Kirk Douglas, one of the last great stars of old Hollywood, has died this Wednesday at the age of 103, according to several US media reports and his son Michael has confirmed to the magazine People. “With tremendous sadness, my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” reads the statement provided to said magazine by actor Michael Douglas.
“To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of cinema who lived well into his golden age, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes in which he believed set a standard that all of us should aspire to. But for me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply dad “, continues the note of the son of the legendary actor, the man who played Spartacus in history.
Issur Danielovitch Demsky, known as Kirk Douglas, was born in Amsterdam, a town in New York State, in the United States, on December 9, 1916. His family was of Russian Jewish origin and emigrated in 1908. His father, who was a ragman, abandoned the family home when Douglas was five. He had six older sisters. He had to work from a very young age to help his family financially, combining it with various jobs and with his studies at Saint Lawrence University, where he graduated in Letters. Later he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
In 1941 he was mobilized, joining the Navy during World War II. He was a communications officer in an anti-submarine unit. He returned to New York with war wounds and there he began to act in plays thanks to the support that actress Lauren Bacall gave him.
In 1946 he made his Hollywood debut with The strange love of Marta Ivers by Lewis Milestone. He worked on more than 90 films and directed two films. He has shot under the orders of the most famous directors, such as Vincente Minelli, Jacques Tourneur, King Vidor, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Elia Kazan, Howard Hawks and William Wyler. With Stanley Kubrick he starred Paths of Glory in 1957 and Spartacus in 1960, an emblematic film of his career, produced by the actor and in which the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was rehabilitated -thanks to Douglas’s personal efforts-, retaliated by the maccarthysmo, by allowing him to appear in the film’s credits. Douglas made seven films in the company of actor Burt Lancaster.
Kirk Douglas was nominated for an Oscar three times: in 1950 for The clay idol by Mark Robson, in 1953 by Captives of evil and in 1957 by The madman with the red hair both by Vincente Minelli. Finally, the Hollywood Academy gave him the honorary Oscar in 1996. In 1981 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest decoration in his country; in 1990, the French Legion of Honor, and the Honorary Golden Bear of the Berlin Film Festival, in 2001.
He married Diana Hill in 1943 and they had two children: Michael and Joel Andre. In 1954 he remarried Anne Buydens, with whom he was the father of two children: Peter and Eric Anthony, now deceased. In 1991 he was injured when the helicopter in which he was traveling collided with a small plane at the private airport in Santa Paula (California). In 1996 he suffered a stroke that seriously affected his speech. As a writer, in 1988 he published The Ragman’s son, his autobiography. In 2009, at the age of 92, he took to the stage, from which he had been retired for five years, with Before I forget, a 90 minute monologue that he wrote about his life.
In 2012 he wrote I am Spartacus, a book in which he reviewed the vicissitudes of the filming of Kubrick’s film. Since 2008 he published a blog, first on MySpace and later on The Huffington Post, which was very successful. Douglas was a member of the Democratic Party and a staunch philanthropist, donating more than $ 40 million since 1990 to a clinic for the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.