Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas dies at 103

Kirk Douglas (L) and Elizabeth Taylor are pictured during the production the ABC television special Victory at Entebbe in Hollywood on November 15, 1976. UPI File Photo
Kirk Douglas (L) and Elizabeth Taylor are pictured during the production the ABC television special "Victory at Entebbe" in Hollywood on November 15, 1976. UPI File Photo | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning film star Kirk Douglas, one of the last titans of Hollywood's Golden Age, died Wednesday, his family announced. He was 103.

His son, and fellow actor, Michael Douglas, announced his death on Instagram. He didn't reveal the elder Douglas' cause of death.


"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," Michael Douglas wrote.

"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."

Born Issur Danielovitch in 1916 New York, Douglas was an actor, producer, director, philanthropist and author who appeared in nearly 100 movies. One of seven children of Jewish immigrants from what is now Belarus, Douglas began his screen career after he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Best known for his work in the films Champion, Ace in the Hole, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Bad and the Beautiful, The Big Sky, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Tough Guys, Inherit the Wind and Diamonds, his final big-screen role was in 2003's It Runs in the Family, a comedy in which he co-starred with his real-life son Michael Douglas, grandson Cameron Douglas and ex-wife Diana Douglas.


Despite his status as a beloved cinematic icon, Douglas has candidly spoken about his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts after he suffered a devastating stroke in 1996 and had to re-learn how to speak.

"I was scared to death. ... What's happening? Am I going to die?" he recalled in 2002 at a National Press Club event.

He went on to say he never suffered physical pain from his stroke.

"But I did experience something far worse -- a very deep depression. What does an actor do who can't talk? Wait for silent pictures to come back?" he said, recalling how he cried at the possibility he would never make another movie.

"And I thought -- suicide," he said, recounting how he actually took out a gun and loaded it. "I looked at myself in the mirror -- a horrible sight. My mouth drooping, saliva falling out." He ultimately changed his mind, however, coming to the conclusion, "Suicide is a dumb and selfish act."

Steven Spielberg presented Douglas with his honorary Oscar for 50 years "as a creative and moral force in the film community" at the 68th annual Academy Awards ceremony in 1996, not long after Douglas had the stroke.


"Most stars of this stature are shaped out of mythic clay," Spielberg said at the gala. "Kirk Douglas never chose that. He doesn't have a singular character that makes him unique. Instead, he has a singular honesty, a drive to be inimitable.

"That's what animates all of his roles from Spartacas to Vincent Van Gogh. There's a single thread drawing his characters together and it's called conscience. Every person he ever played had one and because Kirk Douglas never made his characters simple -- no good guys or bad guys -- he shaded heroics with self-doubt and shaped his villainy with compassion. His characters weren't bigger than life, they were life reconverted. Something we all could identify with."

Douglas triumphantly took the stage and accepted his hard-earned award, telling the crowd: "Thank you. I see my four sons. They are proud of the old man. And I am proud, too. Proud to be a part of Hollywood for 50 years, but this is for my wife, Anne. I love you!"

Michael Douglas told UPI in 2001 that from the time he was a child he took note of how his father lived as both a man and an actor.


"Learning how to conduct yourself is one of the biggest advantages of being second generation," Michael said. "You know, you grew up and you saw your dad getting attention and people taking photographs. You kind of saw how he behaved. And it gave you more of an understanding about all of the media attention that this business brings."

Kirk Douglas is survived by Anne, his wife of more than 60 years, as well as his sons Michael, Joel and Peter. His son Eric died in 2004.

In addition to his extensive film legacy, Douglas also penned several books. Among them are The Ragman's Son, Dance with the Devil, The Gift, Last Tango in Brooklyn, The Broken Mirror: A Novella, Young Heroes of the Bible, Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning, My Stroke of Luck, Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning, I Am Spartacus: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist and Life Could Be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters.

Actor Kirk Douglas through the years

Kirk Douglas (L) and Elizabeth Taylor are pictured during the production the ABC television special "Victory at Entebbe" in Hollywood on November 15, 1976. UPI File Photo | License Photo

Latest Headlines