Kirk Douglas

Biography

Date of Birth 9 December 1916, Amsterdam, New York, USA Birth Name Issur Danielovitch Demsky Height 5' 7½" (1.71 m) Mini Biography Cleft-chinned, steely-eyed and virile star of international cinema who rose from being "the ragman's son" (the name give to his best-selling 1988 autobiography) of Russian-Jewish ancestry to become a bona fide superstar, Kirk Douglas was actually born Issur Danielovitch Demsky in Amsterdam, New York, in 1916. Although growing up in a poor ghetto, Douglas was a fine student and a keen athlete and wrestled competitively during his time at St. Lawrence University. However, he soon identified an acting scholarship as a way out of his meager existence, and was sufficiently talented to gain entry into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He only appeared in a handful of minor Broadway productions before joining the US Navy in 1941, and then after the end of hostilities in 1945, returned to the theater and some radio work. On the insistence of ex-classmate Lauren Bacall movie producer Hal B. Wallis screen-tested Douglas and cast him in the lead role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). His performance received rave reviews and further work quickly followed, including an appearance in the low-key drama I Walk Alone (1948), the first time he worked alongside fellow future screen legend Burt Lancaster. Such was the strong chemistry between the two that they appeared in seven films together, including the dynamic western Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), the John Frankenheimer political thriller Seven Days in May (1964) and their final pairing in the gangster comedy Tough Guys (1986). Douglas once said about his good friend: "I've finally gotten away from Burt Lancaster. My luck has changed for the better. I've got nice-looking girls in my films now". After appearing in "I Walk Alone", Douglas scored his first Oscar nomination playing the untrustworthy and opportunistic boxer Midge Kelly in the gripping Champion (1949). The quality of his work continued to garner the attention of critics and he was again nominated for Oscars for his role as a film producer in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and as tortured painter Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956), both directed by Vincente Minnelli. In 1955 Douglas launched his own production company, Bryna Productions, the company behind two pivotal film roles in his career. The first was as French army officer Col. Dax in director Stanley Kubrick's brilliant anti-war epic Paths of Glory (1957). Douglas reunited with Kubrick for yet another epic, the magnificent Spartacus (1960). The film also marked a key turning point in the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy "Red Scare" hysteria in the 1950s. At Douglas' insistence Trumbo was given on-screen credit for his contributions, which began the dissolution of the infamous blacklisting policies begun almost a decade previously that had destroyed so many careers and lives. Douglas remained busy throughout the 1960s, starring in many films,. He played a rebellious modern-day cowboy in Lonely Are the Brave (1962), acted alongside John Wayne in the World War II story In Harm's Way (1965), again with The Duke in a drama about the Israeli fight for independence, Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), and once more with Wayne in the tongue-in-cheek western The War Wagon (1967). Additionally, in 1963 he starred in an onstage production of Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", but despite his keen interest, no Hollywood studio could be convinced to bring the story to the screen. However, the rights remained with the Douglas clan, and Kirk's talented son Michael Douglas finally filmed the tale in 1975, starring Jack Nicholson. Into the 1970s Douglas wasn't as busy as previous years; however, he starred in some unusual vehicles, including alongside a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in the loopy western comedy The Villain (1979), then with Farrah Fawcett in the sci-fi thriller Saturn 3 (1980) and then he traveled to Australia for the horse opera/drama The Man from Snowy River (1982). Unknown to many, Kirk has long been involved in humanitarian causes and has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the US State Department since 1963. His efforts were rewarded in 1981 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1983 with the Jefferson Award. Furthermore, the French honored him with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. More recognition followed for his work with the American Cinema Award (1987), the German Golden Kamera Award (1987), The National Board of Reviews Career Achievement Award (1989), an honorary Academy Award (1995), Recipient of the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award (1999) and the UCLA Medal of Honor (2002). Despite a helicopter crash and a stroke suffered in the 1990s, he remains active and continues to appear in front of the camera. IMDb Mini Biography By: firehouse44 Spouse Anne Buydens (29 May 1954 - present) two children Diana Douglas (2 November 1943 - 1951) (divorced) 2 sons Trade Mark Gravelly voice Dimpled chin Trivia Recipient of American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement award, with screening of 16 his films. [December 1999] Ranked #53 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997] Born Issur Danielovitch to father Jacob Danielovitch, and mother Bryna, from Russia, who came to America in 1912. Suffered a stroke. [1995] Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Carter on 17th January 1981. This is the highest US honor a civilian can receive. Turned down 2 Oscar winning roles: Lee Marvin's role in Cat Ballou (1965) and William Holden's role in Stalag 17 (1953). Father of 4 sons: Michael Douglas, Eric Douglas, Joel Douglas and Peter Douglas. Earned $50,000 for saying the only English word at the end of a 1980s Japanese TV commercial: "Coffee". Speaks German (fluently, but not accent-free) and also