Hollywood Icon Kirk Douglas Dies at 103

Photo courtesy of Michael Douglas/Instagram

Hollywood Icon Kirk Douglas Dies at 103

By Jessilyn Lancaster, Managing Editor

Kirk Douglas, one of the last remaining actors from the very end of Hollywood’s Golden Age, died on Feb. 5. He was 103.

“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” his son, actor Michael Douglas, said in a statement. “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.”

Douglas starred in many classic movies, including SPARTACUS, CHAMPION and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

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. #KirkDouglas

A post shared by Michael Douglas (@michaelkirkdouglas) on

“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,” Michael said.

“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,” Michael continued. “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.”

Douglas was known for taking on rebellious roles, which often reflected his own personal values. Douglas was very outspoken and thrived on rejecting traditional values and morals.

“I’ve made a career of playing sons of b*****s,” Douglas said.

The famed actor leaves a sullied legacy.

According to The Hollywood Reporter,

Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky in the industrial town of Amsterdam. His parents, Jewish immigrants from Russia, raised seven children, and as soon as he was old enough, Douglas went to work to help support the family.

He put himself through St. Lawrence University by working as a janitor. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree, he moved to Manhattan where, as a result of a single reading for the head of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, received a special scholarship.

Soon after graduating from the academy in 1941, Douglas made his Broadway debut in Spring Again, starring Grace George and C. Aubrey Smith, playing a singing messenger boy. In 1942, he enlisted in the Navy, attending the Midshipman School at Notre Dame, and was commissioned an ensign. He served on anti-submarine patrol in the Pacific as a communications officer until 1944, when he was honorably discharged as a lieutenant.

Returning to civilian life and Broadway, he replaced Richard Widmark as the juvenile lead in Kiss and Tell and appeared in Trio and Star in the Window. It was his widely praised performance in The Wind Is Ninety that brought him to Hollywood’s attention. The year was 1946, and, at the suggestion of Lauren Bacall, producer Hal Wallis invited him to come to California for a screen test. Wallis was so impressed with Douglas that he cast him in the lead opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).

Douglas would work with some of the century’s top directors, starring in such memorable films as Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and There Was a Crooked Man (1970), John Sturges’ Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and John Huston’s The List of Adrian Messenger.

For Bryna, Douglas also starred in The Indian Fighter (1955), The Vikings (1958), Lonely Are the Brave (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), and The Brotherhood (1968).

It all took a toll on the actor, who penned an autobiography called “The Ragman’s Son.”

“What I found out when I wrote this book is I have a lot of anger in me,” Douglas said.

“I’m angry about things that happened many, many years ago. I think that anger has been a lot of the fuel that has helped me in whatever I’ve done,” Douglas said.

Douglas reportedly sympathized with communism and worked with suspected communist supporters. He had multiple marriages and affairs. Douglas also had a very strained relationship with his family, especially his son Michael.

“Kirk Douglas was certainly a hard act to follow. I mean, there he was hanging from the cross in Spartacus, walking across the ranks of oars in The Vikings …” Michael told PEOPLE in the 1970s.

“I think having a famous father was a pain in the a** for him,” Douglas said of his son.

However, as Douglas aged, he reportedly drew closer to his family and doted on his grandchildren.

“You know, Dylan has a dimple bigger than mine,” the proud grandpa told PEOPLE of Michael’s son with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones. “[But] I think he looks more like Catherine. Catherine with a dimple. Not bad!”

By the end of his life, Douglas had nearly 100 movie acting credits, 32 producing credits and 2 directing credits.

Do you enjoy articles like this?
Click here to become a monthly partner and receive a movie for free!

 

Want more content like this? Make a donation to Movieguide®