age. May he rest in peace.
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