French. Survived a helicopter crash on 23 February 1991 in which two people were killed. He was left with a debilitating back injury. Kirk has celebrated his Bar Mitzvah twice. Once, obviously, when he was 13 years old and the other time when he was 83 years old. President Class Of 1939, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. Graduated with a degree in English. Received a UCLA Medal of honor 14 June 2002 from the University of California, Los Angeles, during school's graduation ceremony for theater, film and television students. Previous recipients include former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and actors Laurence Olivier and Carol Burnett. Granddaughter, Carys Zeta born. [21 April 2003] Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1984. Father-in-law of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Was originally cast to play Col. Sam Trautman in First Blood (1982), but walked out on the project. Douglas wanted substantial changes made to the script, specifically that John Rambo die at the hands of Trautman, like the character did in the novel. The writers held their ground and refused. Richard Crenna was eventually cast in the role. He was voted the 36th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly. He wore lifts in many of his films, which made him appear about 5' 11" or 6 feet on screen. Once, as a prank, Burt Lancaster found Douglas's lifts on a film set and hid them from him, which allegedly infuriated the shorter actor. Kirk had a fully Jewish upbringing, but did not practice extensively as an adult. This changed when, in his 80s, he had a second Bar Mitzvah, reaffirming his faith and causing him to practice again. Was named #17 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute. Had a pacemaker fitted following a heart attack in a restaurant in August 1986. President of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980. Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970. He and Burt Lancaster acted together in 7 movies: Victory at Entebbe (1976) (TV), Tough Guys (1986), Seven Days in May (1964), The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), I Walk Alone (1948), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) and The Devil's Disciple (1959). He was not as good of a friend with Burt Lancaster as was often perceived. The closeness of their friendship was largely fabricated by the publicity-wise Douglas, while, in reality, Lancaster was often cruel and dismissive to Douglas. He had both knees replaced in 2005, against the advice of his doctors. The operation was a success. After his son, Michael was fired from the stage production of the play, Summer Tree, Kirk bought the stage and film rights to the story and gave to Michael to star in. Grandfather of 7 children: Cameron Douglas (b. 13 December 1978), Dylan Michael Douglas (b. 8 August 2000), Carys Zeta Douglas (b. 20 April 2003) (children of his son Michael Douglas), Kelsey (b. 1992), Tyler (b. 1996), Ryan (b. 2000) and Jason (b. 2003) (children of his son Peter Douglas) Former father-in-law of Diandra Douglas. Appeared in a stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He later bought the film rights. This is why his son Michael is credited as a producer of the film. If he had not heeded wife Anne's advice, Douglas would have been on producer Michael Todd's doomed private plane in 1958, a fated flight that Todd's then-wife Elizabeth Taylor actually canceled due to a bad cold. Met his German wife-to-be, Anne Buydens, when she applied for a job as his assistant on the French location shoot for the movie Un acte d'amour (1953). He was awarded the American National Medal of Arts in 2001 from the National Endowment of the Arts. Kirk Douglas lived in Palm Springs, California for more than 40 years. In October, 2005, the city honored him by naming a lushly- landscaped drive "Kirk Douglas Way". It winds around part of Palm Springs International Airport. A lavish ceremony and party was given by the Palm Springs International Film Society and International Film Festival and was attended by the actor, his wife, Anne, and their three surviving sons. His son, Joel, also a Palm Springs resident, was responsible for the campaign. Gave up his 2-3 packs a day cigarette habit in 1950 after his father died from lung cancer at the age of 72. He was among the first actors to set up, in 1955, his own production company, Bryna (named after his mother). Douglas and his wife Anne renewed their wedding vows in California around the 50th anniversary of their 1954 marriage. They reaffirmed their vows before 300 friends and family members at the famous Greystone Estate in Beverly Hills. Guests included Dan Aykroyd, Lauren Bacall, Nancy Davis and Tony Curtis. Douglas walked into the traditional Jewish ceremony to the tune of "I'm In The Mood For Love" and later sang a tune he'd written for the occasion, "Please Stay In Love With Me". Attended the state funeral of former President Ronald Reagan, along with Charlton Heston, Tom Selleck and Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. (11 June 2004). Helped break the Hollywood blacklist by hiring Dalton Trumbo, a member of the "Hollywood Ten", to write the screenplay. Despite widespread criticism from many in the industry, including John Wayne and Hedda Hopper, Douglas refused to back down and Trumbo received a screen credit under his own name. When presenting Douglas with an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement at The 68th Annual Academy Awards (1996) (TV), Steven Spielberg thanked Douglas for his courage. Attended the premiere of Basic Instinct (1992). Fell out with his close friend, former President Jimmy Carter, over Carter's 2006 book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid". His idol was President Harry S. Truman. Confirmed his retirement from acting after making Illusion (2004). While filming The War Wagon (1967) in September 1966, Douglas enraged his co-star John Wayne by recording a television advertisement for Edmund G. Brown, the Democratic Governor of California, after Wayne had