Rags To Riches: The Life Of Kirk Douglas

Born into an impoverished family of Russian immigrants in 1916, Kirk Douglas worked his way to the top in Hollywood, becoming one of the leading box-office stars of the 1950s. Appearing in more than 90 films, he is best known for his work in serious dramas, including Westerns and war films, although he could play a broad scope of characters. Passing away at the age of 103 on February 5, 2020, Douglas was one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Take a deeper look into the man in front of the camera and learn how he came from nothing only to become a legendary star.

He Changed His Name

Douglas in uniform
FPG/Getty Images
FPG/Getty Images

Although almost everyone has heard the iconic name Kirk Douglas, whether they have seen any of his films or not, that’s not his actual name. His parents were impoverished Jewish immigrants from Belarus, and Douglas’ name at birth was Danielovitch Demsky, although he went by “Izzy” when growing up.

He only changed his name to the more American-sounding Kirk Douglas when he enlisted in the United States Navy shortly after the U.S. entered World War II.