Legendary actor Kirk Douglas, a three-time Oscar nominee known for his roles in iconic films such as “Spartacus” and “Lust for Life,” as well as his efforts to end Hollywood blacklisting, died Wednesday at age 103.
In a statement posted on his Instagram page, Douglas’ award-winning actor son Michael wrote, “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.”
Kirk Douglas was a three-time Oscar nominee, for his leading roles in the films “Champion,” “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “Lust for Life.” He received an honorary Oscar in 1996, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1968 and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1999. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In addition to his on-screen success, Douglas played a critical role in ending Hollywood blacklisting of the 1950s, insisting on the hiring and provision of on-screen credit to blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for the 1960 epic “Spartacus.”
Known for his signature dimpled chin, Douglas lived much of his youth in poverty, but attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where he met a future star known as Lauren Bacall. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he appeared in theater productions and commercials. His relationship with Bacall led to his first film role, in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.”
He went on to record more than 90 film credits, including “Paths of Glory,” “The Indian Fighter,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Lonely are the Brave” and “Seven Days in May.”
He suffered a stroke in 1996 that left him struggling to speak, but he and his wife of 65 years, Anne Buydens, continued making public appearances and were well known for their philanthropic work. They donated millions of dollars to help rebuild school playgrounds around Los Angeles, and they funded the Anne Douglas Center for Homeless Women at the Los Angeles Mission.
They also donated millions of dollars to the Motion Picture hospital in Woodland Hills, which is home to the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion.
“Kirk Douglas will always be an icon in the pantheon of Hollywood,” actor/director Rob Reiner said. “He put himself on the line to break the blacklist. My love goes out to my friend Michael and the whole family.”