But the ragman’s son had a dream of being a professional actor, and he was willing to fight hard to pursue it. He wished to attend St. Lawrence University, but he couldn’t afford it. He went directly to the dean and showed him the honors he’d been awarded at school. He was given a loan to go to the school, but had to pay it back.
To pay off his debts, Kirk took on a series of odd jobs. He worked as a janitor, a gardener and even a wrestler at a carnival. “I’ve held down more than 40 jobs in my life,” Kirk told The Saturday Evening Post in 1957. “Among other things, I’ve been a dishwasher, a punch-press operator, a cashier, a night watchman, a lifeguard.”
Once Kirk made it into drama school, he adopted the name that we know him – and his son – by today. “I chose the name Douglas— I can’t remember why,” he said in the 1957 interview. “Perhaps if a psychiatrist drained my mind he would find the name ‘Douglas Fairbanks’ floating in the sludge. Anyhow, I remember that we decided to put Kirk in front of Douglas because it would sound ‘snazzy.’”