Kirk Douglas was born on December 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, New York. The son of immigrant parents, Douglas was able to rise out of an impoverished childhood to become one of the most iconic actors of the 20th century.
Douglas began his film career in 1946, with his debut film, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. He would go on to become a leading box-office star throughout the 1950s. Bringing an explosive acting style to the big screen, Douglas became known for his serious drama roles.
In the late-1950s, Douglas would work with then-unknown director Stanley Kubrick, collaborating on films like Paths of Glory and Spartacus. It was around this time that Douglas earned praise for helping break the Hollywood blacklist, when he publicly acknowledged blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo had written Spartacus.
He continued appearing in films throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s, and even in to the 2000’s. Throughout his acting career, Douglas received three Academy Award nominations, and an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Douglas was also a well-known philanthropist, and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died on February 5, 2020, at the age of 103.
Throughout his incredible life, Kirk Douglas gave us many bits of wit and wisdom. Here are a few of our favorite Kirk Douglas quotes.
15 Memorable Kirk Douglas Quotes
On Being a Movie Star:
“Making movies is a form of narcissism.”
“When you become a star, you don’t change. Everyone else does.”
“I’ve made a career of playing sons of bitches.”
“I was not a tough guy. I just acted like one.”
On Achieving Your Dreams:
“In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail.”
“I came from abject poverty. There was nowhere to go but up.”
“I think half the success in life comes from first trying to find out what you really want to do. And then going ahead and doing it.”
On Being Yourself:
“I’m too old to change. Like Popeye, ‘I yam what I yam.’ Love me or hate me, just don’t be indifferent.”
“I’ve never tried to win popularity contests. I’ve always been blunt – never hesitated about expressing myself.”
“Let’s face it – the world is a mess and the young people will inherit this mess. We should do all we can to help deal with it.”
“I’ve lived through the horrors of a Great Depression and two World Wars, the second of which was started by a man who promised that he would restore his country it to its former greatness. I was 16 when that man came to power in 1933. For almost a decade before his rise he was laughed at – not taken seriously. He was seen as a buffoon who couldn’t possibly deceive an educated, civilized population with his nationalistic, hateful rhetoric. The ‘experts’ dismissed him as a joke. They were wrong.”
On Growing Old:
“At 98 years old, I have learned one lesson from history: It very often repeats itself.”
“I don’t know who any of the new stars are, and they probably don’t know me.”
“I never, ever thought I would live to be 100. That’s shocked me, really. And it’s sad, too. I miss Burt Lancaster – we fought a lot, and I miss him a lot. And John Wayne, even though he was a Republican and I was a Democrat.”
“They say there is nothing new under the sun. Since I was born, our planet has traveled around it 100 times. With each orbit, I’ve watched our country and our world evolve in ways that would have been unimaginable to my parents – and continue to amaze me with each passing year.”
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