Film legend Kirk Douglas, one of the great stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, has died. He was 103.
"It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103," his son, Michael Douglas, said in a statement to People. "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."
Douglas starred in over 90 films throughout his career, including classics like Out of the Past, Ace in the Hole, The Bad and the Beautiful, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and his early collaborations with director Stanley Kubrick, Paths of Glory and Spartacus. He received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a National Medal of Arts, and lifetime achievement awards from the American Film Institute, the Kennedy Center, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Academy Awards. He never won an Oscar for acting, though he was nominated three times, for Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful, and Lust for Life. He also produced many of the films in which he starred, including Spartacus, The Vikings, and Lonely Are the Brave. His onscreen persona was a complex tough guy, and he often played soldiers or cowboys.
He was also known for his philanthropy and volunteer work. He and Anne, his wife of 65 years, pledged to give much of their $80 million fortune away, and have supported numerous causes, including donating $40 million to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital retirement community to create and fund the Alzheimer's wing, named Harry's Haven, after Douglas' father. He was a goodwill ambassador for the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency, traveling around the world and advocating for democracy. He was a lifelong Democrat and a staunch supporter of Israel. He starred in the first Hollywood movie filmed in Israel, 1953's The Juggler.
Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch on Dec. 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, New York, and grew up using the name Izzy Demsky. He was the son of Belarusian Jewish immigrants and had a very impoverished childhood, as described in his 1988 memoir The Ragman's Son. He began acting in high school plays, and after attending St. Lawrence University, he studied at American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where he was classmates and friends with Lauren Bacall.
He enlisted in the Navy in 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, and served as a communications officer on a submarine. He was discharged in 1944 after being injured by an accidental detonation of a depth charge. He landed his first film role in 1946, in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, opposite Barbara Stanwyck. He rose to the top of Hollywood throughout the '40s and '50s, peaking in 1960 with Spartacus, which was written by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo under his own name at Douglas' insistence, effectively ending Hollywood's Cold War blacklist.
Douglas worked steadily through the '60s, '70s, and '80s, originating the role of Randle Patrick McMurphy in the original Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1963. He owned the rights to make the film version for a decade before passing them to his son Michael, who produced the classic 1975 movie. He directed two films in the '70s, 1973's Scalawag and 1975's Posse. He worked less frequently after a stroke in 1996, and his final film appearance came in 2008, in a French TV movie called Empire State Building Murders, a comedic tribute to the films noir he appeared in earlier in his career.
Douglas is survived by his wife Anne, his sons Michael, Joel, and Peter, and numerous grandchildren.