Welcome to the Posts section of the official Kirk Douglas website. Its purpose is to let Kirk share his thoughts and activities with you, and to enable you to share your thoughts with him.

Below you’ll find links to the most recent "Reflections" and "Activities" posts.

Clicking the “Reflections” button to the left, you’ll be taken to a page where Kirk, a best-selling writer as well as a movie star, has posted his most recent thoughts and musings.

Clicking the “Activities” button, you’ll be taken to a page where you can learn about current and past goings-on in which Kirk is involved.

Clicking the "Kirk Douglas Theatre" button, you'll get the latest news about productions at the theatre, named to honor Kirk Douglas and established as the newest and most intimate of the Center Theatre Group's spaces, which include the Ahmanson and Mark Taper Theatres at the Los Angeles Music Center.

By clicking “Fan Mail,” you’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts with Kirk.

Kirk Doulgas's new book, written with his wife Anne, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood is now available. This link will enable you to order a copy, and have part of the proceeds go to the work of The Douglas Foundation.

kirkannebook

Film legend Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens, his wife of nearly sixty-three years, look back on a lifetime filled with drama both on and off the screen. Sharing priceless correspondence with each other as well as the celebrities and world leaders they called friends, Kirk and Anne is a candid portrayal of the pleasures and pitfalls of a Hollywood life lived in the public eye. 

Compiled from Anne's private archive of letters and photographs, this is an intimate glimpse into the Douglases' courtship and marriage set against the backdrop of Kirk's screen triumphs, including The VikingsLust For LifePaths of Glory, and Spartacus. The letters themselves, as well as Kirk and Anne's vivid descriptions of their experiences, reveal remarkable insight and anecdotes about the legendary figures they knew so well, including Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, the Kennedys, and the Reagans. Filled with photos from film sets, private moments, and public events, Kirk and Anne details the adventurous, oftentimes comic, and poignant reality behind the glamour of a Hollywood life-as only a couple of sixty-two years (and counting) could tell it.

Kirk Douglas on Surviving a Childhood Home With Little Food and No Heat

--Wall Street Journal  June 20, 2017

wallstreet

Kirk Douglas, 100, has starred in more than 90 films, including “Spartacus,” and has won an Oscar and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is the author of 12 books, including “Kirk and Anne,” a joint memoir (Running Press). He spoke with Marc Myers.

We were the poorest family on a street of poor families. My father, Harry, had emigrated from Russia and settled in Amsterdam, N.Y. Then he sent for my mother, Bryna. But he couldn’t do much to make money. So he bought a horse and became a ragman.

We were seven kids, and my father was an indifferent provider. My mother always pleaded with him for money. He’d say, “Haven’t got it,” in Yiddish. Growing up, we never had enough food.

When I was hungry, I stole food—an egg from under a neighbor’s hen or a tomato from a garden. I also swiped fruit and vegetables from a stand. For years, I felt guilty about those little sins.

Anti-Semitism was common in Amsterdam. I suppose my personality and charm developed as a way to survive. It also helped that I loved to act and won awards in school.

I also was a hard worker. I’d invent jobs, like selling soda and candy to workers at the mill at the end of our street. Amsterdam was one of the largest mill towns in the country. There were dozens of factories, but no jobs for Jews.

Our house was a rundown, two-story gray clapboard next to the factories, the railroad tracks and the river. It didn’t have heating. Before the winter, my father and I would take dried manure from his horse, Bill, and spread it around the foundation for insulation. It didn’t help.

By the time the family was complete—six girls and me, fourth in line—I slept on a shabby living-room sofa. The girls were in two bedrooms, and my parents in another. I hated sleeping on my own.

I loved my father, but I wondered if he loved me. I wanted to win his praise and affection. But he was distant.

My mother worked hard to feed and clothe us. There wasn’t much money. She took care of the house with no hot running water, washing machine or decent stove.

She was ingenious. The girls would buy a pound of the cheapest meat at the kosher butcher and beg for free bones. The soup my mother made fed us for days.

After high school in 1934, I didn’t have enough for college tuition. So I hitchhiked 200 miles to St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., with a friend who was a sophomore there. I took all my high-school acting awards, transcript, essays and poems. I also took a letter of recommendation from my English teacher and champion, Mrs. Livingston.