recorded an advertisement for Republican challenger Ronald Reagan. Admitted he made The Big Trees (1952) for nothing just to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. He later said, "It was a terrible movie.". In his last book, "Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning", he expressed regret at turning down William Holden's Oscar-winning role in Stalag 17 (1953), Stephen Boyd's role in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and Lee Marvin's Oscar-winning role in Cat Ballou (1965). He was a close friend of Jack Valenti. He was originally cast in John Wayne's role in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), but pulled out in order to make Champion (1949). Personal Quotes "I've finally gotten away from Burt Lancaster. My luck has changed for the better. I've got nice-looking girls in my films now". "Virtue is not photogenic. What is it to be a nice guy? To be nothing, that's what. A big fat zero with a smile for everybody." "I've made a career of playing sons of bitches." "In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail." "I came from abject poverty. There was nowhere to go but up." "Making movies is a form of narcissism." "People are always talking about the old days. They say that the old movies were better, that the old actors were so great. But I don't think so. All I can say about the old days is that they have passed." "I have always told my sons that they didn't have my advantages of being born into abject poverty." "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." "Life is like a B-picture script! It is that corny. If I had my life story offered to me to film, I'd turn it down." "If you want to know about a man you can find out an awful lot by looking at who he married." "My kids never had the advantage I had. I was born poor." "I want my sons to surpass me, because that's a form of immortality." If the good guy gets the girl, it's rated PG; If the bad guy gets the girl, it's rated R; and if everybody gets the girl, it's rated X. "My name is Kirk Douglas. You may know me. If you don't ... Google me. I was a movie star and I'm Michael Douglas' dad, Catherine Zeta-Jones' father-in-law, and the grandparents of their two children. Today I celebrate my 90th birthday. I have a message to convey to America's young people. A 90th birthday is special. In my case, this birthday is not only special but miraculous. I survived World War II, a helicopter crash, a stroke, and two new knees. It's a tradition that when a 'birthday boy' stands over his cake he makes a silent wish for his life and then blows out the candles. I have followed that tradition for 89 years but on my 90th birthday, I have decided to rebel. Instead of making a silent wish for myself, I want to make a loud wish for The World. Let's face it: The World is in a mess and you are inheriting it. Generation Y, you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, AIDS, and suicide bombers to name a few. These problems exist, and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now, we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable. You need to rebel, to speak up, write, vote, and care about people and the world you live in. We live in the best country in the world. I know. My parents were Russian immigrants. America is a country where EVERYONE, regardless of race, creed, or age has a chance. I had that chance. You are the generation that is most impacted and the generation that can make a difference. I love this country because I came from a life of poverty. I was able to work my way through college and go into acting, the field that I love. There is no guarantee in this country that you will be successful. But you always have a chance. Nothing should interfere with it. You have to make sure that nothing stands in the way. When I blow out my candles - 90! ... it will take a long time ... but I'll be thinking of you." (9 December 2006) "I did four movies with Wayne. We were a strange combination. He was a Republican and I was a Democrat. We argued all the time." "I cannot forgive the way he treated Charlton Heston. Even if I don't agree with much of Heston's politics, Chuck is a gentleman. He agreed to have an interview with Moore, and Moore took advantage of the situation and made Chuck look foolish. He had been invited to Heston's home and he was treated with courtesy. I winced when I saw the expression on Chuck's face change as he realized that he had been duped. And yet he remained a gentleman and dismissed the interloper with grace." - On Michael Moore's interview with Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine (2002) [on John Wayne] John Wayne was a star because he always played John Wayne. Frankly, he wasn't an excellent actor, but good heavens, what a star! It wasn't John Wayne who served the roles; the roles served John Wayne. [on Burt Lancaster] John Wayne was a great star. But he always played Wayne. Anything else he didn't regard as manly. Now someone like Burt Lancaster is just the opposite. The living proof that you can be a sensitive actor and macho at the same time. [on Linda Darnell] Linda Darnell is the most unspoilt star on the screen -- and also the most beautiful. [on Doris Day] That face she shows the world -- smiling, only talking good, happy, tuned into God -- as far as I'm concerned, that's just a mask. I haven't a clue as to what's underneath. Doris is just about the remotest person I know. Salary In Harm's Way (1965) $400,000 Paths of Glory (1957) $350,000 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) $175,000 Champion (1949) $15,000 Out of the Past (1947) $25,000 Where Are They Now (1988) Release of his book, "The Ragman's Son: An Autobiography". (2002) Release of his book, "My Stroke of Luck". (1994) Release of his book, "Last Tango in Brooklyn". (1997) Release of his book, "Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning". (1990) Release of his book, "Dance with the Devil". (1992) Release of his book, "The Gift". (2007) Release of his book, "Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning".

