In Hollywood's golden days of the 1950s, leading man Kirk Douglas helped define the word stardom. After half a century, a helicopter crash and a serious stroke, Douglas is still acting, but he also writes and serves as patriarch of one of the movie industry's most famous families. In this Jan. 21, 1999, photo, he is at his Beverly Hills, Calif., home.
Douglas and Lana Turner dance in a scene from Vincente Minnelli's film "The Bad and the Beautiful." By the time this film was made in 1952, Douglas, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, had gained fame as an unscrupulous boxer in Stanley Kramer's "Champion." That role earned him his first Oscar nomination as Best Actor. This 1952 role as a ruthless movie mogul earned him a second nomination.
Douglas portrays artist Vincent Van Gogh in the 1956 movie "Lust For Life." This role gained Douglas, an alumnus of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and a former Broadway performer, his third Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Doulgas' first Hollywood film was the 1946 Barbara Stanwyck film "The Strange Loves of Molly Ivers."
This is a 1956 photo of Douglas while on a fishing trip. A natural athlete, Douglas did many of his stunts himself. Critics say this is one of the reasons he imbued his characters with vigor and was able to take on leading man roles, when he was in his 60s.
Co-stars Kirk Douglas, left, and Burt Lancaster talk between scenes on the set of the western "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" in Hollywood on April 21, 1956. The two shared a special on-screen chemistry and made six feature films together, starting with 1947's "I Walk Alone" and ending with "Tough Guys" in 1986. They also appeared together in TV movies and on the stage.
Douglas, left, in the title role as a Roman slave and gladiator, battles Woody Strode in the role of gladiator Draba in "Spartacus," filmed in Hollywood in April 1959. For this movie, Douglas challenged the Hollywood black list during McCarthy's Communist witch hunt days. The production company he formed, Bryna Company, hired blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to adapt the Howard Fast novel for the screen.
Author Ken Kesey holds a 1963 Playbill for the play based on his novel, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," starring Douglas. One of the actor's biggest regrets was not being able to bring this role to the screen. He acquired the rights and worked for over a decade to make it into a movie. In 1975, his son, Michael, succeeded in producing the film. Milos Foreman directed Jack Nicholson in the role Douglas had on Broadway.
President Bush, left, talks with Douglas and first lady Laura Bush during the National Endowment for the Arts National Medal of Arts Awards ceremonies at Washington's Constitution Hall, April 22, 2002. Douglas was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar at the 68th Annual Academy Awards in 1996 and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1999. He has also been honored at film festivals in Israel, Italy and Germany.
Douglas poses with his book "Climbing the Mountain" Sept. 2, 1997, at his home in Beverly Hills. His first book, a memoir called "The Ragman's Son" was published in 1988. In between the two autobiographies, he published three novels. In his second memoir, Douglas writes of a 1991 helicopter crash that killed two of his fellow passengers and a 1994 stroke that impaired his ability to speak.
Douglas acknowleges the crowd after taking his turn at the hole-in-one contest at the Michael Douglas and Friends Celebrity Golf Tournament for charity at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa in Ojai, Calif., Sunday, June 30, 2002. Despite a stroke, the actor remains active in his 80s.
Actors Kirk and Michael Douglas clown on stage before announcing the winner of the best picture at the 75th annual Academy Awards on March 23, 2003, in Los Angeles. The father-son team were in the middle of making a movie together at the time. It was at this Oscar ceremony that Michael's wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Chicago." Her husband has two Best Actor Oscars.
Kirk Douglas, second from left, poses with his ex-wife Diana Douglas, second from right, and their son Michael, right, and Michael's son, Cameron. They are at special screening of the film "It Runs in the Family, a movie starring all four of them. It opened nationwide in April 2003.
Douglas and his wife, Anne Buydens, pose for photographers in New York for the Nov. 18, 2000, wedding of his son, Michael Douglas, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a son, Dylan, and a daughter Carys, born in April 2003.
Douglas, center, is joined by his four sons backstage at the Majestic Theater in New York on April 7, 1987. From left are Peter, Joel, Michael, and Eric. Peter and Joel are producers, Michael is an actor-producer and Eric is an actor and stand-up comedian. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts honored Douglas with the presentation of the Franklin Sargent Award during a tribute at the theater.
Actor Kirk Douglas, left, and his son Michael, stars of the new film "It Runs in the Family," pose together before a special screening of the film in Los Angeles, April 7, 2003.
Actor Kirk Douglas, right, a cast member in the new film "It Runs in the Family," embraces his grandson and fellow cast member Cameron Douglas at a special screening of the film in Hollywood April 7, 20003. Cameron is the son of actor Michael Douglas, who produced and also acted in the film.
Kirk Douglas, front, and his son, Michael, April 7, 2003.