Kirk Douglas, star of Spartacus and The Vikings who also became a prominent producer and activist, has died at age 103. It was announced by his also-legendary son, Michael Douglas, on his Instagram: “It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103.”
The post continues, “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 born one of seven children to illiterate Russian Jewish immigrant parents, and knew from a young age—as he wrote in his bestselling 1988 autobiography, The Ragman’s Son—that he’d be an actor. “I like a role that is stimulating, challenging, interesting to play,” Douglas wrote. “That’s why I’m often attracted to characters that aren’t likable.”
And he certainly made these tough-guy characters memorable. He was nominated for Oscars three times, and is most famous for starring in movies, starting in 1946, such as Champion, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lust For Life (playing Vincent Van Gogh), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Paths of Glory; he also starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Broadway. Douglas is also famous for hiring screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to write the script for Spartacus and other films, thumbing his nose at the Hollywood blacklist that threatened the careers of many prominent writers in the 1940s and ’50s. Douglas is also credited with hiring young director Stanley Kubrick to direct Spartacus, which was an iconic film from the minute it was released.
Douglas suffered a stroke in 1995 that impaired his speech, but instead of forcing him into retirement, he became even more outspoken as a voice for stroke victims everywhere.
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