Michael Douglas by Marc Eliot - Excerpt

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Copyright © 2012 by Rebel Road, Inc. Copyright © 2012 by Rebel Road, Inc.  Al

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I n t r o d u c t i o n

I n t r o d u c t i o n

Christ,

Christ, I saw my father as a gladiator, nailed to a cross, as anI saw my father as a gladiator, nailed to a cross, as an artist who cut his ear off— 

artist who cut his ear off— and he would be shown doing theseand he would be shown doing these  superhuman things. I’

 superhuman things. I’d think, hd think, how can I possibly be a manow can I possibly be a man??  How can I be th

 How can I be the man this man was?e man this man was?

—Michael Douglas —Michael Douglas

B

B

eing the son or daughter of a Hollywoodeing the son or daughter of a Hollywood

icon can be the g

icon can be the greatest blreatest blessing or tessing or the deepest curse. For a childhe deepest curse. For a child of famous parents who lives in that shadow, the struggle to step into of famous parents who lives in that shadow, the struggle to step into the light of one’

the light of one’s own identity ofs own identity often carrten carries a heavy pries a heavy price.ice. Paul Newman’

Paul Newman’s son, Scott, s son, Scott, blessed with hblessed with his father’s good loois father’s good looks but ks but   void of

 void of his his unique unique talent talent lived lived in in the the shadow of shadow of the the eldeelder r Newman’Newman’ss fame and died of an overdose at the age of

twenty-fame and died of an overdose at the age of twenty- eight. Gregory eight. Gregory  Peck’s son also could not overcome his father’s fame and eventually  Peck’s son also could not overcome his father’s fame and eventually  shot himself. Charles Boyer’s son, too, committed suicide. Marlon shot himself. Charles Boyer’s son, too, committed suicide. Marlon Brando’s daughter killed herself after her brother, Marlon’s son, Brando’s daughter killed herself after her brother, Marlon’s son, an-other failed actor, fatally shot her boyfriend (and went to prison for it). other failed actor, fatally shot her boyfriend (and went to prison for it).

 There are

 There are numeronumerous us less dless dramatic ramatic instainstances. Sydney nces. Sydney Earle Chap-Earle Chap-lin,

lin, Charlie’Charlie’s son, although a fine actor and as son, although a fine actor and an ambitious one, was un-n ambitious one, was un-able to c

able to compete wompete with ith his his father’s old- father’s old- as-as-film-film-itself talent and failed toitself talent and failed to make it as a box office star either on the screen or stage. It was the make it as a box office star either on the screen or stage. It was the same story for Sydney’s half sister, Geraldine, who had similar same story for Sydney’s half sister, Geraldine, who had similar per-forming ambitions but whose career goals, too, were overwhelmed forming ambitions but whose career goals, too, were overwhelmed by the reach and heights of her father’s enormous worldwide fame. by the reach and heights of her father’s enormous worldwide fame.  A

 And nd despite despite his singulahis singular cor contribution ntribution to 1to 1969’969’ss Easy Rider  Easy Rider ,, Peter FondaPeter Fonda never achiev 

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Henry. Although both were alive during the making of 

Henry. Although both were alive during the making of  Easy  Easy Rider Rider ,, Henry never expressed any real desire to work with his son (except  Henry never expressed any real desire to work with his son (except  for a brief appearance in

for a brief appearance in Wanda Nevada,Wanda Nevada, an independenan independent film tt film that dis-hat dis-appeared almost as soon as it opened, in June 1979, and which may  appeared almost as soon as it opened, in June 1979, and which may  have been the senior Fonda’s

long-have been the senior Fonda’s long-overdue and failed attempt to ac-overdue and failed attempt to ac-knowledge his son’s talent and abilities). Peter’s sister Jane did fare a knowledge his son’s talent and abilities). Peter’s sister Jane did fare a little better. Although she shot her own career in the foot with her little better. Although she shot her own career in the foot with her “Hanoi Jane”

real-“Hanoi Jane” real-life episode, she finally did get to share the screenlife episode, she finally did get to share the screen  with

 with Henry Henry in in Mark Mark RydeRydell’ll’s s 11989811 On Golden Pond On Golden Pond ,, the dying seniorthe dying senior Fonda’s Academy Award–winning swan song. Jane went on to have a Fonda’s Academy Award–winning swan song. Jane went on to have a long and successf

long and successful cul careerareer, a , a two- two- time time Oscar Oscar winwinnerner, but nevertheless, but nevertheless had to battle forever the demons of her own politics and Daddy’s long had to battle forever the demons of her own politics and Daddy’s long legend. Gender, looks, and her canny ability to choose vehicles that  legend. Gender, looks, and her canny ability to choose vehicles that   were perfect

 were perfectly sly suited to uited to her talents her talents helpehelped d her to her to escape escape the the worst of worst of  Hollywood’

Hollywood’s dreaded dynasts dreaded dynastic curse. Aic curse. A nd the fact tnd the fact that she was a muchhat she was a much bigger star than Peter didn’t hurt. By 1981, Henry needed their bigger star than Peter didn’t hurt. By 1981, Henry needed their recon-ciliation on film as much as Jane did.

ciliation on film as much as Jane did.

Canadian-Canadian-born Donald Sutherland, who came to prominence inborn Donald Sutherland, who came to prominence in Robert Altman’s 1970

Robert Altman’s 1970 M*A*S*H  M*A*S*H and went on to make more than 160and went on to make more than 160 movies and win a cartful of awards (but no Oscar), is the father of  movies and win a cartful of awards (but no Oscar), is the father of  K

Kiefer iefer Sutherland, a suSutherland, a successfuccessful TV and fill TV and film actor limited by his rangem actor limited by his range and hampered by his quick temper and

substance-and hampered by his quick temper substance-and substance-abuse battles, as wellabuse battles, as well as by a lack of breakthrough

big-as by a lack of breakthrough big-screen roles. Kiefer made his namescreen roles. Kiefer made his name on the TV series

on the TV series 24,24, which ran in serial spurts for nearly nine years. which ran in serial spurts for nearly nine years.  T

 Tom om HankHanks s made made himself himself a a force force in in Hollywood Hollywood as as an an actor actor andand producer in film and TV, yet his son Colin has yet to make a solid producer in film and TV, yet his son Colin has yet to make a solid name in the movies. Sean Connery, film’s original James Bond, has a name in the movies. Sean Connery, film’s original James Bond, has a son, Jason, who remains relatively unknown as an actor. To the long son, Jason, who remains relatively unknown as an actor. To the long list add John Wayne and his actor son Patrick; Lana Turner and her list add John Wayne and his actor son Patrick; Lana Turner and her daughter, Cheryl; and the Sheens: relatively sane father Martin, daughter, Cheryl; and the Sheens: relatively sane father Martin, rela-tively crazy son Charlie, and Charlie’s brother, Emilio Estevez, best  tively crazy son Charlie, and Charlie’s brother, Emilio Estevez, best  known as a member of the cinematically inconsequential 1980s “Brat  known as a member of the cinematically inconsequential 1980s “Brat  Pack.”

