Kirk Douglas, one of the last superstars of Hollywood’s golden age of cinema died on Wednesday aged 103. He was renowned for his intense, muscular performances in “Spartacus” and “Paths of Glory”.
The producer and director came to prominence in the late 1940s. Never losing his popularity, he took on nearly 100 films over a six-decade career that endured beyond a severe stroke in his later years.
His son, Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker Michael Douglas, confirmed his death at his family home in Beverly Hills.
In a statement posted on Facebook, 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.”
Tributes poured in from across Hollywood and around the world on social media. Many fans and admirers declared “I am Spartacus!” in a nod to Douglas’s legendary role as a rebellious Roman slave.
Director Steven Spielberg said Douglas “retained his movie star charisma right to the end”. Meanwhile, actor Danny DeVito tweeted: “103 years on this earth. That’s got a nice ring to it! Great hanging with you man.”
“Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander praised Douglas as “an absolute legend of a star and human” and added that “we could use a true Spartacus.”
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, tweeted: “Goodbye to a Hollywood legend.”
Not unlike his title character in “Spartacus,” Douglas was known throughout his life for his fiercely rebellious streak. In his early days in the film industry, he would clash with studio heads over his choice of roles. He ultimately split off to form his own production company, Bryna — one of the first major post-war stars to do so.
“It was pretty rare then,” Variety senior vice president Tim Gray told AFP. “Kirk Douglas was very stubborn but he wasn’t self-indulgent — he wasn’t a party boy wasting people’s time showing up late, things like that.”
A life well lived
In his personal life, Douglas married twice, with the second to Anne Buydens in 1954 enduring over 65 years.
Douglas himself would admit to a colorful life as a ladies’ man including affairs in his memoirs, but always carefully controlled his image.
“He was Mr Hollywood, he was always part of the scene — he would always attend functions,” said Gray. “The public saw him as this larger than life actor but he could also be very subtle.”
Douglas is survived by Buydens, 100, and three of his sons. A fourth child, Eric, died of a drug overdose in his 40s, in 2004.
His son Michael praised Kirk’s “commitment to justice and the causes he believed in” which “set a standard for all of us to aspire.” He added: “Kirk’s life was well-lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come.”
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