I met with Dean Hewlitt, head of faculty, and delivered my pitch. It worked. He helped me get a college loan, and the following semester I won a scholarship.

During the summer after my freshman year, I took a job wrestling in the circus. I was a shill. When the wrestler asked if anyone in the crowd cared to challenge him, I stepped forward. I was head of the varsity team at college and an undefeated champ, so we made a show of it.

It was hard for a Jewish kid to find work at any of the hotels and resorts up there and my name was Izzy Demsky.

Future summers were spent acting at the Tamarack Playhouse on Lake Pleasant. One day, a few of my friends insisted I needed a more American name. Someone suggested Douglas. My new first name took longer. Someone finally said Kirk. My new name sounded masculine and strong.

The big turning point for me was meeting Betty Perske. By then she was Betty Bacall and would soon become Lauren Bacall. We met at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan.

Betty was 17 and I was 25. One winter I only had a lightweight coat. Betty talked her uncle into giving me one of his warmer coats. I loved her from that moment on.

Betty became a huge star with her first film, and she urged film producer Hal Wallis to see me on Broadway. That’s how I came to Hollywood. I co-starred in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (1946).

Today, my wife, Anne, and I live in Beverly Hills. We decided about 30 years ago to downsize from the large house we owned to a cozy one-story house.

I fell for Anne in 1953. I still see her as an elegant and sexy Parisienne, but it’s her character and wit and how her eyes light up when she sees me that delight me.

I never expected to live to be 100. A stroke in 1996 affected my speech, but it hasn’t stopped me from laughing. You live a long life if you enjoy the things that make you happy and don’t worry too much. You can’t do much about those things anyway.

Love like a fine wine must pass the test of time: Married for 63 years, Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne reveal how their love has endured

--Daily Mail (U.K.) 16 June 2017

dailymail

Kirk Douglas is looking decidedly pleased. He’s just learned that his new book, written with his wife Anne, is into its second print run just weeks after its release.

It’s a belated birthday present for the acting legend who just six months ago took on his latest role – that of centenarian.

He and Anne have been married for 63 years and the book, Kirk And Anne: Letters Of Love, Laughter And A Lifetime In Hollywood, is a revealing memoir of their life together.

In letters written during their courting days and early years of marriage they exchanged their every experience and sentiment.

Unknown to Kirk, over the years Anne had kept all the letters locked away and it was only last year that she revealed their existence.

Reading through them Kirk realised they would make a compelling book, and today they’ve invited Weekend to their Beverly Hills home to talk about it.

The home is modest by movie star standards, but large enough to house the Douglases’ prized art collection.

From a Picasso urn that enchanted Anne who bought it for £175 during their courtship (it’s now valued at £750,000) to a large Robert Graham nude sculpture, their passion for art is on display the moment you walk through the front door.

The walls are covered in paintings, many by contemporary artists who rest alongside Dali, Vlaminck and Utrillo. Three Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs fill one wall in a hallway.

Through the French doors there’s a lush garden with rose bushes and hanging baskets dangling over the patio. Beyond lies a rectangular pool, its azure water sparkling in the Californian sunshine, with sculptures around the perimeter. Place of honour goes to a Seward Johnson stainless steel sculpture of two heads – young Kirk and older Kirk.

And there, around the corner, is The Walkway. This is Kirk and Anne’s personal Hollywood Walk of Fame: almost two dozen massive square paving stones in which are embedded the signatures of a galaxy of stars from Claudette Colbert, Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan to Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand and Shirley MacLaine.

When friends came for dinner they’d scrawl their signature on cardboard, and the local cemetery would cast it in stone.

Anne, looking and sounding nowhere near her 98 years, is resplendent today in purple slacks and cardigan. Kirk in comfortable tracksuit bottoms and sweater sits upright facing her.

The book is both poignant and riveting, and I wonder if he had any reservations about sharing such intimacies with the world. ‘No,’ he says. ‘It was something I really wanted to do. Reading some of the letters from 60 years ago was often emotional but I wasn’t embarrassed about them.’

