By Liz Kelly Nelson
Kirk Douglas, the cleft-chinned actor best known for his roles in movies like "Spartacus," "Out of the Past" and "Lust for Life," and for fathering actor/director Michael Douglas, celebrates his 95th birthday on Friday.
Douglas was born to Russian-Jewish parents (he titled his 1988 autobiography "The Ragman's Son") in Amsterdam, N.Y., in 1916. At Saint Lawrence University he became a champion wrestler, but an interest in acting drew him to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. From 1941 to 1945 he served in the Navy before returning and making his way to Hollywood. His first role was in 1946's "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" with Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin.
Huffington Post writer John Farr sums up Douglas' larger-than-life life nicely:
An iconic star and producer in Hollywood, he has lived the life of ten men. He was almost on the plane that went down with producer Michael Todd in 1958. He broke the Hollywood blacklist by insisting that screenwriter Dalton Trumbo receive credit for "Spartacus." He survived a helicopter crash that killed two others. He suffered a massive stroke that robbed him of his speech, and then worked ceaselessly in therapy to regain it. He's seen one son become a star, and lost another to a drug overdose.
Although he never won an Academy Award, he was given an honorary Oscar in 1995.
One of the things Kirk Douglas has done for our country is usually not discussed on these pages.
Kirk Douglas speaks fluent Russian and Yiddish, and for years when the Soviet Union would send someone important to the United States, the State Department would ask Mr. Douglas to be the host for the Soviet dignitaries and introduce our guests to American culture. This activity alone should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom!
It is too bad that Mr. Douglas did not want the notoriety for his actions. He just well represented all of us as a concerned citizen of our country. Thank you Mr. Douglas and have a wonderful birthday!
What a wonderful life he has been blessed with a great family, fame, heartache, beautiful man, beautiful children. An inspiration to any person who has faced diversity and walked thru it! Have the best birthday ever Mr. Douglas.