February 6: Kirk Douglas (103) one of the great stars of Hollywood during its golden era is no more. The pix shows him beside the self portrait of the fabled Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, during the shooting of ‘Lust for Life’ (1956) that fetched him an Oscar nomination.
Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovich Demsky to penniless Jewish immigrants in the city of Amsterdam, New York state, in 1916. His father had fled Russia to escape conscription into the Tsar’s army.
One of seven children, he sold snacks to local mill workers to earn enough money to buy food and in his autobiography claims to have had more than 40 jobs before joining the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and realizing his dreams.
Since the 1950s Hollywood establishment was using screen writers and artists, who had alleged communist sympathies, paying them pennies on the dollar, and not allowing them to use their real names. Douglas thought it was absurd. He had enough star power at that point which was why he could make a decision to hire the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo to rewrite the script of his, arguably most popular movie, ‘Spartacus’. He also threw his weight around to make sure Trumbo got the credit he deserved. It was a huge statement making a profound impact on the establishment. The breaking of the blacklist was perhaps the most radical thing that happened in Hollywood’s history.