The Hollywood Legend And Icon Kirk Douglas Passes Away At Age 103

Kirk Douglas, one of the great Hollywood leading men whose off-screen life was nearly as colorful as his on-screen exploits in movies like “Spartacus” and “Champion,” has d*ed, according to his son, actor Michael Douglas. He was 103.”It is with tremendous sadn*ss that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” he wrote on his verified Instagram account.

“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.”Michael Douglas said that his father’s life “was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure forgenerations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet.” He added: “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.

” A legend’s beginning- Douglas was far more than just a leading man, although he was certainly that. The actor was a larger-than-life character, a titan of the entertainment industry, and someone — by virtue of his longevity — one of the last surviving links to a particular era of Hollywood’s past.

Rarely was he an unvarnished hero. Douglas’ protagon*sts were full of shades of gray. Douglas’ tough-guy persona often overshadowed a shrewd business ac*men and thoughtful intellect. In the interview with the late critic Roger Ebert, he att*ckd film critic Pauline Kael for her misconceptions. “Don’t crucify me because of what your idea of a movie star is,” he said, referring to Kael. “I didn’t start out to be a movie star. I started out to be an actor. … You lose track of the human being behind the image of the movie star.” Born to Russian immigrant parents, the self-made star established himself as an actor following World War II, capitalizing on his looks and athleticism.

In that regard, he had a good deal in common with another titan of those years, Burt Lancaster, with whom Douglas co-starred in seven movies, including “Gunfight at O.K. Corral” and the political thriller “Seven Days in May.”

The athletic Douglas, who had acted in plays while growing up, attended St. Lawrence University on a wrestling scholarship, paying his way by working as a gardener and janitor. He then won a scholarship to the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and moved to the Big Apple. His classmates included a young woman named Betty Perske — soon to become Lauren Bacall — and another beauty named Diana Dill. In 1941, Douglas made his Broadway debut. Two years later, he married Dill.  The couple had two children, Michael and Joel, before divorcing in 1951. Upon being discharged from the Navy, where he served during World War II, Douglas expected to return to the stage. However, his old colleague Bacall recommended him to Hollywood producer Hal Wallis, and Douglas found himself heading for the West Coast.

After a handful of nondescript films, “Champion” — which cast him as a ruthless boxer, who stepped on those around on him on the way up — made him a star and earned him an Oscar nomination. Douglas exhibited a range that went beyond what was available to stars during an earlier str*tch of the studio system. And like Lancaster, he seized control of his career in the mid-1950s by forming his own production company, using that leverage not only to find interesting parts for himself but to champion prestige material, as well as talent like director Stanley Kubrick, with who he collaborated on two memorable films, “Paths of Glory” and “Spartacus.”

Perhaps foremost, Douglas was as comfortable — and as good, if not better — playing a bad guy, a heel, as he was a traditional hero. His steely edge shone through starting with the film noir classic “Out of the Past” in 1947, followed by “Champion,” “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “The Vikings.” Douglas was equally adept playing action and serious drama, combining a nasty streak with a wry sense of humor. He excelled at playing terr*ble characters who nonetheless left the audience feeling a measure of sadn*s, in spite of themselves, when they met an untimely end.

The actor earning Oscar nominations for playing Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life,” “Champion” and “Bad and the Beautiful,” but never won. He did receive a lifetime achievement award in 1996, and crooned a memorable duet with Lancaster at the 1958 Academy Awards, insisting how happy they were not to be among the nominees.

This Article First Published On EDITION