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With over 92 acting credits, including some 75 movies, seven of which co-starred his friend Burt Lancaster, Douglas became a superstar even before the term was coined.
While Douglas’ on and off-screen bravado could be overpowering, and even difficult at times, he was a man of heartfelt conviction, hiring blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo — and giving him full-screen credit — to write the 1960 epic Spartacus, in which Douglas starred and served as executive producer.
“It was such a terrible, shameful time,” Douglas told PEOPLE about the communist purge of the entertainment industry during the ’40s and 50’s. “Dalton was in prison because he refused to answer questions, so I decided, the hell with it! I’m going to put his name on it. I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of because it broke the blacklist.”
As told in his 1988 autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, Douglas — who was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky — was born the poor son of an illiterate Russian-Jewish immigrant.
Douglas spoke about his father to PEOPLE, revealing that, “My father was not very affectionate, he was never interested in what I was doing. I had six sisters and no brothers and I wanted to be close to my father and he just ignored me.”
Instead, he says he found affection from his mother and became determined to not be as distant with his children as his father was with him.
“I’m much more demonstrative with my kids about hugging and kissing them and telling them that I love them,” he said. “My father wasn’t like that.”