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The Tragic Death of Kirk Douglas & His 2 Wives

When it comes to the leading stars of Hollywood’s golden age, it’s hard to think of anyone more iconic than Kirk Douglas. The legendary actor who starred in such films as Spartacus, Paths of Glory, and Detective Story, lived a long and successful life, both personally and professionally.

But sadly, on February 5th, 2020, the beloved star passed away at the age of 103. Join us as we celebrate the life of this Hollywood legend. And also take a look at the tragic deaths of his two wives, Anne and Diana.

A Hollywood icon

Kirk Douglas had more than ninety two acting credits, which included at least seventy five movies. In 1950, Douglas received his first Academy Award nomination for Champion. He nominated again in 1953 for The Bad and the Beautiful, and even nominated a third time in 1957 with Lust for Life, in which he played painter Vincent van Gogh. It in 1996 that he was rightly awarded an honorary Oscar for fifty years as a creative and moral force within the motion picture community.

Douglas known on and off-screen for his sometimes overpowering bravado. But he mostly known as a man of heartfelt conviction. He hired blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to write the 1960 epic Spartacus. The movie directed by Stanley Kubrick and Douglas executive produced and starred in the project.

Douglas openly proud of his success but he never got carried away with the idea of fame. In fact, he was known for being genuinely kind. He believed that you haven’t learned how to live until you’ve learned how to give. This was extremely important to the legendary actor, who, with his wife Anne, were incredibly generous over the years with helping many worthy causes.

In 1964, the couple founded the Douglas Foundation, which they used to give a total of $50 million in pledges to five nonprofit organizations, back in 2012.  They also donated millions for the construction of the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion at the Motion Picture & Television Fund for residents with Alzheimer’s.

Along with this the couple donated to various other groups and initiatives that now carry the family’s names, including the Anne Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission, the Center Theater Group’s Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City, and the Kirk Douglas Scholarship fund at Douglas’ former school St. Lawrence University. Douglas was a true philanthropist.

Douglas’ difficult childhood

Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky, on December 9th, 1916, in upstate New York. He was the son of poor and illiterate Russian-Jewish immigrants, Herschel and Bryna. His father was not very affectionate, and was never interested in what Kirk was doing. Kirk was the only boy of seven children and wanted to be close to his father, but he simply ignored him.

He found affection from his mother, and this led to Kirk being determined to never be as distant with his own children as his father was with him. Douglas revealed that they were the poorest family on a street of poor families. His father struggled to make money, partly because there were no jobs for Jews. Douglas grew up hungry as they never had enough food. He would often steal in order to fill his belly.

Douglas’ father had been a horse trader in Russia, and in Amsterdam, New York, he got himself a horse and a small wagon. He became a ragman, buying old rags, pieces of metal, and junk for pennies, nickels, and dimes. The ragman was a job that was looked at as the lowest of the low, and Kirk was the ragman’s son.

While it wasn’t easy for Douglas, he combined his charm, developed as a way to survive, with hard work. This made him the man he became. Douglas grew up as Izzy Demsky and legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the United States Navy during World War II.

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His son followed in his footsteps

Between his two wives, Kirk Douglas had four children, all boys. Michael, Joel, Peter and Eric. Of the four, it is Michael who has lived up to the same acclaim as his father, having followed in his Hollywood footsteps.

Michael Douglas, an acclaimed actor in his own right, has starred in such films as Wall Street, Basic Instinct, The Game, and more recently, he joined the beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe as Dr. Hank Pym, featured in both the Ant-Man movies, opposite Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeiffer, and Avengers: Endgame. He’s slated to return in the role in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which is set for release in 2023.

Following in his father’s footsteps as an acting icon, Michael became a Golden Globe nominee for The Kominsky Method at the same time his father enjoyed his 103rd birthday. To celebrate, Michael shared an Instagram photo of his famous father and himself, thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for nominating him on the same day as Kirk’s milestone birthday.

In November of 2018, Kirk attended Michael’s induction at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Michael used the moment to honor his father. He thanked the legendary star for his advice and inspiration. He finished by saying that he’s so proud to be his son.

The passing of a legend

On February 5th, 2020, the tragic news was announced that one of Hollywood’s true greats, Kirk Douglas, had passed away at the age of 103. In a statement made by Douglas’ son, Michael, he described his father as being known to the world as a legend. And an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years. He continued by calling him a humanitarian whose commitment to justice. And the causes he believed in set a standard for all to aspire to.

Michael then explained that to him and his brothers, Joel and Peter, he was simply Dad, to Catherine, Michael’s wife, he was a wonderful father-in-law. To his grandchildren and great grandchild, he was their loving grandfather. To his wife Anne, he was a wonderful husband. Michael finished with, “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.”

The legendary actor spent the last years of his life surrounded by his loved ones. And including his grandson, Cameron, who was released from prison in 2016 and welcomed his first child, daughter Lua Izzy, in December of 2017. Lua Izzy was named after Kirk and his original name, Izzy Demsky.

The passing of Kirk’s first wife Diana

But the tragedy is larger than the one death. Diana Douglas, the first wife of Kirk Douglas, was the mother of Michael and Joel. On July 3rd, 2015, Diana passed away at the age of 92. She died of cancer. Diana met Kirk in New York while they were both studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

She enjoyed a six-decade long career as an actress and model, appearing in dozens of movies and television episodes. These included the 1987 Steve Martin film Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and the TV shows ER and The West Wing. She also worked on the stage, including on Broadway.

In May 1943, Diana appeared on the cover of Life magazine, where she modeled springware.

At that time, Kirk was serving in the Navy during World War II, and saw her on the cover. He told his shipmates that he would marry her. They married that November and had two sons. They divorced in 1951.

The divorced couple remained on amicable terms, with Diana even appearing with Kirk in several movies, including her last film, It Runs in the Family. This also starred their son Michael, and one of their grandsons, Cameron. Diana also married actor Bill Darrid, they were together from 1956 until his death in 1992.

The passing of Kirk’s second wife Anne

When Kirk Douglas passed away, he was still married to Anne Douglas. Anne and Kirk married in 1954 after they met in Paris while he was filming Act of Love. She was a publicist at the time. Together they had two sons, Peter and Eric.

Kirk publicly praised Anne for the impact she had on his life. He stated that he often wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t met Anne. Saying that he might not have survived without her business acumen. Anne was Kirk’s partner in marriage and also in his philanthropic endeavours, as they founded the Douglas Foundation together. Their marriage lasted for over six decades, before Kirk’s passing.

On the 29th of April of this year, Anne passed away at the age of 102.  No cause of death was given. The widow of Kirk Douglas and stepmother of Michael Douglas, died at her home in Beverly Hills.

Michael said that his stepmother will always be in our hearts. And continued, “She brought out the best in all of us, especially our father. Dad would never have had the career he did without Anne’s support and partnership,”

With such a long and successful marriage together, it’s a true shame that we’ll no-longer ever see the love between them. But we can only hope that they’ve found each other once again after death.

Which of the two famous Douglas’ do you think has the greatest Hollywood legacy? The “I am Spratacus” of Kirk, or the “Greed is good” of Michael?

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