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M I C H A E L

M I C H A E L D O U G L AD O U G L A S S 33

famously overshadowed by their more famous parents. Naming them famously overshadowed by their more famous parents. Naming them becomes a grim parlor game that could easily last all night.

becomes a grim parlor game that could easily last all night.  There

 There are are notablnotable e exceptions, exceptions, of of course. course. Jeff Jeff Bridges Bridges and and his his brotherbrother,, Beau, are the sons of affable TV and screen star Lloyd Bridges, a family  Beau, are the sons of affable TV and screen star Lloyd Bridges, a family  man a

man and by all nd by all accounts a good father, best remembeaccounts a good father, best remembered for his perred for his perfor- for-mance on

mance on the tthe tube as ube as Mike Mike Nelson in tNelson in the lowhe low- - budget indepenbudget independent TV dent TV  series

series Sea Hunt Sea Hunt (1958–61) and on the big screen as the smoldering, im-(1958–61) and on the big screen as the smoldering, im-mature deputy in Fred Zinnemann’s stellar 1952

mature deputy in Fred Zinnemann’s stellar 1952 High  High NoonNoon and in hisand in his comic roles in the 1980

comic roles in the 1980 Airplane!  Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and(Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and  Jerry

 Jerry ZuckerZucker) ) and and the the 11982982 Airplane  Airplane II II (Ken Finkleman). Even(Ken Finkleman). Eventually tually  both brothers were able to surface from Lloyd’s shadow—

both brothers were able to surface from Lloyd’s shadow— which,  which, ad- ad-mittedly, was not as long as those of bigger Hollywood legends— mittedly, was not as long as those of bigger Hollywood legends— andand  Jeff, rela

 Jeff, relatively late in his careertively late in his career, emer, emerged from the cult film star statusged from the cult film star status he acquired after his memorable performance in Joel Coen’s 1998

he acquired after his memorable performance in Joel Coen’s 1998 TheThe Big Lebowski.

Big Lebowski.11 Jeff’s bravura Oscar- winJeff’s bravura Oscar- winning ning Best Best Actor Actor performanceperformance some years later as Bad Blake in Scott Cooper’s 2009

some years later as Bad Blake in Scott Cooper’s 2009 Crazy Heart Crazy Heart fi- fi-nally made him a bankable star.

nally made him a bankable star.

Ben Stiller became a superstar, eclipsing both t

Ben Stiller became a superstar, eclipsing both the small-he small-screen suc-screen suc-cess of his stand-up comedian parents, Stiller and Meara, and Jerry  cess of his stand-up comedian parents, Stiller and Meara, and Jerry  Stiller’s

late-Stiller’s late-in-in-the-the-day sitcom and commercial spokesman career.day sitcom and commercial spokesman career.  James Bro

 James Brolin walin was a mis a minor-nor-league actor; his son Josh is one of the hot-league actor; his son Josh is one of the hot-test Hollywood leading men of t

test Hollywood leading men of the decade. Buhe decade. But far more often it far more often in Hol-n Hol-lywood, the exceptions prove the rule.

lywood, the exceptions prove the rule.

Let us now meet the Douglas dynasty, beginning with Kirk, the Let us now meet the Douglas dynasty, beginning with Kirk, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, who went on to international fame son of Russian Jewish immigrants, who went on to international fame and glory and by doing so cast a shadow from which all his and glory and by doing so cast a shadow from which all his prog-eny, with varying degrees of success, tried to emerge. Perhaps eny, with varying degrees of success, tried to emerge. Perhaps with-out meaning to, he nonetheless laid down a complex set of twists and out meaning to, he nonetheless laid down a complex set of twists and turns on their particular yellow brick road of movie dreams of fame, turns on their particular yellow brick road of movie dreams of fame, fortu

fortune, and gloryne, and glory..

Kirk married his first wife, socialite Diana Love Dill, while he was Kirk married his first wife, socialite Diana Love Dill, while he was

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still an unknown actor trying to make it on Broadway. He was still an unknown actor trying to make it on Broadway. He was ruth-lessly and singularly ambitious, and what he may have lacked in raw  lessly and singularly ambitious, and what he may have lacked in raw  talent, he more than made up for with a fierce dete

talent, he more than made up for with a fierce determirmination that per-nation that per-haps only the child of poor immigrants can truly comprehend.

haps only the child of poor immigrants can truly comprehend.  At

 At the the same same time, time, he he showeshowed d little little interest interest in in domesticitydomesticity. . HeHe fathered two boys with Diana—

fathered two boys with Diana— Michael  Michael was was born born in in 11944, 944, Joel Joel inin 1947—

1947—and to both he remained distant, mostly physically unavaand to both he remained distant, mostly physically unavailable,ilable, and emotionally unavailable to his wife, while craving the affection and emotionally unavailable to his wife, while craving the affection and approval of

and approval of his his Russian- Russian- born fatborn fatherher. A. After fter a ma middling ciddling career onareer on the boards, K

the boards, Kirk took off for Hirk took off for Hollywood alone, leaving his wife behiollywood alone, leaving his wife behindnd  with

 with two-two- year- year-old Michael. A self-old Michael. A self-confessed notorious womanizer,confessed notorious womanizer, Kirk’s arrival in Hollywood was not unlike that of a child with an Kirk’s arrival in Hollywood was not unlike that of a child with an in-satiable swe

satiable sweet tooth given tet tooth given the keys to the best cahe keys to the best candy store in the worlndy store in the world.d.  Af

 After ter the the release release of of his his first first film, film, Lewis Lewis Milestone’Milestone’s s 11946946 TheThe Strange Love of Martha Ivers 

Strange Love of Martha Ivers , Kirk found regular work in bigger and, Kirk found regular work in bigger and better movies. After several heated affairs, he and Diana began better movies. After several heated affairs, he and Diana began talk-ing divorce. Diana “had some inkltalk-ing that somethtalk-ing was gotalk-ing on ing divorce. Diana “had some inkling that something was going on  with hi

 with him and his various leading ladies, onm and his various leading ladies, one in parte in particular.icular.” Ki” Kirk neverk neverr denied any of i

denied any of it: “Yt: “Yes, I liked women. I liked Maries, I liked women. I liked Marilyn Malyn Maxwell, she wasxwell, she was beautiful. . . . I was a bad boy, yes, I had lots of women.”

beautiful. . . . I was a bad boy, yes, I had lots of women.”

Diana repeatedly pleaded with him to stop his incessant Diana repeatedly pleaded with him to stop his incessant woman-izing, and when Kirk wouldn’t, or couldn’t, in 1950 Diana went ahead izing, and when Kirk wouldn’t, or couldn’t, in 1950 Diana went ahead and filed for d

and filed for divorce.ivorce.  Michael,

 Michael, six six years years old old at at the the time time of of his his parents’ parents’ split, split, was was pro- pro-foundly affected by what he could not help perceiving as his father’s foundly affected by what he could not help perceiving as his father’s abandonment. He drew ever closer to and more dependent on his abandonment. He drew ever closer to and more dependent on his mother. In his first memoir,

mother. In his first memoir, The Ragman’s SonThe Ragman’s Son,, Kirk describes a sceneKirk describes a scene  just

 just prior prior to to the the divorce divorce while while visitivisiting ng his his wife wife and and two two children children inin New York: “When Diana and I were having an intense argument in New York: “When Diana and I were having an intense argument in the kitchen, we saw Michael, who was about six, walking toward us. the kitchen, we saw Michael, who was about six, walking toward us.  W

 We e stopped stopped immediatelyimmediately, , before before he he enterentered, ed, but but he he burst burst out out crcry- y-ing. . . . That’s when we realized that staying together for the sake of  ing. . . . That’s when we realized that staying together for the sake of  the children

