Kirk Douglas turns 100 today. Trivia and photos from the archives
In a year when we've lost a lot of beloved celebrities, it feels really nice to celebrate one's life for a birthday instead. Today Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas turns 100. Yes, 100.
The man born Issur Danielovitch (wow, that's a lot harder to say) on Dec. 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, N.Y., earned his first Academy Award nomination in 1949 (!!!) for Champion, and, fun fact, as the first Oscars were handed out in 1929, Kirk Douglas is actually older than the Academy Awards. His only Oscar awarded is an honorary Oscar given in 1996 for his "50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community."
More life events and math: His most famous son, Michael, was born in 1944 and is now 72; Douglas married his second wife, Anne Buydens, now 97, in 1954 so they've been married 62 years. (The photo below is of them looking adorable in 2014.)
Of course Douglas is perhaps best known as Spartacus from the 1960 classic. We couldn't say it any better than former Times food editor Janet Keeler wrote in 2004: "In the famous photos of 1960's Spartacus, Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis look like they're wearing their mothers' underwear. But when Douglas put on his tunic, Momma better have hidden her eyes."
So in honor of Douglas' landmark birthday, we took a spin through the digitized part of our archives, which isn't nearly as old as he is. Enjoy these photos and tidbits of trivia.
In 2014, People magazine accidentally published an obituary of Douglas. The Times' celebrity gossip blog responded "Breaking news: Kirk Douglas lives! Obituary was false alarm" and Douglas told USA Today he was looking forward to his 98th birthday. We found numerous references in the archives to people expecting his death at any time, including a 2005 review of the HBO documentary A Father, A Son, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in which a Times reviewer wrote "there is an overwhelming feeling that Kirk Douglas' death is looming" and a 1998 story on betting on celebrities to die that included him on a "dead pool" list. (Worth noting, said list also included Martha Stewart and David Crosby.)
At least as of 1991, "Douglas' personal favorite (movie) is 1962's Western Lonely Are the Brave." The Western is among his 91 acting credits, according to IMDB.
From a 2010 column from Times movie critic Steve Persall about parent-child star duos: "Michael and Kirk Douglas. No mistaking those identically cleft chins. ... Believe it or not, this father and son appeared together only once in a movie, 2003's It Runs in the Family. The film also starred Douglas clan black sheep Cameron, Michael's son, who is currently serving a jail term for narcotics charges. Wouldn't you love to hear Michael say: "I am Spartacus!"" (Also, read Steve's 2003 review of It Runs in the Family here, on the Times' old website.)
Another bit from Persall, writing about the sex appeal of older actors in 1995: "Kirk Douglas as a no-nonsense tycoon in Greedy (still looking fit in swimwear)." The movie came out in 1994, when Douglas was 78.
Speaking of sex appeal, an AP photo from 2007, which the Times captioned: "Yes, that's John Travolta kissing Kirk Douglas. And yes, Douglas looks every bit as thrilled to be kissed by Travolta as you'd imagine. This bit of strangeness happened on Thursday at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California."
In 2009, a story about celebrities older than 80 noted that then-92-year-old Kirk Douglas had 10,889 friends on MySpace; as of December 2008, MySpace said he was the site's oldest celebrity blogger. Sorry, he is not on Facebook or Twitter.
The same 2009 article noted he had published five books, three memoirs and two children's books after age 80; he has since published two more and has another on the way for next year, co-written with his wife: Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood. It's his 12th book overall.
In 1990, Douglas published the novel Dance With the Devil, about which a Times review said: "It answers that question: Yes, the actor can write. ... Ironically, if he were a lesser actor, he might be considered a better writer."
In 1992, Douglas went back to making movies and not just writing books. From the archives: "Kirk Douglas, figuring 80 movies were enough, had planned to devote his time from now on to his newfound profession of writing. That was before he saw the script for the television movie The Secret. He was completing work on his second novel, The Gift, when he read the script, the story of a man harboring a secret and his relationship with his son and grandson." The movie featured Bruce Boxleitner as his son.
In 2003, Douglas said he tried to commit suicide after his stroke. Also something Douglas said after his stroke, from 2002: "The sky is bluer, the trees are greener. People talk of heaven, but maybe this is heaven and we don't know it."
In 1998, a reader wrote in asking "Did actor Michael Douglas have his chin "dimpled" by a plastic surgeon so he would look more like his father, Kirk Douglas?" And answer: "Childhood photos of Michael show a very distinct chin dimple in development." The photo above is from 1987. You be the judge.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, who married Michael Douglas in 2000, about meeting Kirk Douglas: "When Michael and I were kind of courting and dating, we were going out for dinner one night and he said, ‘Let's swing around and see my dad. He's dying to meet you.' I was, like, ‘Okay, what do I say?' Kirk was sensational. I didn't know how much Michael had spoken to him about me, but it was like he'd known me for years. As much as they are a family and a name that's been around in this business for a long time, they're very down-to-earth people. Dad is Dad to Michael, and Kirk is very proud of his son."
In 1999, Douglas was ranked No. 17 on a list of top movie legends of all time by the American Film Institute, between Orson Welles at 16 and James Dean at 18.
In 1998, Douglas and his wife sold their Palm Springs, Calif., home of 42 years to move closer to grandkids. It was listed at $1.8 million. The house went on the market again this year for $3.4 million — and now Leonardo DiCaprio is one of its neighbors. It looks like you can rent it for vacations, too.
In case you were wondering about the star's stars, from a 1998 story on the horoscopes of the famous: "SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21) - Gregarious and attractive, Sagittarians have the good-luck benefit of Jupiter's planetary influence. Physical performers such as Bruce Lee, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Kirk Douglas display the sign's athletic nature; Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen represent its thoughtful, imaginative qualities. Sagittarians love comedies more than weepy dramas."
A heartwarming moment from the 1996 Academy Awards: "The introduction of Kirk Douglas, who received a special award for lifetime achievement, turned the auditorium into a Niagara of tears. Douglas, who has played the indomitable in hundreds of epics, has been brought low by a series of strokes. He is learning to talk all over again, and his delivery was halting. When he said to his wife, Anne, "I love-a you," his wife collapsed in sobs, and his four sons wept along."