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THE LAST OF HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE

Kirk Douglas in 1960 on the set of Spartacus, and in 2011 at the age of 94 (Images from AFP)

Kirk Douglas in 1960 on the set of Spartacus, and in 2011 at the age of 94 (Images from AFP)

A boxer, Vincent Van Gogh, and Spartacus. These were the roles that catapulted Kirk Douglas to stardom over 70 years ago. Having witnessed the film industry make big changes from westerns to science-fiction, rom-coms and the evolution of visual effects, Kirk passed away at the ripe age of 103—leaving behind a legacy that led him to becoming the last star of cinema’s golden age.

Kirk appeared in nearly 90 films in his career before retiring in 2004, and was known for playing the macho and no-always-likeable tough guy, thus becoming a renowned ladies’ man thanks to his charming dimples and cleft chin.

His titular role of the rebel Roman Empire slave-turned-gladiator in Spartacus, which he also produced opposite fellow acting great Laurence Olivier and directed by Stanley Kubrick, was arguably his best-known role across 60 years of filmmaking. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning for art direction, costume design, cinematography, and a Supporting Actor nod for co-star Peter Ustinov.

Kirk found Oscar-nominated roles himself in Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful, and Lust for Life—the latter playing Vincent Van Gogh. Though he never won a competitive Oscar, he was given an honorary lifetime achievement award “for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.” 

He also dabbed in directing, staying behind the camera for Scalawag and Posse. In 1988, he wrote his first autobiography The Ragman’s Son, a reference to his poor early life in New York. “I always worked in the theory that when you play a weak character, find a moment when he’s strong. And if you’re playing a strong character, find a moment when he’s weak,” Kirk says in his autobiography.

Kirk and Michael Douglas at the 57th Annual Academy Awards in 1985 (Image from AFP)

Kirk and Michael Douglas at the 57th Annual Academy Awards in 1985 (Image from AFP)

In 1963, Kirk bought the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and turned into a Broadway play, acting in the lead as Randle McMurphy opposite Gene Wilder’s Billy Bibbit. It ran to mixed views, and he had difficulty finding a producer to turn the novel into a film. He then gave it to his son Michael, who succeeded. Kirk had wanted to reprise his role as McMurphy, but was deemed too old thus the role was given to Jack Nicholson. The film won the Big Five Oscars in 1976, including Best Picture, Best Director for Milos Forman, and Best Actor for Jack.

Kirk had some close brushes with death early on, surviving a helicopter crash in 1991 and a stroke in 1996 that nearly robbed him of his speech. When he turned 100 in 2016, he attributed his longevity to his second wife of 66 years, Anne Buydens.

Kirk is survived by Anne, now 100 years old, and his three sons, Michael, Joel, and Peter, all who have also entered the film industry as well. His fourth son Eric passed away in 2004. He was also close to Michael’s wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. 

“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,” writes Michael on Facebook. AFP



Source: Manila Bulletin

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