THE actor, author, director, producer, philanthropist and more recently studier of the Torah Kirk Douglas reached the magical age of 100 on December 9.
To many he is remembered as the chisel jawed actor who played some decent but not particularly inspiring roles in some 70 movies but in reality he is a great man who single handedly fought the Hollywood black list which stemmed from the investigations into alleged communism by US politician McCarthy at the time of the Cold War.
Seeing reds under the beds everywhere, McCarthy required screen writers in particular to swear before Congress that they were not communists and those that refused as they believed that such a demand was unconstitutional were stopped from writing under their own names.
One of them, the great Dalton Trumbo was forced to let others take his writing and publish it under their names but in 1960, Douglas employed him to write the screenplays for Exodus and Spartacus and made it known that he was the writer.
It was Kirk Douglas who purchased the rights to ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and played the lead role on Broadway before giving the rights to his son Michael who eventually produced the movie version but rather than letting his father reprise his theatre role, gave the part to Jack Nicholson who went on the one of the five Oscars that the film received.
Having been born the son of a Jewish Russian rag and bone man who had emigrated to America, he never forgot the poverty in which he grew up and despite more or less losing his religion for decades, Douglas has given more than €100 million to charities across America as well as writing books about his childhood.
After suffering a stroke which has left him mobile but with a strong slur in his voice, the actor returned to Judaism and is a regular student of the Torah.
There was to be a party with about 150 guests to celebrate his birthday and he had been told by his doctor that for this special day he would be allowed to have a glass of Vodka which had been banned for health reasons.