I Am Spartacus! How This Legendary Actor Does His Philanthropy

Movie star Kirk Douglas is one of the last living links to Hollywood's golden age, a matinee idol your parents or grandparents watched on the silver screen. But he has always been more than just the square-jawed star of more than 90 movies. He's produced, directed and written books. And he's been active in philanthropy.

On his 99th birthday recently, Douglas announced a $15 million donation to the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) in Woodland Hills, California, to build an Alzheimer’s facility named the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion. The Motion Picture & Television Fund, which provides healthcare, financial services and retirement living for entertainment industry professionals, has been strongly supported by Douglas and his wife Anne over the years. In fact, the couple is one of the outfit's largest donors, having given some $40 million over the years.

The Douglases' philanthropy extends far beyond their work with MPTF. The Douglas Foundation has been around since 1964, self-described as one of the "entertainment industry’s largest and oldest private philanthropic institutions." In a recent year, the foundation held close to $23 million in assets and gave away around $2 million.

If you've been following our Glitzy Giving vertical, you probably know that one of the reasons we launched this section is that our country's top celebrities and media stars are amassing wealth like never before, and many are active in philanthropy.

Related - Gitzy Giving: Guide to Top Funders in Entertainment and Media

Of course, this kind of financial success wasn't true of all major actors in Douglas' heyday, but the Spartacus star has amassed quite a bit of wealth nonetheless, and is worth $80 million by some estimates. How? Well, part of the story, here, is that Douglas was bold enough to establish a production company in the 1950s to make movies outside the studio system, a fairly uncommon tactic at the time. One of those films was Spartacus. Anne, meanwhile, took charge of the family's bookeeping and set up a trust decades ago which has been growing steadily ever since.

The Douglas Foundation's primary focus is improving the "education and health, fostering the well-being, and most importantly developing new opportunities for children." The Douglas Foundation also supports various health projects, funds human services outfits and more. The foundation has an accessible website and states that "grant applications can be made at the foundation’s invitation or by referral from organizations the foundation funds or is otherwise associated with."

What kinds of organizations does the foundation fund? Well, recent grantmaking has involved outfits such as the Montecito Education Foundation, University of Pennsylvania, Marymount of Santa Barbara, and Laguna Blanca School. The Douglases have strongly supported Kirk's alma mater, St. Lawrence University in Upstate New York. They've bankrolled the Presidential Diversity Scholarship at the school, which supports minority and underprivileged students. The couple also recently endowed the Kirk Douglas Fellowship at the American Film Institute to support graduate film students. Their philanthropy has also involved University of California Santa Barbara, where son Michael Douglas graduated. It's worth noting that Michael, a big Hollywood macher in his own right, has also been involved in philanthropy, including the creation of an endowed chair at UCSB. 

Douglas and Anne also run the Anne & Kirk Douglas Recreation & Playground Awards, which helps schools improve and enhance their outdoor and recreational space. Hundreds of schools have received support through these awards. The couple has also been heavily involved with the Sinai Temple of Los Angeles, where they funded the Douglas Family Early Childhood Center.

Apart from support for education and youth, the couple has been involved in health philanthropy. Recent grantees include American Cancer Society, American Foundation for AIDS Research, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, the Heart Foundation, and the Women's Cancer Research Fund, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. The couple also recently committed $2.3 million to Children's Hospital Los Angeles to purchase a da Vinci robot for the hospital's division of pediatric urology in the department of surgery.

In human services, the Douglases have been involved with Los Angeles Mission, where millions of homeless and poor people have received help. The L.A. Mission is home to the Anne Douglas Center for Women, an "outreach and rehabilitation facility for women." Recent arts and culture grantees include American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Center Theater Group, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Money has also gone to local public television stations such as KCET-TV.

After decades of giving, and despite Kirk closing in on 100, the Douglases' recent MPTF gift reveals that they are not slowing down.

Related: Kirk Douglas