Kirk Douglas, Hollywood Legend of ‘Spartacus’ and More, Dies at 103

     February 5, 2020

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Kirk Douglas, one of Hollywood’s most well-known, well-respected, and revered figures since the Golden Age, has died at the age of 103. He is survived by Anne Buydens, his wife of 65 years, and his three sons MichaelJoel, and Eric — all of whom work in show business. His son Michael, a well-known actor from works like Fatal Attraction and Ant-Man, gave this statement to People:

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Image via MGM Distribution Co.

It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. 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. But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband. Kirk’s life was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet. 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.

Among Douglas’ many film roles include classics like SpartacusPaths of GloryAce in the Hole, 20,000 Leagues Under the SeaLonely Are the Brave, and Lust for Life. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, eventually winning an Honorary Award in 1996. He’s also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honoree, a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, a National Medal of Arts, and a Cecil B. DeMille Award.

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Image via United Artists

Beyond his work as an actor, philanthropy was of paramount importance to Douglas. He continually donated many of earnings to various organizations, including over 400 Los Angeles Unified School District playgrounds in need of rebuilding. He founded and supported centers for homeless women, Alzheimer’s patients, and children in need of care. He’s also the namesake and founder of many scholarships for his college and high school. And during the height of the Red Scare, when many Hollywood folks were being blacklisted for alleged ties with the Communist party, Douglas made arguably the biggest hit of his career, Spartacus, by hiring on the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo to write.

Douglas’ health took a serious turn in 1996, when he suffered a debilitating stroke that affected, among other facets of his life, his ability to speak. Douglas worked tirelessly with specialists to regain much of his speech and mobility back, appearing to accept an honorary Academy Award just two months after the stroke (later paying the favor forward while appearing at his son’s induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame). Douglas even wrote a book on his experience, My Stroke of Luck, hoping it could serve as a helpful tale for others.

In one of his final public appearances, Douglas appeared at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, alongside his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones, to present the award for Best Screenplay. Douglas received a standing ovation from a roomful of people he influenced forever. But Douglas concluded his time onstage with an endearing sense of self-effacement. After Zeta-Jones asked if he had any words, Douglas responded simply: “Catherine, you said it all! I worked on a speech, but I don’t want to say it because I can never follow you!”

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Image via United Artists

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