Golden Age Star Kirk Douglas Is Dead At 103

Kirk Douglas in Spartacus
(Image credit: (Universal))

Kirk Douglas, one of the last movie stars of the film industry’s Golden Age has died at the age of 103. The legendary star of the 1960 box-office smash Spartacus passed away on Wednesday afternoon, as confirmed by his family – including his 75-year-old actor son, Michael Douglas.

Among the likes of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne and Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas was a celebrity before Hollywood coined the term. He was nominated for three Oscars and he received an honorary Oscar back in 1996 for 50 years of presence in the film industry. He leaves behind his wife of 65 years, Anne; three of his sons; and a cemented legacy on the silver screen.

Kirk Douglas' health had been stable for over 20 years, following a stroke back in 1996. He also survived a plane crash back in 1991 and lived to see Michael Douglas nab his 11th Golden Globe nomination for The Kominsky Method on his 103rd birthday back in December. Michael Douglas released the following statement about his father on Instagram:

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. 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.

Before retiring as an actor back in 2003, Kirk Douglas had almost 100 acting credits to his name, including 75 films dating back to 1946. His first notable Oscar-nominated role was in 1949’s Champion as boxer Midge Kelly. He starred in favorites including Ace in the Hole, Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Vikings in the ‘50s, along with nabbing two more nominations for his role as Jonathan Shields in The Bad and the Beautiful and Vincent Van Gogh in Lust For Life., both of which were directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Kirk Douglas made history in a variety of different ways with Spartacus. He pushed back against Hollywood’s blacklist during McCarthy Era by offering Dalton Trumbo his full screenplay credit on the film despite being blacklisted. Douglas once called the act “the thing I’m most proud of.” Spartacus went on to become Universal’s highest-grossing movie for a decade.

The actor was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky in Amsterdam, New York. He was the son of a poor family of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Kirk Douglas put himself through college in New York as a janitor before making it big. He was one of the first actors to start his own production company with Bryna Productions back in 1955. He starred and produced in a few of Stanley Kubrick’s first projects, including Paths of Glory.

Kirk Douglas' passing comes just a little over a week after news of another prominent figure dying, NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Kirk Douglas certainly leaves behind an incredible body of work behind that cinephiles can fondly look back on for eons to come. Feel free to share your favorite Kirk Douglas project in the comments below.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.