The two blockbuster films ‘Spartacus’ and “The Bad and the Beautiful’ are only two of the numerous international successes Kirk Douglas featured in.
Kirk has collaborated with a huge number of renowned Hollywood actors, actresses, and filmmakers, such as Vincent Minnelli and Billy Wonder. However, not many are aware of the “Ace in the Hole” star’s extremely modest upbringing.
The father of Douglas immigrated to America from Russia and finally made Amsterdam, New York, his home.
After a while, Harry was able to arrange for his wife to join him in New York, and the two eventually got married and started working as ragmen.
Kirk was the only male out of the couple’s seven children. He was reared as the lone brother to six females, as he described in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2017.
Kirk detailed the impact of poverty on the family in the same interview, even claiming that they frequently did not have enough money to feed everyone.
He continues by describing how his sisters would beg for bones so they could assist their mother make soup. Kirk said that he occasionally committed larceny to avoid going hungry, adding,
‘When I was starving, I stole food—a tomato from a garden or an egg from a neighbor’s hen. In addition, I cleaned produce from a stand.
He acknowledges that after stealing food from others, he felt terrible guilt for a period, but the family’s situation at the time was difficult.
Kirk went so far as to illustrate how miserable their sleeping arrangements were, with his sister sharing two beds while he slept on an old sofa.
His parents slept in the last bedroom apart from him. Douglas acknowledges that he often felt estranged from the father he loved, adding,
I adored my father, but I wasn’t sure if he felt the same way about me. I wanted his love and appreciation. He was far away, though.
All day long, his mother, Bryna, toiled away to support the family. She managed to finish all of this without a stove, running water, or a washing machine.
Even with his good GPA and numerous school prizes when Kirk graduated from high school in 1934, it is not unexpected that the future actor did not have any money for college tuition.
Instead of using the term in the conventional sense, Douglas went on a 200-mile journey to collect all of these accolades, his transcripts, acting accolades, essays, poems, and a letter of reference from an English teacher.
He made the lengthy trek alongside a friend who was a sophomore at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, their final stop.
His initial visit with the Dean there led to enrollment and significant assistance with the loan application process. Kirk even received some scholarship money during his second semester.
Douglas worked a number of side jobs, including wrestling at a nearby circus, to pay the tuition and other expenses.
He also tried to get jobs at various hotels and resorts, and he eventually got a job as an actor at the Tamarack Playhouse in Lake Pleasant.
At the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan, Kirk Douglas, then 25 years old, first encountered Betty Perske, then 17 years old.
The young actress persuaded movie mogul Hal Wallis to see Douglas perform on Broadway after becoming significantly famous for her debut film performance, and the rest is history.
During World War II, Kirk served in the Navy; however, he later left the service to star in his first movie, ‘The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,’ which was released in 1946.
Three years later, in 1949’s ‘The Champion,’ he had a breakthrough and was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Midge Kelly.
Eventually, Douglas wed Anne Buydens, a wealthy German philanthropist who had lost everything to the war despite being born into privilege.
The Douglas Foundation, the famous couple’s own organization, was founded in 1964 and has since helped generate money and support charitable causes.
Knowing what it was like to have nothing motivated both partners, and the foundation is dedicated to enhancing the lives and general wellbeing of disadvantaged children.
Millions of dollars have been donated by The Douglas Foundation to causes and groups like the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
Even Kirk’s alma mater, St. Lawrence University, has joined forces with it. The philanthropic group was able to establish the Kirk Douglas Scholarship in collaboration with the school, which gives money to poor kids to support them during their four years of education.
Douglas and his wife donated money to people in need for a large portion of their life, but regrettably, Douglas passed away on February 5, 2020, at his California home.
The celebrity designated his longtime wife the trustee of the assets and gave his charity a large portion of his $80 million estate. But at the age of 102, Buydens herself passed away in April of 2021.
The two sons of the couple, Eric and Peter, are producers in the Hollywood film and television industry (respectively).
In addition, Kirk had two sons from a previous union with Diana Dill, which lasted from 1943 until 1951: renowned actor Michael Douglas and film producer Joel Douglas.
It’s interesting to note that after his death, Kirk didn’t leave a single penny of his inheritance to his children.
Even while each of his kids has achieved fame in his own right, this does not imply that they have struggled to provide for their own families or themselves.
Even still, this is not how Hollywood royalty usually makes decisions. Douglas had a firm understanding that money should be given to those in need rather than to his sons who had a comfortable upbringing.