Actor Kirk Douglas, star from film’s Golden Age, dies at 103
Kirk Douglas, the actor who helped usher in Hollywood’s golden age, has died. He was 103 years old.
“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, posted on 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.”
Born Issur Danielovitch on Dec. 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, New York, Douglas changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the Navy during World War II. Prior to serving in the war, he made his Broadway debut in the musical “Spring Again.” After he was injured and discharged from the Navy in 1944, he returned to acting in New York in the theater, commercials and radio.
By the late 1940s and early ’50s, Douglas had transitioned to film and began establishing himself as a box office heavyweight. “Champion,” the 1949 film about a boxer, earned him his first Oscar nomination. He starred in several westerns throughout his career, beginning with 1951’s “Along the Great Divide.” He also melded his military service with Hollywood in such films as “Top Secret Affair,” “Paths of Glory” and “Seven Days in May.”
Douglas was perhaps best known for his starring role in 1960’s “Spartacus,” which he also executive produced. He was also lauded for his more lighthearted role in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
The Hollywood great was nominated for Academy Awards three times throughout his career, and was presented with an honorary Oscar in 1996, the same year he suffered a stroke, severely impairing his ability to speak.
However, it never kept him out of the public eye. Following rehabilitation, including speech therapy, the actor wrote a book, “My Stroke of Luck,” in which he said his life “changed for the better.”
He authored several other books, including three memoirs, “The Ragman’s Son,” “Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning” and “Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Loving, Living and Learning,” which he wrote at age 90.
Douglas also returned to the screen, appearing in 1999’s “Diamonds” opposite Lauren Bacall and 2003’s In 2003, “It Runs in the Family,” co-starring his son, Oscar-winner Michael Douglas, Michael’s son, Cameron Douglas, and his first wife, Diana Dill. His last major role was 2009’s “Before I Forget,” an autobiographical one-man show he performed four times in Culver City, Calif. The performances were filmed and turned into a documentary that was released in 2010.
Douglas had four sons from two marriages. His son Eric Douglas died in 2004.
He is survived by his second wife Anne Douglas, whom he married in 1954, three sons and several grandchildren.