Is Melvyn Douglas Related to Kirk Douglas? The Truth Behind the Hollywood Surname

Many people have wondered if the two legendary actors, Melvyn Douglas and Kirk Douglas, are related by blood or by marriage. After all, they share the same surname and have both starred in some of the most iconic films of the 20th century. However, the truth is that they are not related at all, and their surname is actually a coincidence.

Melvyn Douglas: The Suave Leading Man

Melvyn Douglas was born as Melvyn Edouard Hesselberg on April 5, 1901, in Macon, Georgia. His father was a Jewish emigrant from Riga, Latvia, then part of Russia, and his mother was a Protestant and a Mayflower descendant from Tennessee. He did not learn about his Jewish heritage until his early teens, as his parents preferred to hide it. He took the surname of his maternal grandmother and became known as Melvyn Douglas

He started his acting career in Shakespearean repertory and stock companies in the Midwest. He served in the United States Army in World War I and later established an outdoor theatre in Chicago. He made his Broadway debut in 1930 in Tonight or Never, opposite his future wife, Helen Gahagan. He soon moved to Hollywood and became a suave leading man, best known for his roles in romantic comedies such as Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo, Theodora Goes Wild (1936) with Irene Dunne, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy

He also showed his versatility in other genres, such as horror (The Old Dark House, 1932), drama (Captains Courageous, 1937), and film noir (The Big Heat, 1953). He won two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in Hud (1963) and Being There (1979), and one for Best Actor for his role in I Never Sang for My Father (1970). He was one of the 24 performers to win the Triple Crown of Acting, which consists of an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award. He died on August 4, 1981, at the age of 80

Kirk Douglas: The Tough Guy with a Heart

Kirk Douglas was born as Issur Danielovitch on December 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, New York. His parents were Jewish emigrants from Chavusy, Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. He grew up in poverty and worked various odd jobs to support his family. He changed his name to Kirk Douglas when he joined the Navy during World War II. He studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and made his Broadway debut in 1941 in Spring Again. He soon caught the attention of Hollywood producer Hal B. Wallis, who gave him his first film role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

He rose to fame as a tough guy with a heart, playing complex and often flawed characters in films such as Champion (1949), Ace in the Hole (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Lust for Life (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are the Brave (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964). He also produced some of his own films, such as The Vikings (1958), The Final Countdown (1980), and Tough Guys (1986). He was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Actor but never won. He received an honorary Oscar in 1996 for his lifetime achievements. He also won a Golden Globe, an Emmy, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a National Medal of Arts. He died on February 5, 2020, at the age of 103

The Hollywood Surname: A Coincidence

So how did these two actors end up with the same surname? The answer is simple: they both chose it as their stage name when they entered show business. According to TV Tropes, Melvyn Douglas picked it because he liked the sound of it and because it was similar to his grandmother’s name. Kirk Douglas chose it because he wanted a shorter and more American-sounding name than Danielovitch.

Therefore, there is no familial connection between them whatsoever. They are not brothers, cousins, uncles, nephews, or even distant relatives. They are just two talented actors who happened to share a common name.


Melvyn Douglas and Kirk Douglas are two of the most celebrated actors of Hollywood history. They have both left behind a legacy of memorable films and performances that have entertained generations of audiences. However, they are not related by blood or by marriage. Their surname is a coincidence that resulted from their choice of stage name. They are both Douglas by name, but not by nature.

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