Kirk Douglas was one of the most popular leading men in cinema in the 1950’s and 60’s working with many leading directors, including Billy Wilder, for 1951's The Big Carnival and Vicente Minelli for whom he portrayed the morally bankrupt movie executive Jonathan Shields in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and artist Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956). Douglas is known for his distinctive voice, his strapping physique and cleft chin. Working with Stanley Kubrick, he starred in the World War I drama Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960). Douglas's work in Spartacus as a Roman slave who leads an uprising as the film's title character is considered one of his greatest roles.
In 1989, he wrote his best-selling autobiography, The Ragman's Son and in 1996 he wrote Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning shortly after experiencing a nearly fatal stroke. Douglas has continued to write biographical works in recent years, including Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning and more recently, delving into the backstory of one of his role as Spartacus, with I am Spartacus! The Making of a Film, Breaking the Blacklist. His fiction titles include Dance with the Devil and The Gift. Douglas has received many honors, including the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1991. He also became a Kennedy Center honoree in 1994, received an honorary Academy Award in 1996, and received the National Medal of Arts in 2001.