‘A true Spartacus’: Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas dead at 103 | Inquirer Entertainment

‘A true Spartacus’: Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas dead at 103

/ 12:33 PM February 06, 2020

LOS ANGELES — Kirk Douglas, one of the last superstars of Hollywood’s golden age of cinema who was renowned for his intense, muscular performances in “Spartacus” and “Paths of Glory,” died Wednesday aged 103.

The U.S. leading man, producer, and director came to prominence in the late 1940s and never lost his popularity, taking on nearly 100 movies over a six-decade career that endured beyond a severe stroke in his later years.


His death at his family home in Beverly Hills was confirmed by his son Michael, the Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker.


“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” Michael Douglas said in a statement posted to Facebook.

“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, with many declaring “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,” while 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.”

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 movie days, he would clash with studio heads over his choice of roles, before ultimately splitting 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.”

‘End the blacklist’

Douglas also defied more established directors by teaming up with a young Stanley Kubrick for both “Paths of Glory” and “Spartacus.”

And on “Spartacus,” Douglas hired Dalton Trumbo — one of the “Hollywood Ten” blacklisted as a suspected communist under the McCarthy era — to write the screenplay.

Unlike many producers during the time, Douglas refused to hide this fact, instead of using Trumbo’s real name in the credits.

Gabrielle Carteris, head of Hollywood’s actors’ union, Wednesday praised Douglas as “a powerful voice who helped end the blacklist in our industry,” as well as “an “extraordinary actor.”

Nonetheless, Douglas missed out on taking home the trophy on each of his three Oscar nominations, the last for his performance in the 1956 film “Lust for Life,” and never won a competitive Academy Award.

He was instead granted an honorary lifetime achievement statuette by the Academy in 1996 — just months after his stroke — “for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.”

Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch to Jewish-Russian immigrants in upstate New York in 1916, began as a stage actor before serving in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War.

He graduated to movies when “Casablanca” producer Hal Wallis signed him in 1946, and he became a star for his portrayal of a double-crossing and womanizing boxer in 1949’s “Champion.”

His subsequent roles would often mirror his real-world, larger-than-life and intense persona, including Oscar-nominated, turns as a ruthless movie producer in “The Bad and the Beautiful” and tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life.”

Douglas told The New York Times in a 1984 interview that he had “always been attracted to characters who are part scoundrel,” adding: “I don’t find virtue photogenic.”

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.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

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.”

TAGS: Entertainment, Film, Spartacus, U.S.

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.