Cinematic icon Kirk Douglas, star of Sparticus, died last week at his home in Beverly Hills at the age of 103. His family has chosen to keep the cause of his death private.

“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” his son, actor Michael Douglas, said in a statement to People. “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 [Zeta-Jones], a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great-grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband.”

Being a centurion and one of the last surviving stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Douglas’ film legacy includes 92 acting credits. His film debut was in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in 1946, and his last film role in Empire State Building Murders in 2008. 

The athletic, blue-eyed, cleft-chinned superstar was nominated for an Academy Award in 1950 for his portrayal of the ambitious but unscrupulous boxer Midge Kelly in Champion. Three years later, he was nominated again for his performance in the melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful alongside Lana Turner. And soon thereafter, he received another Oscar nod for his portrayal of the tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh in the biopic Lust for Life. It would be four decades later that he’d take home the statue—an Honorary Oscar “for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.” 

Douglas’ many other accolades include receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom (from Jimmy Carter) and being ranked number 17 on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest male screen legends of classic Hollywood cinema. 

During the 1950s, television was growing in popularity and, as a result, fewer films were being produced. In turn, Douglas took charge of his career by forming his own production company; he was one of the first actors to do so. He named it Bryna Productions after his mother. “Many stars found themselves unemployed and I wasn’t about to let it happen to me. … It was a matter of survival,” Douglas said. He produced films including Paths of Glory in 1957 and Sparticus in 1960—both of which he collaborated with the up-and-coming director Stanley Kubrick.

Known for his tough-guy roles and explosive acting style, Douglas was the leading box-office star throughout the 1950s. His most popular movies include Out of the Past, Champion, Ace in the Hole, The Bad and the Beautiful, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lust for Life, Paths of Glory, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Vikings, Sparticus, Lonely Are the Brave, Seven Days in May, and Tough Guys. 

Cast a Giant Shadow director Melville Shavelson described what it was like to work with Douglas, saying:Kirk Douglas was intelligent. When discussing a script with actors, I have always found it necessary to remember that they never read the other actors’ lines, so their concept of the story is somewhat hazy. Kirk had not only read the lines of everyone in the picture, he had also read the stage directions … Kirk, I was to discover, always read every word, discussed every word, always argued every scene, until he was convinced of its correctness. … He listened, so it was necessary to fight every minute.”

Kirk gained the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and adapted it into a Broadway play in which he starred. But when the Hollywood studios lacked interest in turning it into a film, Kirk passed along the rights to his son, Michael. Then Michael turned it into a movie starring Jack Nicholson, and the film went on to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in a Lead Role, Actress in a Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay).

In his 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son, Douglas described how he was born the poor son of an illiterate Russian-Jewish immigrant and had six sisters. Growing up in upstate New York, he knew he wanted to be an actor as early as kindergarten, and he went on to perform in high school plays. Douglas had over 40 jobs before becoming an actor: he worked as a newspaper delivery boy, waiter, gardener, janitor, he did radio commercials, worked in a theater, and even wrestled in a carnival to earn money.

Douglas attended Manhattan’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts where one of his classmates, the aspiring actress Lauren Bacall, helped him land his first film role by recommending him to the producer Hal B. Wallis. That movie was The Strange Love of Martha Ivers with Barbara Stanwyck in 1946. 

“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,” Michael continued in his statement. “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.”

Kirk Douglas is survived by his wife of 65 years, Anne, and his sons Michael, Joel, and Peter as well as several grandchildren.

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