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M I C H A E L D O U G L AD O U G L A S S 55

 was t

 was them fighting. Not physihem fighting. Not physically cally fighting, but argufighting, but arguing. Ving. Voices beingoices being raised.” Those voices would reverberate in Michael’s head for years, raised.” Those voices would reverberate in Michael’s head for years, even as Kirk’s absence turned him into something of an invisible god. even as Kirk’s absence turned him into something of an invisible god.  Michael’

 Michael’s ms most frequenost frequent cont contact with his father tact with his father was wawas watching his giant tching his giant  image on the screen performing heroics and making love to other image on the screen performing heroics and making love to other  women

 women. . KiKirk was rk was there athere and not nd not there, there, real real and and not real, not real, an an object of object of   worship

 worship and and an an object of object of longing. longing. These These feelings feelings would would grow grow insideinside  Michael

 Michael until, until, as as a a young young man man trtrying ying to to find find his his place iplace in n the the worworld,ld, he realized he wanted to be just like his father, and at the same time, he realized he wanted to be just like his father, and at the same time, nothing like him.

nothing like him.  The

 The divorce divorce was was finalifinalized zed in in January January 1195951. 1. Diana Diana received received solesole custody of the children, with liberal visitation rights for Kirk. That  custody of the children, with liberal visitation rights for Kirk. That  February, she moved into an apartment on Central Park West. As February, she moved into an apartment on Central Park West. As Diana recal

Diana recalled not lled not long after, “Michael . . . was showing signs of deepong after, “Michael . . . was showing signs of deep anger since the divorce and from being a compatible, tractable child, anger since the divorce and from being a compatible, tractable child, had suddenly become ve

had suddenly become very ry stubborn and rebellious. He challenged mestubborn and rebellious. He challenged me at every turn. I took him to a child psychologist who observed him in at every turn. I took him to a child psychologist who observed him in play therapy and then lectured me gently. ‘This is not a deeply play therapy and then lectured me gently. ‘This is not a deeply dis-turbed child at all. He has suffered a great loss and blames you for turbed child at all. He has suffered a great loss and blames you for it.’ [He advised me to] ease up on the discipline and give him loads of  it.’ [He advised me to] ease up on the discipline and give him loads of  love.”

love.”  The

 The “loads “loads of of lovelove” ” was was meant meant to to deflect deflect what what was was a a not not uncom- uncom-mon reaction of young children whose pa

mon reaction of young children whose parents divorce: that it is some-rents divorce: that it is some-how their fault. As a chi

how their fault. As a child, Michael struggled with whom to blame forld, Michael struggled with whom to blame for his parents’ breakup, his mother, his father, or himself. At times he his parents’ breakup, his mother, his father, or himself. At times he blamed his father for abandoning the family. Other times he blamed blamed his father for abandoning the family. Other times he blamed his mother for somehow driving his father away. And still other times his mother for somehow driving his father away. And still other times he blamed him

he blamed himself and, later, younger brother Joel for not being goodself and, later, younger brother Joel for not being good enough children. Michael’s guilt and anger expressed itself in enough children. Michael’s guilt and anger expressed itself in out-bursts and

mini-bursts and mini-rebellions. (Joel handled the trauma differently. Herebellions. (Joel handled the trauma differently. He put on weight that he carried on his frame his entire life, as if wishing put on weight that he carried on his frame his entire life, as if wishing to insulate himself from his own emotional needs.)

to insulate himself from his own emotional needs.)  Michael

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a moneyed sop

a moneyed sophisticate; so did Mhisticate; so did Michael. Kirk was a serichael. Kirk was a serial cheater; Mi-ial cheater; Mi-chael, too, lov

chael, too, loved womened women. Even. Eventuatually Mlly Michael lichael left hieft his first ws first wife and re-ife and re-marr

married a woman who closely resembled his father’s seconied a woman who closely resembled his father’s second wife. d wife. TheThe duality of Michael’s identity struggle is vivid; it is as if, on the one duality of Michael’s identity struggle is vivid; it is as if, on the one hand, he strove to become a better version of his dad, while on the hand, he strove to become a better version of his dad, while on the other

other, he feared he was desti, he feared he was destined to exactly follow in hned to exactly follow in his father’is father’s heavy s heavy  footsteps.

footsteps.

Diana got the message from the psychiatrist, and this early Diana got the message from the psychiatrist, and this early coun-seling helped Michael improve his social skills and lessen the periodic seling helped Michael improve his social skills and lessen the periodic traumatic flashes that would occur whenever his father came back to traumatic flashes that would occur whenever his father came back to New York City to visit the two boys. On one visit to the West Side New York City to visit the two boys. On one visit to the West Side apartment, K

apartment, Kirk recalls in hirk recalls in his memois memoir, hir, he “walked in and ke “walked in and kissed Dianaissed Diana on the cheek. Michael

on the cheek. Michael started to crstarted to cryy. Thir. Thirtty-y-five yearfive years later, he told mes later, he told me it bewildered him. He thought Mommy and Daddy we

it bewildered him. He thought Mommy and Daddy were angrre angry at eachy at each other. . . . [T]here was a wall between us. Maybe [the boys] felt that I other. . . . [T]here was a wall between us. Maybe [the boys] felt that I had abandoned them. We never discussed it.”

had abandoned them. We never discussed it.” It was a wall t

It was a wall that was to remain up for nearhat was to remain up for nearly a lifetime. Mly a lifetime. Michaeichael, thel, the more obviously sensitive of the two boys, would avoid expressing anger more obviously sensitive of the two boys, would avoid expressing anger and argui

and arguing in his marriages, tng in his marriages, the passive he passive Jekyll to the aggressive HyJekyll to the aggressive Hydede of his movie characters.

of his movie characters. The ghost of his father’s philandering (and theThe ghost of his father’s philandering (and the shadow of his own) would emer

shadow of his own) would emerge in such fige in such films aslms as Fatal  Fatal AttractionAttraction,,Basic Basic   Instinc

 Instinct t ,, andand Disclosure.Disclosure. Al All l ththree ree characters characters he he played played in in those those filmsfilms  were

 were sexually troublsexually troubled ed men, men, and and with the with the excepexception tion of of  Fatal  Fatal AttractionAttraction’’ss Dan Gallagher they had

Dan Gallagher they had no apparent connection to or desire to cno apparent connection to or desire to care forare for their children. According to film cr

their children. According to film critic and historian David Thomson,itic and historian David Thomson, troubled men became Michael’s best roles. He was “capable of playing troubled men became Michael’s best roles. He was “capable of playing characters who were weak, culpable, morally indolent, compromised, characters who were weak, culpable, morally indolent, compromised, and greedy for illicit sensation without losing that basic probity or and greedy for illicit sensation without losing that basic probity or potential for ethica

potential for ethical character tl character that we require of a hero.hat we require of a hero.””

Although it is

Although it is not unusual for sons to follow in the professionalnot unusual for sons to follow in the professional

footsteps o

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M I C H A E L D O U G L AD O U G L A S S 77

 wandered

 wandered into into the pthe professionrofession: : “I “I went went into into theater theater because because I I didn’didn’t t havehave a major

a major. . . It was my junior year iIt was my junior year in college [University of Californn college [University of California,ia, Santa Barbara] and I really didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do. Santa Barbara] and I really didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do. I really had never thought about acting at all. So when I jumped in, I I really had never thought about acting at all. So when I jumped in, I hadn’

hadn’t done any high scht done any high school plays or anythool plays or anything. Earlier in my career . ing. Earlier in my career . . . .. I was basically someone who was struggling for confidence. . . . I was I was basically someone who was struggling for confidence. . . . I was  withdrawn.”

 withdrawn.”

