Kirk Douglas Passes Away At The Age Of 103
Legendary actor and three-time Oscar nominee Kirk Douglas - who starred in numerous films, including Spartacus, Lust For Life, Gunfight at the OK Corral, Ace In The Hole , and The Bad and the Beautiful during Hollywood’s Golden Era - has passed away at the age of 103.
Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch in 1916 in Amsterdam, New York, and was the son of Russian immigrants who had seven children and very little money. Douglas’ father sold rags to support his family.
“Even in our poor neighborhood, the ragman was the lowest rung on the ladder. And I was the ragman’s son,” Douglas wrote in Life Could Be Verse, a collection of poetry and memories that was published in 2014.
Douglas was a college wrestler at St. Lawrence University and then he studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Eventually, he became one of the most famous stars in Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s. Douglas worked with stars like Lana Turner, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day, and he also collaborated with directors like Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick.
His most famous role came in 1960 when he played the titular character in Spartacus , but that came with its own share of controversy. The screenwriter was Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted from Hollywood after Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt.
As Executive Producer, Douglas decided to credit Trumbo, which historians now say caused the Hollywood blacklist to go away. But, at the time, he faced some backlash.
“I think the drama of getting Trumbo’s name on the script was more dramatic than the movie itself,” he later wrote. The movie cost a then-staggering $12 million to produce but went on to be one of the biggest hits of the era.”
The iconic scene from Spartacus featured Douglas surrounded by a group of slaves shouting “I’m Spartacus” in an attempt to hide him from Roman forces.
Douglas suffered a stroke in 1996, which caused him to have to learn to talk again. Two months later, he accepted an honorary Oscar for “50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.” He was able to tell the crowd, “I thank all of you for 50 wonderful years.”
Douglas also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.
Kirk Douglas is survived by his wife, Anne Buydens, who he married in 1954 after they met on the set of Act of Love . He was married to his first wife Diana Douglas from 1943 to 1951. He’s also survived by his sons Joel, Peter, and Oscar-winner Michael Douglas, as well as his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones. He was preceded in death by his son Eric, who died in 2004.