Kirk Douglas

Douglas in 2007, photo by s_bukley/

Birth Name: Isadore Danielovitch/Danilovich

Date of Birth: December 9, 1916

Place of Birth: Amsterdam, New York, U.S.

Date of Death: February 5, 2020

Place of Death: Beverly Hills, California, U.S.

Ethnicity: Ashkenazi Jewish

Kirk Douglas was an American actor, producer, director, philanthropist, and author. An A list star beginning in the 1950s, he was known for his explosive acting. His roles included the films The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Out of the Past, Champion (1949), Young Man with a Horn, Ace in the Hole, Detective Story, The Bad and the Beautiful, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), Lust for Life, Paths of Glory, Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are the Brave, Seven Days in May, Scalawag, Posse (1975), the latter two of which he also directed; Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough, The Chosen (1977), The Fury (1978), Saturn 3, The Man from Snowy River, Tough Guys, and It Runs in the Family, the made-for-tv movie Inherit the Wind (1988), and the show Touched by an Angel. He wrote ten books, both novels and memoirs. He helped break the Hollywood blacklist by assisting Dalton Trumbo in receiving a writing credit for Spartacus.

Kirk was born in Amsterdam, a small town, in upstate New York, as Isadore Danielovitch/Danilovich. Kirk was the son of Bryna “Bertha” (Sanglel/Singlair) and Harry Demsky (born Girsh/Herschel Danilovich/Danielovitch), who were Belarusian Jews. His father was born in Chavusy/Chausy, Mogilev, eastern Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire, and was involved in street-level criminal enterprises with his siblings. In the U.S., his family took on the surname Demsky, and he changed his name initially to Isadore Demsky/Izzy Demsky. Kirk established production company Bryna Productions, after his mother.

Kirk was married to philanthropist and producer Anne Buydens (born Hannelore Marx), until his death. He had four children: two, actor Michael Douglas and film producer Joel Douglas, with his former wife, actress Diana Dill; and two, television and film producer Peter Douglas and actor and stand-up comedian Eric Douglas, with Anne. Among his grandchildren is actor Cameron Douglas. Anne Buydens was born in Hanover, Weimar Republic and was partly raised in Switzerland. Her own father was Jewish. She later formally converted to Judaism.

Kirk had a religious Jewish upbringing, and then became secular as he entered his adult life. In the 1990s, he rediscovered religion, and became a practicing Jew.

Kirk’s paternal grandfather was named Isor/Iser Danilovich/Danilovitch (the son of Girsh-Itsko Danilovich).

Kirk’s paternal grandmother was named Brayna-Chana (the daughter of Sholom-Itsko).

A DNA test whose results were displayed on the show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2024) stated that Kirk’s son’s Michael’s genetic ancestry is:

*38.8% British & Irish
*37.1% Ashkenazi Jewish
*10.3% Eastern European
*6.5% French & German
*4.8% Broadly Northwest European
*2.1% Sardinian
*0.4% Broadly European


Genealogies of Kirk Douglas –

Kirk Douglas (then Isadore Demsky) on the 1930 U.S. Census –


Curious about ethnicity

9 Responses

  1. follers says:

    Ethnic, is there any picture of Douglas when he was young/younger, please?

  2. littlebodybigheart says:

    He died on 5th February 2020.

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