Perhaps Michael’s greatest satisfaction was being able to Perhaps Michael’s greatest satisfaction was being able to accom-plish what his

plish what his father could not: at tfather could not: at the age of the age of thirthirty- y- one, after a one, after a mid- mid-dling film and TV career, Michael managed to get a movie made out  dling film and TV career, Michael managed to get a movie made out  of Ken Kesey’s

semi-of Ken Kesey’s semi-autobiographical Beat-autobiographical Beat-influenced novelinfluenced novel One FlewOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Kirk had originally purchased rights to theKirk had originally purchased rights to the book in 1962, before its publication, for $47,000, and he brought it  book in 1962, before its publication, for $47,000, and he brought it  to the Broadway stage in 1963. Kirk played the lead role, Randle to the Broadway stage in 1963. Kirk played the lead role, Randle Mc- Murphy

 Murphy, , a a symbolicalsymbolically ly sane sane man man trapped trapped in in a a metaphmetaphorical orical insaneinsane asylum, surrounded by other inmates he eventually realizes are all the asylum, surrounded by other inmates he eventually realizes are all the sane victims of a crazy world, whose authority figures are sadistically  sane victims of a crazy world, whose authority figures are sadistically  insane. T

insane. The Broadwahe Broadway production was iy production was intendntended as ed as a showcase for what a showcase for what  Kirk hoped would be his greatest film achievement and win him an Kirk hoped would be his greatest film achievement and win him an  Academy

 Academy Award, Award, an an accolaaccolade de that that had had eludeluded ed him him despite despite his his enor- enor-mously successful film career.

mously successful film career. Cuckoo’s Nest 

Cuckoo’s Nest opened on November 13, nine days before John F.opened on November 13, nine days before John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In the immediate aftermath of those dark  Kennedy was assassinated. In the immediate aftermath of those dark  days, the last thing anyone wanted to see was a downcast play about  days, the last thing anyone wanted to see was a downcast play about  injustice, manipulation, and the misuse of power and murder. Kirk  injustice, manipulation, and the misuse of power and murder. Kirk  reluctantly closed it on Januar

reluctantly closed it on January 25y 25, 19, 1964, confidently believi64, confidently believing thng that theat the next step, bringing it to the screen, was a cinch.

next step, bringing it to the screen, was a cinch. It wasn’t. By the

mid-It wasn’t. By the mid-sixtsixties, Kiies, Kirk’rk’s film career had peaked and wass film career had peaked and was on a downslope. Ten frustrating years later, in a

last-on a downslope. Ten frustrating years later, in a last- ditch effort, heditch effort, he handed the rights over to Michael and gave him his blessing to run handed the rights over to Michael and gave him his blessing to run  with

 with it. it. Michael Michael ran, ran, all all right, right, and, and, with with his his producing paproducing partrtnerner, , SaulSaul Zaentz, won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1975. Over Zaentz, won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1975. Over Mi-chael’s init 

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father K

father Kirk Douglas, played McMurphyirk Douglas, played McMurphy. Nicholson also took an . Nicholson also took an OscarOscar home, the Oscar that Kirk never won.

home, the Oscar that Kirk never won.22

Cuckoo’s Nest 

Cuckoo’s Nest marked the moment when Michael changed placesmarked the moment when Michael changed places  with

 with his his father afather and becand became tme the more he more powerful powerful figure figure in in Hollywood.Hollywood. It signaled the beginning of Michael’s great run as a producer, actor, It signaled the beginning of Michael’s great run as a producer, actor, and sometimes both in a series of

top-and sometimes both in a series of top-grossing, award-grossing, award- win winning ning filmsfilms that would culminate in his winning a second Oscar, this one for Best  that would culminate in his winning a second Oscar, this one for Best   Actor for

 Actor for his memohis memorable rable portrayal of Gordoportrayal of Gordon Gekko in Oliver n Gekko in Oliver StoneStone’’ss 1987

1987 Wall Street.Wall Street.

 What follows, then, is t

 What follows, then, is the story of how Michael fohe story of how Michael fought to step ouught to step out t  of his fat

of his father’her’s shadow even as he strs shadow even as he struggled against fauggled against falling lling deeper into it deeper into it  and become his fat

and become his fatherher. It is t. It is the story of a seahe story of a search for self-rch for self-identity, inneridentity, inner peace, lasting happiness, and enduring love. It is the story of how the peace, lasting happiness, and enduring love. It is the story of how the firstborn son of Kirk Douglas finally succeeded in becoming his own firstborn son of Kirk Douglas finally succeeded in becoming his own man.

man.

22 Cuckoo’s Nest Cuckoo’s Nest wound up winning the “Big Four”: Best Picture; Best Actor, Jack wound up winning the “Big Four”: Best Picture; Best Actor, Jack  Nicholson; Best Director, Miloš Forman; Best Actress, Louise Fletcher. It was the Nicholson; Best Director, Miloš Forman; Best Actress, Louise Fletcher. It was the first time o

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ap-P A R T O N E P A R T O N E

P a r e n t s

P a r e n t s

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 Kirk D

 Kirk Douglas gouglas greeted by his sonsreeted by his sons, Joel, si, Joel, six (lex (left), and Michael, nine (rightft), and Michael, nine (right), at ), at  a New York a

a New York airport after arrirport after arriving from Europe to iving from Europe to spend Christmas t spend Christmas t ogether.ogether.  Kirk was b

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T

T

C h a p t e r 1

C h a p t e r 1

 As an actor, it w

 As an actor, it was really intimidating was really intimidating watching matching my fathy father er 

because his personality, his presence was so strong and so dynamic  because his personality, his presence was so strong and so dynamic  that, forget acting, you just didn’t even know how to be a man. that, forget acting, you just didn’t even know how to be a man.

—Michael Douglas —Michael Douglas

M

M

ichael K. Douglas inherited more than hisichael K. Douglas inherited more than his

famous father’s dirty blond hair and familiar face. He inherited famous father’s dirty blond hair and familiar face. He inherited his freedom. Kirk, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was born his freedom. Kirk, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was born in Amsterdam, New York. Herschel Danielovitch, a tailor, had fled in Amsterdam, New York. Herschel Danielovitch, a tailor, had fled  Moscow in

 Moscow in 11908 908 for Belarfor Belarus, us, like like so so many many Jews dJews did uid under the nder the threat threat  of endless

Cossack-of endless Cossack-led pogroms and conscription that forced them toled pogroms and conscription that forced them to fight for

fight for the the tsatsar ir in tn the Rushe Russo- so- Japanese Japanese WWar. Tar. Two yeawo years rs later, tak-later, tak-ing his girlfriend, Bryna Sanglel, a baker, with him, he left Belarus in ing his girlfriend, Bryna Sanglel, a baker, with him, he left Belarus in 1910 bound for America’s promise of safety and rebirth. They passed 1910 bound for America’s promise of safety and rebirth. They passed through Ellis Island, the gateway to the New World, and settled in through Ellis Island, the gateway to the New World, and settled in upstate New York, where that same year they married and started a upstate New York, where that same year they married and started a family.

family. By 1

By 192924 t4 they had seven children, sihey had seven children, six gix girls and one boy: Pesha (bornrls and one boy: Pesha (born 1910), Kaleh (1912), Tamara (1914), Issur (1916), twins Hashka and 1910), Kaleh (1912), Tamara (1914), Issur (1916), twins Hashka and Siffra (1918), and Rachel (1924). Issur would later change his name Siffra (1918), and Rachel (1924). Issur would later change his name from Issur Danielovitch to the more American (and less Jewish) Kirk  from Issur Danielovitch to the more American (and less Jewish) Kirk  Douglas.

