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Actor Kirk Douglas, Hollywood Icon, Dead at 103

Kirk Douglas

Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas passed away at the age of 103 on Wednesday. On February 5,  a statement was released from Douglas’ son, famed actor Michael Douglas.

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

“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,” the Wall Street actor added. “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.”

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Nominated three times for best actor by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — for Champion (1949), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Lust for Life (1956) — Douglas was the recipient of an honorary Oscar in 1996. Arguably the top male star of the post-World War II era, he acted in more than 80 movies before retiring from films in 2004.

Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky in the industrial town of Amsterdam. His parents, Jewish immigrants from Russia, raised seven children, and as soon as he was old enough, Douglas went to work to help support the family.

He put himself through St. Lawrence University by working as a janitor. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree, Douglas moved to Manhattan where, as a result of a single reading for the head of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, received a special scholarship.

Soon after graduating from the academy in 1941, Douglas made his Broadway debut in Spring Again, starring Grace George and C. Aubrey Smith, playing a singing messenger boy. In 1942, he enlisted in the Navy, attending the Midshipman School at Notre Dame, and was commissioned an ensign. He served on anti-submarine patrol in the Pacific as a communications officer until 1944, when he was honorably discharged as a lieutenant.

Returning to civilian life and Broadway, Douglas replaced Richard Widmark as the juvenile lead in Kiss and Tell and appeared in Trio and Star in the Window. It was his widely praised performance in The Wind Is Ninety that brought him to Hollywood’s attention. The year was 1946, and, at the suggestion of Lauren Bacall, producer Hal Wallis invited him to come to California for a screen test. Wallis was so impressed with Douglas that he cast him in the lead opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).

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It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. 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, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband. 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. 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. #KirkDouglas

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