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Person Photo

Birth Name

Issur Danielovitch Demsky

Birth Place

Amsterdam, New York, États-Unis

Birth Date

12/9/1916

Death Date

2/5/2020
Known For
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The Final Countdown

Capt. Matthew Yelland

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Paths of Glory

Col. Dax

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Ned Land

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The Vikings

Einar

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The Fury

Peter Sandza

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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Doc Holliday

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Ulysses

Ulysse

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Ace in the Hole

Chuck Tatum

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Last Train From Gun Hill

Marshal Matt Morgan

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The Heroes of Telemark

Rolf

Starring In
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Michael Douglas - Am Anfang war der Name

Self (archive footage)

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Louis de Funès, champion du box office

Self (archive footage)

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Charlie Chaplin, le Génie de la Liberté

Self (archive footage)

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Kubrick by Kubrick

Self (archive footage)

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Carmine Street Guitars

Himself

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If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast

Self

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

The Roots

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And the Oscar Goes To...

Himself (archive footage)

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Cooper and Hemingway: The True Gen

Self

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Room 237

Spartacus (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s

Self (archive footage)

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Sing Your Song

Self (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff

Self - Interviewee

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Mel Blanc: The Man of a Thousand Voices

Self

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De Caunes/Garcia - Le meilleur de Nulle Part Ailleurs 2... suite et fin!

