One of the last stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood has fallen. Kirk Douglas, the father of Michael Douglas and star of iconic films like ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Lust For Life,’ has died at age 103.
After more than a century walking the earth, Kirk Douglas can now rest in peace. At 103-years-old, the centenarian was one of the last surviving actors of what has been dubbed the film industry’s Golden Age. The father of Michael Douglas, 75, who made his film debut in 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and rose to fame throughout the 1950s, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 5. “It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” son Michael said in a statement posted to Instagram. “To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.” Michael went on to praise his dad was a wonderful father and grandfather. “Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday and which will always remain true. Dad- I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son.” The Hollywood legend was last seen enjoying a sweet backyard camping date with his grandson Cameron Douglas, 41, in April 2019 according to TMZ.
Born Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, a small town north of Albany, New York, to a pair of Russian Jews, he changed his name to Kirk Douglas after meeting another child of immigrants while working a job at a summer stock playhouse in the Adirondacks. That other actor, Karl Malden, would become a lifelong friend of the newly christened Kirk, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and even co-starred with Kirk’s son, Michael, on the TV series The Streets of San Francisco.
With his new name, Kirk continued pursuing acting. He befriended Lauren Bacall while attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on scholarship. That connection with Bacall led Kirk landing his first role in The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers. In the 1950s, Kirk rose to fame with critically-acclaimed films like Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful and Lust For Life, in which he portrayed Vincent van Gogh. In the late 1950s, his production company worked with the then-unknown Stanley Kubrick on Paths of Glory and Spartacus. Kirk Douglas is credited with breaking the Hollywood blacklist by having Dalton Trumbo, who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, write Spartacus with an official on-screen credit.
“I’m proud of using his name and breaking the blacklist,” Kirk told Interview in 2012. “That was a terrible time in Hollywood history. It should never have happened. We should have fought it. But it’s over and I, in my old age, take solace in the fact that I remember.” Overall, Kirk appeared in over 90 films, earned two Golden Globe awards (and the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award) and earned three Academy Awards nominations for Best Actor. Michael often spoke of his dads’ strong work ethic, and opened up the greatest lessons his dad taught him. “Stamina and tenacity. He was out of a school where you give it your best shot, you’re going to walk away, you’ve done the best thing you can,” Michael revealed in an interview with us at the Golden Globes in 2019.
Kirk married actress Diana Dill in 1943. The two had two sons — Michael and Joel Douglas — before divorcing in 1951. Three years later, he married Anne Buydens. They would remain married until the end, having celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in May 2019. They had two children together, Peter Douglas and the late Eric Douglas, who died in 2004. Kirk is survived by his wife Anne, 100, sons Michael, Joel, 73, and Peter, 64, and seven grandchildren, including Michael’s kids Cameron, Dylan, 19, Carys, 16, and Peter’s kids Kelsey, 20, Tyler, 24, Ryan, 20, and Jason, 17.
“I am so proud of Michael because he never followed my advice,” Kirk told The Guardian in 2017. “I wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer, and the first time I saw him in a play I told him he was terrible. But then I saw him a second time and I said: ‘You were wonderful!’ And I think he is very good in everything he’s done.”