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13 Facts About Kirk Douglas You Don't Have To Live To 100 To Find Out

From his big screen debut in 1946, to his most recent role in 2008, the one and only Kirk Douglas has proven himself to be a true movie star.

He made a name for himself by appearing in Hollywood blockbusters like Spartacus, and started a family acting dynasty, but how much do you actually know about Douglas and his decades-long career?

Here are 13 facts about his life that prove he's Hollywood royalty:

1. He's a living rags-to-riches story

Douglas' parents were dirt poor Russian immigrants. His father supported his seven children by hawking rags and scrap metal, and Kirk had to sell snacks and do odd jobs to support the family.

Wikimedia

The actor's birth name was "Izzy Danielovitch," and he says he regrets changing it for his job. “It’s more interesting to keep your original name. But can you imagine that name on a marquee?”

2. He smooth talked his way into college

It would be tough for a rag seller to afford his son's tuition, so instead Douglas took matters into his own hands. He walked into the dean's office at St. Lawrence University and walked out with a loan for his education.

ABC News

During his studies, Douglas paid back the loan by working as a janitor at the school. Douglas also spent time in the Navy before he was discharged for injuries he suffered in World War 2.

3. He was a pro wrestler

Before his film career took off, Douglas paid the bills by wrestling tourists at local fairs. “I was the guy who was a plant, the mark, and I’d wrestle people in the audience.”

The Film Experience

4. He knew he wanted to be an actor since kindergarten

Douglas was invited in front of his class to read the poem "The Red Robin of Spring," and says the experience made him a performer for life. “Something happened when I heard applause," he later explained. "I loved it. I still do."

Douglas as a boy, with his mother Bryna.WSJ

5. It seems like he was cursed to never win an Oscar

While he starred in loads of great movies, and was nominated three times, Douglas never took home an Academy Award. He even passed on two roles in Cat Ballou and Stalag 17 that won Oscars for Lee Marvin and William Holden.

Finally, Douglas was given an honorary award in 1996, and gave a very emotional speech. It was the actor's first major public appearance since he suffered a stroke.

6. His wife Anne saved his life

Douglas famously survived a helicopter crash, but he also nearly died in plane crash. In 1958, producer Michael Todd invited Douglas to fly to New York on his private plane. The actor's wife Anne had a bad feeling, and begged him not to get on the flight.

Douglas married Anne Buydens in 1954, and they've been together ever since.Wikimedia

While driving to his destination instead, Douglas turned on the radio and heard the news that Todd's plane had crashed, killing him.

7. His Walk of Fame star was stolen

Bear in mind that the stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame weigh about 300 pounds, so it's not like you can just pick one up and walk away. Only four stars have ever been stolen from the tourist attraction: James Stewart's, Gene Autry's, Gregory Peck's, and Kirk Douglas'.

Zimbio

The star was later found in a construction worker's home and returned to its rightful place.

8. He was paid $50,000 to say the word "coffee"

In the 1980s, Douglas became the face of the Maxim Coffee brand in Japan, and appeared in a series of commercials for them. At the time, American actors appearing in Japanese commercials wouldn't actually endorse their product. The only line Douglas ever says in the Maxim commercials is "Coffee," but he still earned $50,000 per ad.

9. Acting runs in the family

Three generations of actors in the Douglas family - Kirk Douglas, his son Michael, and his grandson Cameron - all appeared in the 2003 comedy movie It Runs in the Family. That's one way to organize a family reunion.

Wikimedia

10. He's very charitable

Over the years, Douglas has helped build or restore more than 400 playgrounds across Los Angeles, and that's just a small part of his charitable donations.

The Hollywood Reporter

Douglas funds scholarships for visible minorities at large colleges, has donated millions to support Alzheimer's research and care, raises awareness for elder abuse, and even donated a robot to the Children's Hospital of LA. It was named Spartacus, of course.

11. He is one of the world's oldest celebrity bloggers

HuffPost

Douglas started sharing his thoughts on the social media website Myspace, but he's since moved on to write for HuffPost. He hasn't shared any new stories with us lately, but maybe he's waiting for his 101st birthday.

12. He has just one piece of life advice

Douglas, with his son Michael and his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones.Telegraph

Here's what Douglas has to say about being a centenarian:

“I am always asked for advice on living a long and healthy life. I don't have any. I do believe, however, that we have a purpose for being here. I was spared after a helicopter crash and a stroke to do more good in the world before I leave it."

13. He helped end the Hollywood Blacklist

The Hollywood Ten were a group of writers and directors who refused to testify before congress about Communist sympathizers in Hollywood. They were each barred from working in the movie business, and most of them struggled to support their families.

The Hollywood 10.The Hollywood Reporter

Douglas, one of the few actors who ran his own production company in the 1960s, helped end the ban by hiring writer Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, to write the screenplay for Spartacus.

Dean O'Gorman as Kirk Douglas and Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in the 2015 film 'Trumbo.'Telegraph

"Dalton Trumbo was one of the best writers we had,” he later said. “It was such a terrible, shameful time. So I decided the hell with it! I’m going to put his name on it. I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of because it broke the blacklist. It caused me a lot of trouble, but it was worth it.”

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