Whether playing unscrupulous strivers in films like “Champion” and “The Bad and the Beautiful,” flawed heroes in “Detective Story” and “Gunfight at the OK Corral” or obsessed visionaries in “Lust for Life” and “Young Man with a Horn,” the self-described Ragman’s Son has exhibited an intensity and forcefulness on screen that is inimitable, even by son Michael.
As the producer-star on “Spartacus” he persuaded Stanley Kubrick to replace Anthony Mann and direct his one Hollywood spectacle. In the process, Douglas defied the McCarthy-era blacklist by insisting that banned screenwriter Dalton Trumbo be credited.
As testament to his incredible range — he tackled sword & sandles and film noir with equal aplomb — the cleft-chinned leading man with the athletic build received AFI’s Life Achievement Award in 1991 and an honorary Oscar in 1995. For his work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, President Carter honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.