Douglas. Hersche

Herschel was not a warm mal was not a warm man. He liked to eat by hin. He liked to eat by himself in restau-mself in restau-rants, or a

rants, or alone lalone late at night at the kte at night at the kitchen tablitchen table when everyone else wase when everyone else was already in bed. When not plying his rag trade on the streets of already in bed. When not plying his rag trade on the streets of Am-sterdam, he w 

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1

12 2 M aM a r c r c E l i oE l i o tt

show him how much hard work it took to put food on t

show him how much hard work it took to put food on the famihe family table.ly table. Issur was a quick learner but not especially ambitious. To help feed Issur was a quick learner but not especially ambitious. To help feed the fam

the family he preferred to break into neigily he preferred to break into neighbors’ hohbors’ houses and steal uses and steal foodfood from their kitchens.

from their kitchens.

Sometimes, to supplement what he earned from the rag business, Sometimes, to supplement what he earned from the rag business, Herschel sold fruits and vegetables off a cart. Issur used to steal from Herschel sold fruits and vegetables off a cart. Issur used to steal from him, too, and then bring the food home to the family. Sometimes he him, too, and then bring the food home to the family. Sometimes he  would

 would keep keep a a potato potato or or two two for for himself himself and and roast roast them them in in the the base- base-ment, until one time he “accidentally” burned the house down. As ment, until one time he “accidentally” burned the house down. As Kirk recalls in his memoirs, “I have always suspected that this was . . . Kirk recalls in his memoirs, “I have always suspected that this was . . . subconscious arson. I real

subconscious arson. I really wanted to destly wanted to destroy the whole house. Thereroy the whole house. There  was an

 was an awfawful loul lot t of of rage rage churning around churning around inside inside me . . . my me . . . my mother mother waswas always saying, ‘Don’t be like your father. . . .’ That made me angry. always saying, ‘Don’t be like your father. . . .’ That made me angry.  W

 Who shoho should I be like? My mould I be like? My mother? My sther? My sisters?”isters?”

Herschel was a bad drinker, and since the only other person in the Herschel was a bad drinker, and since the only other person in the house who wasn’

house who wasn’t female was t female was Issur, he received tIssur, he received the bruhe brunt of his nt of his father’father’ss fr

frustrations via reguustrations via regular beatings. If he angered Issur to the point whlar beatings. If he angered Issur to the point whereere he wanted to burn down the house, he also managed to toughen him he wanted to burn down the house, he also managed to toughen him up, and it was t

up, and it was that intense combination of anger and toughness, ahat intense combination of anger and toughness, alonglong  with h

 with his blond Russian good looks, that would one day helis blond Russian good looks, that would one day help make tp make thehe boy an i

boy an international movie star.nternational movie star.

Despite the

Despite the New World dreams of Herschel the refugee, being aNew World dreams of Herschel the refugee, being a

 Jew was not so

 Jew was not so easy ieasy in An America. America. Anywhere outside the nywhere outside the protective en-protective en- virons of New Y

 virons of New York City’s Loork City’s Lower East Sidwer East Side was considere was considered dangeroused dangerous turf. For Issur, living in Amsterdam surrounded by Christians turf. For Issur, living in Amsterdam surrounded by Christians neces-sarily kept him a loner, and as a result, he turned increasingly inward sarily kept him a loner, and as a result, he turned increasingly inward and let his mind take him where his body couldn’t.

and let his mind take him where his body couldn’t.  As soon as he graduated from high s

 As soon as he graduated from high school, Issur tried to save somchool, Issur tried to save somee money to make a plan

money to make a planned getawayned getaway. He got a job in t. He got a job in the local M. Lurhe local M. Lurieie department store, where he quickly devised a scheme to steal cash by  department store, where he quickly devised a scheme to steal cash by  altering

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M I C H A E L

M I C H A E L D O U G LD O U G L A S A S 1133

tally discovered another way to act out his inner frustrations when he tally discovered another way to act out his inner frustrations when he tried out for t

tried out for the role of The role of Tony Cavendish in a smaony Cavendish in a small commull community nity theatertheater production of 

production of The Royal FamilyThe Royal Family,, a popular and successful Broadway a popular and successful Broadway  play that parodied the Barrymore family 

play that parodied the Barrymore family .. He was curious about what He was curious about what  all those people in that little building were up to, so he walked in one all those people in that little building were up to, so he walked in one night and was handed a script. Af

night and was handed a script. After he read, hter he read, he was offered a part ae was offered a part andnd said yes. It tur

said yes. It turned out to be a fun ned out to be a fun experience for him, but a limexperience for him, but a limited onited onee  with ver

 with very little in ty little in the way ohe way of monf monetaretary rewards. Hy rewards. He then wene then went back tot back to  working

 working and and stealing stealing until, until, after after another another year year had had passed, passed, his his sisterssisters convinced him to take his life savings, about $200, travel north to the convinced him to take his life savings, about $200, travel north to the town of Canton, and tr

town of Canton, and try to enroll in y to enroll in St. Lawrence USt. Lawrence University, a colleniversity, a collegege education being his best chance to make a better life for himself.

education being his best chance to make a better life for himself.  The

 The night night before before he he left, hleft, he e said said good-good-bye to his bye to his fatherfather, who handed, who handed him some bread rubbed with garlic and slices of herring, wished the him some bread rubbed with garlic and slices of herring, wished the boy good luck, and went to bed.

boy good luck, and went to bed.

Once at St

Once at St. L. Lawrawrence,ence,Issur Issur felt defelt deep pangs of homesickness,ep pangs of homesickness,

lone

loneliness, liness, and hunger. And tand hunger. And there was never enouhere was never enough food to sate hgh food to sate him.im.  As

 As a a result, result, he he was was constantly constantly grgrubbing ubbing food food from from his his friends friends at at thethe dorm and scrounging off their trays in the cafeteria, until one angry  dorm and scrounging off their trays in the cafeteria, until one angry  matron loudly dressed him down and humiliated him in front of all matron loudly dressed him down and humiliated him in front of all the other boys.

the other boys. Issur hung in t

Issur hung in there, tryhere, trying to find new ways to get soing to find new ways to get some morme more foode food and maybe even learn something—

and maybe even learn something—until girls came into his life. Oneuntil girls came into his life. One in par

in particuticular, Isabella, a Wlar, Isabella, a WASP beauty attending tASP beauty attending the university, caughhe university, caught t  his eye. Too shy to talk to her, he sent her a poem instead, and soon his eye. Too shy to talk to her, he sent her a poem instead, and soon enough they were going together. But Issur knew there was no enough they were going together. But Issur knew there was no pos-sibility of any kind of permanent relationship with Isabella. It wasn’t  sibility of any kind of permanent relationship with Isabella. It wasn’t   just the religious thing. Isabella was simp

 just the religious thing. Isabella was simply not ly not that interested in him.that interested in him.  There weren

 There weren’’t mat many other ny other extrextracurracurricular icular activactivities tities that atthat attractedracted him b

him besides theater and girls, aesides theater and girls, and there wasn’nd there wasn’t much of either of those.t much of either of those. He decided to join

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14 4 M aM a r c r c E l i o tE l i o t

outlet for his frust

outlet for his frustrations and angerrations and anger, and soon he was the best wrestler, and soon he was the best wrestler in t

in the school. Selfhe school. Self--pride was somepride was someththing new to him, aing new to him, and he wond he wore it likere it like a badge of honor.

a badge of honor.

