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Spotlight on Kirk Douglas

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Kirk and Michael Douglas in "It Runs in the Family."

Kirk and Michael Douglas in “It Runs in the Family.”

Andrew Schwartz, MGM

Background: Born Dec. 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, N.Y.

I'm Spartacus: Long before he produced and starred in the acclaimed epic of a slave rising to lead an army, Douglas' own motivation for success was fueled by childhood struggles. "I have always told my sons that they didn't have my advantages of being born into abject poverty."

No looking back: Fully content in the now, Douglas dismisses reminiscent talks of the "(good) old days." Having survived a war, a stroke, two knee replacements, a helicopter crash and a heart attack, Douglas describes celebrating 90 as "miraculous." Just as alive is his love for second wife Anne, with whom he renewed his vows in 2004 on their 50th anniversary. He said at the time, "When we have been married for 50 ... I will propose to her again. If she says 'yes' ... (the ceremony) will be a masterpiece."

Human first: "I've made a career of playing (tough guys)," Douglas once said of his successful Hollywood run. Not as obvious — but recognized — is his active role in humanitarian causes. Most recently, Douglas issued a public letter calling on youths to take action in a world "facing many problems." Never one to hold his tongue, Douglas' own actions in the '50s, demanding recognition for blacklisted "Spartacus" screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, began the end of such policies that had destroyed many careers in Hollywood for almost a decade.

What's in a name: Born Issur Danielovitch Demsky, the cleft-chinned, gravely voiced Douglas has made his mark on and off screen. The father of successful actor/producer Michael, he was voted the 36th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly, has a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, received an Oscar in 1996 for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community, and has a host of memorable roles ensuring that the Douglas name will be long remembered. — S. Debessai


Kirk Douglas: In the Spirit of Public Service

More than 14 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District's District 1, which is located in the West Valley, have received Anne and Kirk Douglas Playground Awards, a $25,000 grant that goes toward campus playground refurbishments. Apperson Elementary in Sunland is due for a dedication ceremony — which includes a visit by the Douglases — in January.

To date, the AKDPA has donated more than $7 million to provide new facilities at more than 360 campuses.

The Kirk Douglas Continuation School in Northridge also receives regular donations.

Kirk and Anne Douglas have separately won the Jefferson Award for Public Service by a Private Citizen.

The Los Angeles Mission for the Homeless operates the Anne Douglas Center for Women, and the Motion Picture & Television Hospital's Alzheimer's Unit, which is named "Harry's Haven" after Kirk Douglas' father. — Evan Henerson