Kirk Douglas, the film star who fought gladiators, cowboys and boxers on the big screen and in the Hollywood establishment, died on Wednesday at the age of 103, said his son Michael Douglas.
My brothers and I announce with great sadness that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103, Michael Douglas said in a statement People magazine and on his Facebook page.
For the world, he was a legend, an actor from the heyday of the film who lived until his heyday, a humanitarian, whose commitment to justice and the reasons he believed set a standard for all of us Douglas added.
Kirk's life was well lived, and he left a legacy in the film that will last for generations to come and a story of being a renowned philanthropist who worked for the public and brought peace to the planet, Michael added, saying he was "So proud" to be his father's son.
Douglas made more than 90 films in a career spanning seven decades, and films like "Spartacus" and "The Vikings" made him one of the biggest box office stars of the 1950s and 1960s.
He also played an important role in overcoming the Hollywood blacklist – actors, directors and writers who were professionally avoided in the 1950s due to their ties to the communist movement. Douglas said he was more proud of it than any film he made.
Honors poured in from Hollywood. Actor and director Rob Reiner said on Twitter that Douglas “will always be an icon in the Hollywood Pantheon. He has queued up to crack the blacklist. "
Mitzi Gaynor, who appeared with Douglas in the 1963 film "For Love or Money," said that the film would "always have a special place in my heart."
Danny DeVito called him an "inspiring scallywag" while Ed Asner tweeted "I'll always be in awe of you."
A stroke in 1996 at the age of 80 left Douglas with a blurred language and injured the facial nerves. But two weeks later, he showed his spirit when he attended the Academy Awards to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. He continued to play small roles as an actor in 2008, but said the stroke made him suicidal.
"Humor saved me," said Douglas Parade Magazine 2014. “At first I thought my life was over. But when I put the gun in my mouth, it hit a tooth. Ow! And that struck me as strange. Toothache prevented me from suicide? "
At one of his last public appearances, Douglas was frail and barely audible in a wheelchair when he helped daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones hand over the Oscar for Best Screenplay in January 2018. In November this year he joined his son Michael as The younger Douglas was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Douglas had a pronounced chin, razor-sharp cheekbones, and a protruding chin – a sight that he passed on to Michael – and that made him a natural player for all kinds of rugged characters.
He also had a sophisticated personality that earned him a reputation as an actor directing directors. Long-time friend and occasional co-star Burt Lancaster liked to introduce him and said: “Kirk would be the first to admit that he is a difficult person. (Pause) I would be the second. "
"I'm going my own way," Douglas once told an interviewer. ”Nobody is my boss. No one was ever my boss … I was an outsider. "
Douglas said playing Vincent van Gogh in "Lust for Life" (1956) was his favorite role, but "Spartacus" (1960) was his favorite film because he had made a big step towards a breakthrough on the Hollywood blacklist as a producer ,
The Oscar for Life was Douglas & # 39; s only Oscar, despite being for the ruthless boxer Midge Kelly in "Champion" (1949), a film manager in "The Evil and the Beautiful" (1952) and van Gogh in "Lust for Life "was nominated. "
Douglas' first film was "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" in 1946 after Betty Joan Perske, who was renamed Lauren Bacall as a classmate, suggested the role. Douglas was known for powerful appearances as characters who had to endure severe pain on the screen. He was stabbed in "Ace in the Hole", crucified in "Spartacus", lost an eye in "The Vikings", an ear in "Lust for Life" and a finger in "The Big Sky".
His other notable films were "Lonely Are the Brave", "The Devil & # 39; s Disciple", "Victory at Entebbe" and "Tough Guys", which he shot with Lancaster in 1986.
Douglas' independent career led him to found Bryna Production Co in 1955, which he named after his mother, who abused big studio bosses and helped them break their monopoly in the industry.
Hollywood ladies man
Douglas, born Issur Danielovich on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York, was the only son of seven children born to illiterate Russian immigrants. After graduating from high school, he was a hitchhiker at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he became wrestling champion. He also directed and played in theater productions and changed his name to Izzy Demsy. After St. Lawrence, he graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York in 1941 and changed his name to Kirk Douglas. He joined the Navy after two small Broadway roles. While in the Navy, he married British actress Diana Dill and they had two sons, Michael and Joel, before the marriage ended after eight years.
Douglas had the reputation of being a Hollywood ladies' man. Among the lovers featured in the 1988 book "The Ragman & # 39; s Son", one of several books he wrote about his life, were Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Maxwell, Patricia Neal and Gene Tierney.
While filming "Act of Love", Douglas met the film's publicist Anne Buydens and married her in 1954. Despite his affairs, her marriage became one of the most sustainable in Hollywood. They had two sons, Peter and Eric.
Douglas, who survived a 1991 helicopter crash that killed two people, tried to keep his children from following him to action. Still, Michael became a superstar and a successful producer, Joel and Peter were also producers, and Eric was an actor until his death in 2004 due to an overdose of drugs. "You see how they listened to me," said Douglas once.
Douglas, who grew up with a long white ponytail in later years, published several books in 2014, including a book with poems, prose and photographs, as well as Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and Life in Hollywood ”, 2017 with his wife.
He founded the Douglas Charitable Donation Foundation and announced in 2015 with Anne plans to donate his $ 80 million fortune for a variety of purposes. Beneficiaries included housing for homeless women named after Anne, the Los Angeles public school district, St. Lawrence University, and hospitals.
On the occasion of his 99th birthday in 2015, he donated $ 15 million to the film and television fund to help set up a facility for people in the entertainment industry with Alzheimer's disease.