During his first

During his first summer vacation, Issur wrestled for cash insummer vacation, Issur wrestled for cash in

carn

carnivals, but his second year he managed to land a job with a suivals, but his second year he managed to land a job with a summermmer stock acting company at the Tamarack Playhouse on Lake Pleasant  stock acting company at the Tamarack Playhouse on Lake Pleasant  in t

in the Adirondack Mountains. He wasn’he Adirondack Mountains. He wasn’t hit hired as an red as an actor; he did not actor; he did not  have anything like the training or experience of the other cast have anything like the training or experience of the other cast mem-bers, most of whom had come to Tamarack together from the bers, most of whom had come to Tamarack together from the Good-man School of Acting in Chicago. Instead, he was a paid stagehand, man School of Acting in Chicago. Instead, he was a paid stagehand,  with t

 with the prohe promise of maybe a line or two here mise of maybe a line or two here and there if needand there if needed.ed. Issur didn’t get a chance to do much acting that summer, but he Issur didn’t get a chance to do much acting that summer, but he did manage to steal one of the Chicago actresses from her boyfriend did manage to steal one of the Chicago actresses from her boyfriend and sneak away and have sex with

and sneak away and have sex with herher. The only ot. The only other friend he madeher friend he made  was o

 was one ne of of the regular cast the regular cast membemembers, Mladen rs, Mladen George George Sekulovich, whoSekulovich, who had just changed his name to the

easier-had just changed his name to the easier- on-on-the-the-tongue Karl Malden.tongue Karl Malden.  T

 Takaking his ing his cue from cue from Malden, Malden, Issur proudly Issur proudly began calling himself Kirk began calling himself Kirk  Douglas.

Douglas.11

Back at St. Lawrence for the start of his junior year, he quickly  Back at St. Lawrence for the start of his junior year, he quickly  resumed his role as the star of the wrestling team. He was so good he resumed his role as the star of the wrestling team. He was so good he  was encouraged to

 was encouraged to trtry out for y out for the Olythe Olympic team, but Kmpic team, but Kirk tirk turned aurned allll of it down. He knew now what he wante

of it down. He knew now what he wanted to do with d to do with his lhis life, and it hadife, and it had nothing to do with athletics. He couldn’t get the smell of that girl out  nothing to do with athletics. He couldn’t get the smell of that girl out  of his head, or the thrill of stealing her away and having to pretend of his head, or the thrill of stealing her away and having to pretend they hardly knew each other when her boyfriend was around. He was they hardly knew each other when her boyfriend was around. He was going to be a

going to be an actor!n actor!

In 1939, after

In 1939, after graduating from St. Lawrence, Kirk traveledgraduating from St. Lawrence, Kirk traveled

down to New York City, where he was promptly turned down by the down to New York City, where he was promptly turned down by the

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M I C H A E L

M I C H A E L D O U G LD O U G L A S A S 1155

 Academy

 Academy of of Dramatic Dramatic ArArts ts (located (located at at that that time time in in Carnegie Carnegie Hall),Hall), not because he wasn’t a good enough actor but because he couldn’t  not because he wasn’t a good enough actor but because he couldn’t  afford the annual $500 tuition and he didn’t qualify for a scholarship. afford the annual $500 tuition and he didn’t qualify for a scholarship. Instead, he found work downto

Instead, he found work downtown iwn in the Vin the Village at Greenwich House,llage at Greenwich House, putting on plays and skits with immigrant children.

putting on plays and skits with immigrant children.  That fa

 That fall, ll, after after spending spending another fanother fun-un-filled summer at Tamarack,filled summer at Tamarack, Kirk returned to New York City, and this time the Academy of Kirk returned to New York City, and this time the Academy of Dra-matic Arts admitted him, even waiving the tuition. Soon enough he matic Arts admitted him, even waiving the tuition. Soon enough he caught the attention of ano

caught the attention of another student, Margaret Mather student, Margaret Mary ry “Pe“Peggyggy” Dig-” Dig-gins, a

raven-gins, a raven-haired, wide-haired, wide-eyed beauty who also happened to work aseyed beauty who also happened to work as a model and was, as Kirk recalled in his memoirs, the current Miss a model and was, as Kirk recalled in his memoirs, the current Miss New York.

New York.22

 They

 They fell fell in in love, and love, and KKirk irk asked her asked her to to marrmarry y him. him. She said She said yes,yes, and in a heated rush, they took a train to Newark, New Jersey, since and in a heated rush, they took a train to Newark, New Jersey, since an acting friend of Kirk’s had told him it was the quickest place to get  an acting friend of Kirk’s had told him it was the quickest place to get  married.

married.

It wasn’t. Kirk and Peggy had problems providing the necessary  It wasn’t. Kirk and Peggy had problems providing the necessary  papers, and no wedding was performed that day. They returned to papers, and no wedding was performed that day. They returned to New York disappointed but determined to get back to Newark and get  New York disappointed but determined to get back to Newark and get  married as soon as possible.

married as soon as possible.

However, before that could happen, Peggy was offered a However, before that could happen, Peggy was offered a Holly- wood co

 wood contract to jontract to join a group in a group of girls who of girls who called themselves the Ncalled themselves the Navy avy  Blue Sextet,

Blue Sextet, the six most beautiful girls in the world! the six most beautiful girls in the world! And just like that,And just like that, she was gone.

she was gone.

Peggy never wrote or called Kirk. Peggy never wrote or called Kirk.

He was crushed and tried to forget her. To keep himself busy he He was crushed and tried to forget her. To keep himself busy he took a job at Schrafft’s on Broadway and

Eighty-took a job at Schrafft’s on Broadway and Eighty-Sixth Street,Sixth Street, one of aone of a city

citywide chain of ice cream awide chain of ice cream and sandwich palaces where a lot ond sandwich palaces where a lot of unem-f unem-ployed actors found work. With salar

ployed actors found work. With salar y and tips he made enough y and tips he made enough money money  to rent a smal

to rent a small room on tl room on the Whe West Side for $3 a week. Aest Side for $3 a week. And whatever foodnd whatever food remained on patrons’ plates when they left he considered fair game. remained on patrons’ plates when they left he considered fair game.

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16 6 M aM a r c r c E l i o tE l i o t

He continued to wor

He continued to work at Schrafk at Schrafft’s even after he left ft’s even after he left the Academy inthe Academy in the spring of 1941. He was one of only 80 out of 168 students to make the spring of 1941. He was one of only 80 out of 168 students to make it through t

it through the senior year of the prograhe senior year of the program. The rest either couldn’m. The rest either couldn’t af-t af-ford to continue, were drafted into the army, or simply were deemed ford to continue, were drafted into the army, or simply were deemed not good enough to graduate.

not good enough to graduate. Going to school w

Going to school was one thing, but makias one thing, but making a living as ang a living as an actor wasn actor was another, and despite his job at Schrafft’s he was always just one step another, and despite his job at Schrafft’s he was always just one step ahead of eviction. Then, after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl ahead of eviction. Then, after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor,

twenty-Harbor, twenty-five- year-five- year-old Kirk decided to enlist in the air force,old Kirk decided to enlist in the air force, but he was rejected for being too old.

but he was rejected for being too old.