Self (archive footage)

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Illusion

Donald Baines

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It Runs in the Family

Mitchell Gromberg

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Diamonds

Harry Agensky

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Completely Cuckoo

Self

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Greedy

Uncle Joe McTeague

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Take Me Home Again

Ed Reece

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Two-Fisted Tales

Sr. Calthrob (segment "Yellow") (archive footage)

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Oscar

Eduardo Provolone

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Disney Sing-Along-Songs: Under the Sea

Ned Land (archive footage)

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Inherit the Wind

Matthew Harrison Brady

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Tough Guys

Archie Long

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The Oprah Winfrey Show

Himself (2 episodes, 2003)

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Draw!

Harry H. Holland aka Handsome Harry Holland

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Kopfjagd

Carl 'Buster' Marzack

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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

(in "I Walk Alone") (archive footage)

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The Man From Snowy River

Harrison / Spur

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Remembrance of Love

Joe Rabin

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The Final Countdown

Capt. Matthew Yelland

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Saturn 3

Adam

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The Villain

Cactus Jack

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Home Movies

Dr. Tuttle 'The Maestro'

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The Fury

Peter Sandza

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Rain of Fire

Robert Caine

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Victory at Entebbe

Hershel Vilnofsky

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Posse

Howard Nightingale

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Once Is Not Enough

Mike Wayne

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Mousey

George Anderson

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Doctor Jekyll und Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde

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The Master Touch

Steve Wallace

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A Gunfight

Will Tenneray

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Le Phare Du Bout Du Monde

Will Denton

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Catch Me a Spy

Andrej

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Once Upon a Wheel

Himself

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There Was a Crooked Man...

Paris Pitman, Jr.

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The Brotherhood

Frank Ginetta

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A Lovely Way to Die

Jameson Schuyler

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Skidoo

Commander Paul Eddington (clip from "In Harm's Way") (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The War Wagon

Lomax

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The Way West

Senator William J. Tadlock

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Is Paris Burning?

Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

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Cast a Giant Shadow

Col. David 'Mickey' Marcus

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The Heroes of Telemark

Rolf

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In Harm's Way

Eddington

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Seven Days in May

Col. Martin 'Jiggs' Casey

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The List of Adrian Messenger

George Brougham / Vicar Atlee / Mr. Pythian / Arthur Henderson

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The Hook

Sgt. P.J. Briscoe

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Der Fuchs geht in die Falle

Deke Gentry

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Lonely are the Brave

John W. "Jack" Burns

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The Last Sunset

Brendan 'Bren' O'Malley

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Town Without Pity

Maj. Steve Garrett

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Spartacus

Spartacus

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Strangers When We Meet

Larry Coe

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Operation Petticoat

Welding Seaman (uncredited)

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Last Train From Gun Hill

Marshal Matt Morgan

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The Devil's Disciple

Richard Dudgeon

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The Vikings

Einar

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The Vikings

Einar

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Paths of Glory

Col. Dax

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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Doc Holliday

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Top Secret Affair

Maj. Gen. Melville A. Goodwin

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Lust for Life

Vincent Van Gogh

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Your Host Walt Disney

Himself

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Man Without A Star

Dempsey Rae

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The Indian Fighter

Johnny Hawks

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Hombres Temerarios

Gino Borgesa

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The Disneyland Story

Himself

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Ned Land

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Ulysses

Ulysse

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The Story of Three Loves

Pierre Narval (segment "Equilibrium")

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Act of Love

Robert Teller

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The Juggler

Hans Muller

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The Bad and the Beautiful

Jonathan

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The Big Sky

Jim Deakins

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The Big Trees

Jim Fallon

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Detective Story

Det. James 'Jim' McLeod

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Ace in the Hole

Chuck Tatum

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3025 Along the Great Divide

Marshal Len Merrick

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Young Man with a Horn

Rick Martin

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The Glass Menagerie

Jim O'Connor

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A Letter to Three Wives

George Phipps

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My Dear Secretary

Owen Waterbury

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Champion

Michael 'Midge' Kelly

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The Walls of Jericho

Tucker Wedge

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I Walk Alone

Noll 'Dink' Turner

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Out of the Past

Whit

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Mourning Becomes Electra

Peter Niles

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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

Walter O'Neil

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