When Burt Lancaster Bullied Kirk Douglas to Tears

Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were two of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and 60s, appearing together in several films, including “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and “Seven Days in May.” However, their relationship was far from amicable, with reports of tension and even bullying on Lancaster’s part.

According to Douglas, Lancaster would often make derogatory comments about his appearance, calling him “a little runt” and “a pipsqueak.” In his autobiography, Douglas recalls an incident where Lancaster made fun of his toupee, causing him to break down in tears.

Despite the bullying, Douglas admits to having a certain admiration for Lancaster’s talent and work ethic. However, their relationship remained strained until Lancaster’s death in 1994.

It’s unclear what caused Lancaster to behave in such a manner towards Douglas. Some speculate that it may have been rooted in jealousy, as Douglas was seen as the more charismatic and handsome of the two. Others suggest that it may have been a power play, with Lancaster attempting to assert his dominance on set.

Regardless of the cause, the tension between the two actors is a reminder that even Hollywood’s biggest stars can struggle with interpersonal relationships.

Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were both born in New York City in the early 1900s, just a few years apart. Lancaster’s parents were immigrants from Northern Ireland, while Douglas’ were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Lancaster initially pursued a career in gymnastics, competing in the 1936 Olympic trials. However, an injury led him to shift his focus to acting. He made his film debut in 1946’s “The Killers” and quickly became known for his rugged good looks and physicality. Lancaster went on to star in a number of acclaimed films, including “From Here to Eternity” and “Elmer Gantry,” for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Douglas, on the other hand, got his start in theater before transitioning to film in the late 1940s. He quickly became known for his intense, dramatic performances and was soon starring in high-profile films like “Champion” and “The Bad and the Beautiful.” Douglas also produced a number of films throughout his career, including “Spartacus” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Despite their shared success, Lancaster and Douglas had very different personalities. Lancaster was known for being more reserved and serious, while Douglas was seen as more outgoing and charismatic. This difference in temperament may have contributed to their rocky relationship on set.

It’s worth noting that while Lancaster and Douglas may have had a strained working relationship, they both maintained successful careers in Hollywood for decades. In fact, Lancaster continued to act well into his 70s, appearing in films like “Field of Dreams” and “Rocket Gibraltar.” Meanwhile, Douglas lived to be 103 years old and remained active in the entertainment industry until his death in 2020.

Ultimately, the feud between Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas serves as a reminder that even Hollywood’s biggest stars can struggle with interpersonal relationships. Despite their shared success, the two actors were unable to fully put aside their differences and form a close bond.

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