So it was back to working Schrafft’s at night and making the So it was back to working Schrafft’s at night and making the rounds during the day, finding no prospects, until one day he arrived rounds during the day, finding no prospects, until one day he arrived at the Katharine Cornell–Guthrie McClintic production offices, one at the Katharine Cornell–Guthrie McClintic production offices, one of hundreds of doors he had knocked on. Only this time the people of hundreds of doors he had knocked on. Only this time the people in t

in the office didn’he office didn’t just ask ht just ask him for a photo and résumé and show himim for a photo and résumé and show him the way out. This time he actually got to meet one of McClintic’s the way out. This time he actually got to meet one of McClintic’s as-sistants, who li

sistants, who liked what he saw and arranged to have Kked what he saw and arranged to have Kirk audition forirk audition for a new Broadway play they were producing,

a new Broadway play they were producing, Spring AgainSpring Again. Much to his. Much to his surprise and delight, Kirk landed the

four-surprise and delight, Kirk landed the four-line role of a singing tele-line role of a singing tele-gram boy. The pay wasn’t much, and he’d have to give up Schrafft’s in gram boy. The pay wasn’t much, and he’d have to give up Schrafft’s in orde

order to mar to make every ke every performance. Tperformance. To make o make ends meet, he took the jobends meet, he took the job of stage manager and u

of stage manager and understudied four other roles.nderstudied four other roles.  As

 As KiKirk rk tells tells the the story story in in his his memomemoirs, irs, one one night night McClintic McClintic in- in- vited him to

 vited him to dindinner ner and madand made a e a sexual pass that shsexual pass that shook ook KiKirk urk up—p— about about   McClin

 McClintic, about actitic, about acting, aboung, about tt the theaterhe theater, maybe even about his ow, maybe even about his ownn manhood. Not long after, he joined the nav

manhood. Not long after, he joined the navyy..  Times had

 Times had changed: it changed: it was was 11942 and 942 and the the war war was was raging; raging; now thenow the military was willing to take anyone who could breathe. Kirk was sent  military was willing to take anyone who could breathe. Kirk was sent  to South Bend, Indiana, where he spent four months in training as a to South Bend, Indiana, where he spent four months in training as a naval officer at Notre Dame Midshipman School. One day Kirk was naval officer at Notre Dame Midshipman School. One day Kirk was surprised to see one of his fellow students from the Academy on the surprised to see one of his fellow students from the Academy on the cover of 

cover of  Life Life magazine. Diana Love Dill was as much a beauty as hemagazine. Diana Love Dill was as much a beauty as he could imagine.

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M I C H A E L

M I C H A E L D O U G LD O U G L A S A S 1177

born in Northern Ireland and set sail for Virginia in the early born in Northern Ireland and set sail for Virginia in the early seven-teenth century; but when they stopped in Bermuda they decided to teenth century; but when they stopped in Bermuda they decided to settle there instead, eventually amassing a great fortune in shipping. settle there instead, eventually amassing a great fortune in shipping. Diana’s mother, Ruth Rapalje Neilson, could trace her roots back to Diana’s mother, Ruth Rapalje Neilson, could trace her roots back to Northern Ireland as well. Ruth had married Thomas Melville Dill, Northern Ireland as well. Ruth had married Thomas Melville Dill, four years her senior, a former commander of the Bermuda Militia four years her senior, a former commander of the Bermuda Militia  Ar

 Artiltillerylery, and futu, and future attorney genere attorney general of the island.ral of the island.  Their seventh

 Their seventh and fiand final nal child, Diachild, Diana, borna, born in in Bermuda in Bermuda in 19n 1923 to23 to a mother who was

forty-a mother who wforty-as forty-three forty-and forty-a fforty-ather who wforty-as forty-three and a father who was forty-six. At thesix. At the age of six, Diana was sent off to London to attend the Doreck School age of six, Diana was sent off to London to attend the Doreck School at the fa

at the far end of Kensingr end of Kensington Garden Square ton Garden Square and receive a proper Britand receive a proper Brit--ish upper-

ish upper- class education. class education. Diana Diana lived ilived in London un London until ntil 1193930, when 0, when sheshe relocated with her sister Frances, or “Fan,” and the rest of the family  relocated with her sister Frances, or “Fan,” and the rest of the family  to the Isle of Wight. There the girls attended the Ryde School with to the Isle of Wight. There the girls attended the Ryde School with Upper Chine for Girls.

Upper Chine for Girls.

Diana and Fan stayed on the Isle of Wight until 1933, when they  Diana and Fan stayed on the Isle of Wight until 1933, when they  retur

returned to Bermuda. Evenned to Bermuda. Eventuatuallylly, as wa, as war loomed ever closer and it wasr loomed ever closer and it was feared that the British island might come under attack, Diana and her feared that the British island might come under attack, Diana and her family moved to the relative safety of the American mainland and family moved to the relative safety of the American mainland and New York City. When Diana was old enough, she tried out for and New York City. When Diana was old enough, she tried out for and  was accepted by the Academy of Dramatic A

 was accepted by the Academy of Dramatic Arts, rts, which was where shewhich was where she first met Kirk.

first met Kirk.  They beca

 They became frme friends. Diana liends. Diana liked to iked to call call him him “Doug”— “Doug”— short not short not  for “Douglas” but like “dog,” as her accent made it sound, when she for “Douglas” but like “dog,” as her accent made it sound, when she became aware of his relentless pursuit of women. In her memoirs she became aware of his relentless pursuit of women. In her memoirs she remembers him as not an especially good actor but a terrific ladies’ remembers him as not an especially good actor but a terrific ladies’ man, “always wit

man, “always with one pretty h one pretty girl or agirl or anothernother..””

It didn’t bother her all that much. She found him charming in It didn’t bother her all that much. She found him charming in his own way; she had grown up with aggressive military men. Soon his own way; she had grown up with aggressive military men. Soon enough their friendship tur

enough their friendship turned romantic, and at the start of her seniorned romantic, and at the start of her senior  year,

 year, Diana asked her Diana asked her parents for peparents for permission to stay in New Yrmission to stay in New York per-ork per-manently. With the war continuing, they agreed, as long as she lived manently. With the war continuing, they agreed, as long as she lived in housing

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18 8 M aM a r c r c E l i oE l i o tt

couldn’t believe this was happening—

couldn’t believe this was happening—déjà vu all over again—déjà vu all over again—andand begged her not to give in “to the tinsel of Hollywood.” They fought  begged her not to give in “to the tinsel of Hollywood.” They fought  furiously about it, but Diana’s mind was made up. She left Kirk and furiously about it, but Diana’s mind was made up. She left Kirk and New York for the West Coast, where she hoped for a career in movies. New York for the West Coast, where she hoped for a career in movies.

