Kirk Douglas, the cleft-chinned movie star who fought gladiators, cowboys and boxers on the screen and the Hollywood establishment, died on Wednesday at the age of 103.
Douglas was a Hollywood icon who starred in Spartacus, Gunfight at the OK Coral, Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful and Lust for Life in a long cinematic career.
He was the head of a showbiz family that included his producer sons Joel and Peter, and Oscar winner Michael Douglas.
Michael announced his famous father’s death on social media and to People magazine on Thursday morning (Australian time).
“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” Michael wrote.
“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.”
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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
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“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 added.
He said he is “so proud” to be his father’s son.
Born Issur Danielovitch (later changed to Demsky) in New York, on December 9 1916, Douglas was the only son among seven children of Russian Jewish immigrants.
In his autobiography The Ragman’s Son, he described the abject poverty in which he was raised.
He met his first wife Diana Dill while studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. They had sons Michael and Joel, but divorced in 1951.
While working in Europe Douglas met publicist Anne Buydens, whom he married in 1954. They had sons Peter and Eric.
Douglas made his film debut in 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers with Barbara Stanwyck. His breakthrough came in Champion (1949), where he played an unscrupulous boxing hero and earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
His career covered seven decades, and films such as Spartacus and The Vikings made him one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1950s and ’60s.
Among his more than 90 roles, Douglas played a horse rancher in the 1982 Australian film The Man from Snowy River.
His big, macho persona sometimes made people forget his subtle sensitivity in films like Lust for Life, Paths Of Glory and Lonely Are The Brave.
But he personified the image of the manly man, a tough guy with flashes of style and humor. As a producer, he was responsible for intelligent and offbeat fare, including two great films directed by Stanley Kubrick, Paths Of Glory and Spartacus.
Off screen, Douglas had a reputation for being demanding in his heyday in the 1950s and ’60s. But there were other sides to him as well: political activist, charity benefactor, family man, a funny and thoughtful storyteller and an author.
He is credited with helping break the 1950s blacklist when he insisted that Dalton Trumbo (one of the Hollywood 10) be credited for his screenplay on Spartacus.
He was honored by the ACLU with a Bill of Rights Award “for having the courage and conviction to break the infamous Hollywood blacklist and forcing the full recognition of one of its victims”.
In 1991, Douglas was recognized with the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, and by the Writers Guild of America for breaking the blacklist. Early that year, he nearly died in a helicopter crash.
He suffered a stroke in 1995 and had to teach himself to speak again. He was left with some paralysis in his face. Self-conscious about his slurred speech, he avoided public appearances for months and did not appear in another film until 1999’s Diamonds.
He also embraced his new role as an unofficial spokesman for stroke victims, penning and appearing in a one-man show, Before I Forget, in 2009.
In July 2012, Douglas and his wife Anne announced $US50 million ($A74 million) in pledges to five nonprofit organizations through the Douglas Foundation, founded by the couple in 1964.
They also sponsored more than 240 playgrounds around Southern California.
He is survived by Anne and three of his four sons. Eric Douglas died in July 2004. Michael Douglas’s wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, was among those to pay tribute to the dead actor.
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