Kirk Douglas, Hollywood Legend, Dies at 103
There are just a few surviving members of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and sadly we just lost another one. Kirk Douglas, beloved movie star, producer, and, writer has passed away. Douglas was 103 years old.
In a statement, his son, Michael Douglas, said:
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.
Born Issur Danielovitch to Russian Jewish immigrants, and raised as “Izzy Demsky,” he became Kirk Douglas as he entered the Navy the fight in World War II. After the war he worked mostly in radio, before he was discovered by Hollywood. He quickly became known for tough guy roles, and cemented his star status with the Oscar winning 1949 film Champion, where he played boxer Midge Kelly.
Douglas received his first Oscar nomination for Champion, but lost to Broderick Crawford for All the King’s Men; astonishingly, Douglas never won an Academy Award during his decades-long career. (He received an Honorary Oscar in 1996.)
Douglas remained one of the biggest stars in Hollywood all through the middle of the 20th century, and he used his clout to form his own independent production company at a time when almost every star was still beholden to studio contracts. He’s probably best known for the title role in Spartacus, directed by Stanley Kubrick and scripted by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo. Douglas backing Trumbo was a key moment in ending the Hollywood blacklist.
Other classic Douglas roles include the Hollywood drama The Bad and the Beautiful, Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, the Vincent Van Gogh biopic Lust For Life, and Billy Wilder’s lacerating satire of the American media, Ace in the Hole. Although a flop in its day, it’s now recognized as one of the more prescient films of the mid-20th century. It’s available in an excellent Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. Douglas is fantastic in the film as ruthless reporter Chuck Tatum, who stumbles on a scoop and turns it into a media circus.
Douglas suffered a stroke in 1996, but he lived for almost another 25 years. He’s survived by Anne Buydens, his wife of 65 years, and three sons, Michael, Joel, and Eric — and, of course, his legendary body of work. It will last more than 103 years.