Now, after seeing her picture on the cover of 

Now, after seeing her picture on the cover of  Life Life, Kirk decided to, Kirk decided to  write

 write to to her iher in n care care of of the the magazine. magazine. He He was was pleasantly pleasantly surprsurprised ised toto receive a warm letter back. As it happened, she told him, Hollywood receive a warm letter back. As it happened, she told him, Hollywood had not welcomed her with the open arms she had hoped for. She had had not welcomed her with the open arms she had hoped for. She had since retu

since returned to New Yrned to New York, where she workork, where she worked as a ed as a nurse at night, finurse at night, first rst  at Bellevue before transferring to St. Anne’s Maternity Hospital, and at Bellevue before transferring to St. Anne’s Maternity Hospital, and occasionally worked as a

occasionally worked as a model for the John Robert Powemodel for the John Robert Powers Ars Agencygency.. Kirk, still stationed in South Bend, began traveling to New York  Kirk, still stationed in South Bend, began traveling to New York  City to visit her every chance he got, but when he received word that  City to visit her every chance he got, but when he received word that  he would soon be shipping ou

he would soon be shipping out overseas, he asked Diana to fly to t overseas, he asked Diana to fly to SouthSouth Bend to marry him. She said yes.

Bend to marry him. She said yes.

On November 2, 1943, they were hitched in Indiana by the navy  On November 2, 1943, they were hitched in Indiana by the navy  chaplain and then agai

chaplain and then again, at Kirkn, at Kirk’’s insistence, by a rabbi, whs insistence, by a rabbi, who agreed too agreed to perform the ceremony on the condition that their children would be perform the ceremony on the condition that their children would be brough

brought up Jewish. They agreed, but Kt up Jewish. They agreed, but Kirk assuirk assured Diana he would not red Diana he would not  hold her to that promise.

hold her to that promise.  They spen

 They spent the t the next monext month and nth and a half toa half together in gether in South BenSouth Bend untild until the day Kirk was sent to the South Pacific. Fearing she might never the day Kirk was sent to the South Pacific. Fearing she might never see her husband again, Diana moved to New Jersey to live with her see her husband again, Diana moved to New Jersey to live with her oldest sister, Ruth. Diana thought it unseemly to be modeling while oldest sister, Ruth. Diana thought it unseemly to be modeling while her husband was at war, so she took a

full-her husband was at war, so she took a full- time day job in Manhattantime day job in Manhattan  with E

 with E. R. Squibb.. R. Squibb.

Not long after, she discovered she was pregnant. Not long after, she discovered she was pregnant.

Aboa

Aboa rd shiprd ship,, KKirk was caught in a nonirk was caught in a non--combat-combat-related explosivesrelated explosives

accident that nearly killed him. He was sent to San Diego to recover. accident that nearly killed him. He was sent to San Diego to recover. Diana immediately quit her job and flew to the West Coast to be by  Diana immediately quit her job and flew to the West Coast to be by  his side for

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M I C H A E L

M I C H A E L D O U G LD O U G L A S A S 1199

decided to move back east and settled temporarily at Ruth’s house in decided to move back east and settled temporarily at Ruth’s house in New Jersey to await the arriva

New Jersey to await the arrival of the babyl of the baby..  When

 When he he was was well well enough, enough, KKirk irk started started makmaking ing the the auditionaudition rounds and soon found work on Broadway

rounds and soon found work on Broadway, due part, due partly to hly to his tais talenlent andt and part

partly to the severe wartime shortage of leading men. While he acted,ly to the severe wartime shortage of leading men. While he acted, Diana searched for a place for them to live and found a walk-up on Diana searched for a place for them to live and found a walk-up on  W

 West Elest Eleventh Seventh Street in treet in Greenwich Greenwich Village, complVillage, complete with ete with a bedrooma bedroom balcony. However, on September 24, 1944, before they could move in, balcony. However, on September 24, 1944, before they could move in, Diana went into labor. It proved a difficult delivery, but at ten thirty  Diana went into labor. It proved a difficult delivery, but at ten thirty  the next morning, the

twenty-the next morning, twenty-the twenty-fiftfifth, their baby boy was born. Upon hh, their baby boy was born. Upon herer release from the hospital, the Douglases moved into their New York  release from the hospital, the Douglases moved into their New York  City apartment.

City apartment.

Choosing a name for the baby had been some

Choosing a name for the baby had been someththing King Kirk and Dianairk and Diana disagreed about. If it was a boy, Diana wanted to call hi

disagreed about. If it was a boy, Diana wanted to call him Kim Kirk juniorrk junior.. Kirk vehemently refused, because in the Jewish religion, children are Kirk vehemently refused, because in the Jewish religion, children are named not after the living but after the dead. Kirk finally agreed to named not after the living but after the dead. Kirk finally agreed to  Michael K. (fo

 Michael K. (for Kir Kirk) Dork) Douglas.uglas.  And

 And so it so it was twas that the hat the son of tson of this his handsome, strhandsome, struggling uggling actor andactor and his beautiful Bermudan socialite came kicking and screaming into the his beautiful Bermudan socialite came kicking and screaming into the

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T

T

C h a p t e r 2

C h a p t e r 2

 I didn’

 I didn’t grow up in Beverly Hills, thant grow up in Beverly Hills, thank God. I could think of k God. I could think of  nothing worse th

nothing worse than groan growing up in the richest city wing up in the richest city in the richest in the richest   state in the richest country in the world. How could you possibly  state in the richest country in the world. How could you possibly  preserve any sense of real

 preserve any sense of reality?ity?

—Michael Douglas —Michael Douglas

A

A

ll through his baby years Michael almostll through his baby years Michael almost

never smiled or laughed, and the more anybody tried to get  never smiled or laughed, and the more anybody tried to get  him to do so, the less of it he did. “As a child, he was very shy,” Kirk  him to do so, the less of it he did. “As a child, he was very shy,” Kirk  recalled. Not that Kirk was around all that much to notice. He was recalled. Not that Kirk was around all that much to notice. He was appearing on Broadway steadily now, and it was during this period, appearing on Broadway steadily now, and it was during this period, Diana later remember

Diana later remembered, that ted, that the seeds of their he seeds of their marital marital problproblems wereems were planted. “His deep, dark

planted. “His deep, dark Russian depressions and sudden rages,” as sheRussian depressions and sudden rages,” as she described them, confused and frightened her and highlighted the described them, confused and frightened her and highlighted the dif-ferences in t

ferences in their backgheir backgrounds. She was WASProunds. She was WASP, upper-, upper-class, and alwaysclass, and always  wearing

 wearing a a happy happy face; face; he he was was Jewish, Jewish, working- working- class, class, prone prone to to emo- emo-tional outbursts, and almost never smiled. He was an unhappy person tional outbursts, and almost never smiled. He was an unhappy person  with

 with fits fits and and startstarts s of happiness; of happiness; Diana Diana was was a a happy person happy person with with oc- oc-casional small bumps in the road.

casional small bumps in the road.

Still, to the outside world, they appeared to have a solid marriage. Still, to the outside world, they appeared to have a solid marriage.  Their Village apartment was the frequen

 Their Village apartment was the frequent locale fot locale for parties filled withr parties filled with actors and artists and writers, and their love life was as strong as ever, actors and artists and writers, and their love life was as strong as ever, no matter how many additional sexual adventures Kirk was having. no matter how many additional sexual adventures Kirk was having.

 The

 The appearance, appearance, howevhoweverer, , was was not enough not enough to to mask mask their their increas- increas-ingly dif

ingly difficult relationship. Fficult relationship. For one thior one thing, Diana felt she needeng, Diana felt she needed mored more in her life t 

Figure

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