Death of Kirk Douglas, Last Great Sacred Monster in Hollywood, at 103 Years Old

The American actor Kirk Douglas, here in 2013, died on February 5, 2020 at the age of 103 years

CINEMA: Michael Douglas’ father, Kirk Douglas had notably played Spartacus

“It is with great sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103 years. It was the son of legendary actor Michael Douglas who announced the news to People magazine before posting a tribute on his Facebook page. “For the world, he was a legend, an actor in the golden age of cinema (…) but for me and my brothers, Joel and Peter, he was simply a father. “

SpartacusSettling scores at OK CorralThe ChampionThe Paths of Glory … With his steel look and his square jaw, Kirk Douglas crossed the century and genres in Hollywood. Last great sacred monster of the golden age of American cinema, it was awarded the Legion of Honor in France in 1990.

“Born in misery, you cannot go any lower”

The son of a Jewish rag picker who fled Russia, Kirk Douglas described himself as “an angry man.” Anger has been the lifeblood of my life, an immense anger against injustice. ” Anger against his childhood too. A miserable childhood à la David Copperfield where he also suffered from anti-Semitism and the indifference of an alcoholic and illiterate father, to whom he one day sent a spoon to the face.

“And yet sometimes I tell myself that it is an advantage to be born in misery: you cannot go lower, you can only rise”, philosophized at the end of his life the father of the actor Michael Douglas. Kirk Douglas, whose real name is Issur Danielovitch Demsky, was born on December 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, a small town in the state of New York. He grew up in the midst of six sisters and had only one dream: to become an actor. But he must first work as a cafeteria waiter and fair wrestler to pay for his studies.

Enlisted in the Navy during the Second World War

Landed in New York, “Izzy” changes his name and manages to integrate the Drama Academy where he meets the future Lauren Bacall, who refuses his advances but will always remain his friend. It is 1942, in the middle of World War II, Kirk Douglas enlists in the navy and makes the campaign of the Pacific aboard a submarine hunter.

Demobilized, he chained small roles before experiencing success in 1949 with Le Champion, where he camped a character boxer. From then on, the career of the actor with the azure eyes and the famous dimple in the chin took off: adventure films ( Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1954), peplum ( Spartacus, 1960), war films ( The Paths of the glory, 1958, “, 1966), westerns ( The Captive with clear eyes  ”, 1952, Settlement of accounts at OK Corral, 1957)…

This great friend of Burt Lancaster tours with the greatest directors, from Kubrick to Mankiewicz via Huston, Minelli, Hawks, Preminger and Kazan, becomes a producer and makes some films himself. He sometimes makes choices against the grain of his image of the courageous and invincible hero, as in The passionate life of Vincent Van Gogh, which earned him this apostrophe by John Wayne: “How dare you play a wimp, an artist who commits suicide? The tough guys like us have an obligation to maintain this image for the public. ”

The Casanova of Hollywood

He confesses a great regret to the cinema: not having landed the role of Flight over a cuckoo’s nest, the masterpiece of Milos Forman from 1975. “It’s a tragedy for me. Nicholson got it and he got an Oscar. And I don’t have one… ”. Kirk Douglas, however, ended up winning, in 1995, and an Oscar of honour rewarding his entire career.

A committed actor, who has always been close to the Democrats, he did not hesitate, in the midst of a McCarthy witch hunt in the 1950s, to hire a screenwriter who was on the blacklist of people not to be hired because of their supposed communist sympathies. We call him “the pain”. “Because of my outspokenness, I have long been the most hated actor in Hollywood.”

Outside the sets, Kirk Douglas multiplies the female conquests to the point of being considered as “the biggest Casanova in Hollywood”. “I never counted the women I had. I like them too much for that, ”he says. This does not prevent him from spelling out the names of Gene Tierney, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Pier Angeli, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner… However, he lived since 1954 with the same woman, Anne Buydens, met in France and became his second wife.

Deceives death

In the afternoon, he writes, publishes his autobiography, The son of the chiffonnier, and several novels. He escaped several times: a helicopter crash in 1991, only slightly injured but where two people died, a stroke in 1996, a heart attack in 2001.

A period which corresponds to his return to the faith: the day of his 83 years, he remakes his Bar Mitzvah, as at his 13 years. Kirk Douglas leaves behind a cinema dynasty. Two actor sons, including Michael, born of a first marriage and now at least as famous as his father, two other producer sons, an actress daughter-in-law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and a grandson, Cameron, also an actor.

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