Happy Birthday Kirk Douglas and congratulations on reaching the ripe old age of 103! This Hollywood legend reached an extraordinary milestone on December 9, 2019. At 103 he is possibly the oldest screen hunk on record!
The Douglas clan has its fair share of stellar names aside from Kirk. Son Michael Douglas and daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta Jones are world famous in their own right. And both wanted to wish the head of the family well on his special day.
“Happy Birthday Pappy!!!” Jones exclaimed via Instagram. “I love you with all my heart.”
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Meanwhile Cameron Douglas (Michael’s son) wanted to express his admiration and respect. Describing him as “a gift to the world; a guiding light and source of inspiration”, the younger Douglas knelt by his grandfather for a social media snap. Jones went one better and had Kirk sitting on her knee!
“You are a living legend,” Michael posted on Instagram, with a photo of him kissing his beloved father. He also paid Dad a glowing compliment during the veteran star’s 100th birthday celebration. “After all he accomplished… and what he’s given for his country, at the point in his life where he’s faced adversity, losing a son (Eric, who passed away in 2004), having a helicopter crash, having a stroke, and what he’s accomplished in this third act in his life, I find quite extraordinary,” he said.
Kirk went on to write the book A Stroke of Luck in 2002. The account detailed his feelings at having been struck down back in 1996, but also shows how he rose up and even learned from the life-changing experience.
Wife Anne Buydens has been by Kirk’s side since 1954. She reached her own centenary earlier this year. The celebration received an extra boost with the news Michael received a Golden Globe nomination for his Netflix show The Kominsky Method. He thanked them for making Douglas Sr proud.
In 2017 Pappy himself spoke to The Guardian. “I am so proud of Michael,” he commented, “because he never followed my advice. I wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer, and the first time I saw him in a play I told him he was terrible… But then I saw him a second time and I said: ‘You were wonderful!’ And I think he is very good in everything he’s done.”
Michael appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in the run up to the big 103. Turned out the birthday “boy” wasn’t in the mood to push the boat out, as in previous years. Douglas Jr mentioned the prospect of a party to Kirk, who reacted strongly. “He’s got tears down his eyes,” Michael revealed. According to him, his father’s emotional words were: “Let’s just have dinner, the family together. Bring the kids.”
After so long in the spotlight, and with an eye-opening body of work in the movie business behind him, it’s no wonder Kirk wanted a quiet night in. He was born Issur Danielovitch in 1916, to Jewish parents Herschel and Bryna. They were known in New York as Harry and Bertha. Kirk’s 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son is named in honor of his father’s profession.
He famously talked his way into college, going to acting school and making his screen debut with The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). The world’s best directors wanted to cast him in their productions. Notable names who wielded the megaphone include Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, Vincente Minnelli and Richard Fleischer. Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960) gave Douglas one of his most famous movie roles. The line “I am Spartacus!”, delivered by multiple characters in defiance of the Romans, is part of cinema history. The star also courted controversy by bringing in blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to work on the script.
Among his classic movies are The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), 1956’s Lust For Life (one of his favorites, where he played Vincent Van Gogh), Paths of Glory (1957), and The Vikings (1958). His last picture before retirement was Illusion, a 2004 indie thriller featuring Bryan Cranston.
103 is a grand old age, but for Kirk Douglas it seems like just the next step in a long and fruitful existence. “Age is in the mind,” he told Esquire in 2001. “I’ve survived a helicopter crash and back surgery. I have a pacemaker. I had a stroke that almost made me commit suicide. But I tell myself, I have to continue growing and functioning. That’s the only antidote for age.”
Here’s to many more birthdays, and another chapter for this titan of Old Hollywood. Kirk Douglas is living proof that age ain’t nothing but a number!