He’s frail now but his spirit is as indomitable as ever. He talks haltingly, his speech slurred from the stroke he suffered 20 years ago. He is Hollywood’s eldest statesman and looks remarkable for his age. ‘No one was more surprised than I was when I reached 100!’ he exclaims. ‘My God, I couldn’t believe it! 100!’ So how does it feel to be a living legend? ‘At least I’m still living!’ he jokes without missing a beat.

Not bad for a man who’s survived a near-drowning as a child, a war injury when he served in the US Navy, a helicopter crash, a massive stroke, heart surgery to implant a pacemaker and the replacement of both knees.

‘It’s because I come from peasant stock,’ he says. ‘My mother and father were peasants, they escaped from Russia. And peasants had to be fighters.’

Kirk – born Issur Danielovitch in New York – was the only son, among six girls, of illiterate Russian-Jewish immigrants. He was devoted to his mother, but not close to his father who spent much of his time drunk. It was a poor existence during which ‘we barely had enough to eat’.

German-born Anne came from an affluent family and spoke four languages. She lived in Paris after fleeing Belgium at the outbreak of war, became a publicist and was chief of protocol for the Cannes Film Festival.

The couple met in Paris when he was making the 1953 film Act Of Love, on which she became the publicist. He was smitten although at the time he was engaged to the nubile Italian actress Pier Angeli. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing Anne.

‘I found her difficult,’ he admits, ‘because she kept me at a distance.’ She capitulated the night he took her to the circus where, asked to perform an impromptu act, Kirk followed a line of elephants around the ring with a huge pooper-scooper. ‘Watching him in his tuxedo picking up the dung was quite a sight,’ Anne recalls.

‘Everybody was in hysterics – and I fell in love!’ Kirk’s eyes twinkle. ‘It gave her a different idea of who I was, and she expressed it to me when I kissed her goodnight!’

When she met Kirk Anne was still married to Albert Buydens, with whom she’d fled Belgium, although they were no longer living together. With Pier Angeli back in Hollywood, Kirk discreetly romanced Anne.

Still, he was insensitive enough to ask her to help him choose an engagement ring for Pier. All Kirk’s dates with the young Angeli had been in the presence of a chaperone, but on their first date alone back in LA, Kirk realised he felt no passion for her and broke it off. Anne gave him an ultimatum: marry her or she’d leave him.

It made Kirk realise how much she meant to him and he proposed, but with astounding gall gave her the ring they’d chosen for Angeli. Anne accepted his offer but disdainfully told him, ‘This little thing. It’s not something I would wear.’

With Kirk away on film locations and Anne working in Cannes and Paris, separation made their hearts grow fonder and their letters became increasingly intimate. ‘Never,’ Anne wrote from Cannes while he was in California, ‘have you been loved so much and so exclusively.’

Kirk responded, ‘Often I have daydreams about us while I’m driving home from the studio. I pretend you’re waiting for me.’

Many of their letters were written in a mixture of English, German and French, which Kirk learned in two months. They still speak in French sometimes when they don’t want to be overheard. After one argument, Kirk wrote a letter that Anne found the following day.

‘Darling, I have a feeling that you’re not coming back tonight. I hope I’m wrong! It’s been a bad day for me and probably a worse one for you. Because my bad day means all of my problems added to yours. Forgive me. But I hope that you are here to read this and that I find you when I get back.’

In so many of his letters, Kirk expressed his longing for Anne. ‘Darling. I am now in Acapulco staying at a most beautiful little house. How I wish you were here. The bed next to mine is empty and I wish you were in it.’

Anne was even more open about her feelings for Kirk. ‘Sweetheart, write to me, call me, come over, do anything. I want to be close to you. I want to be loved and loved and loved again and again! This is what Doctor Kinsey would call, “A dangerous case of starvation”!’

Throughout their 63 years together, Anne has been his anchor. ‘My un-abated admiration and need for this remarkable woman still astounds me,’ says Kirk, who 60 years ago wrote, ‘If we live to be a hundred there will still be so many unsaid things.’ Together they’re like a pair of teenagers, laughing at each other’s jokes and finishing each other’s stories. Kirk starts telling me about a visit to the White House...

Kirk: ‘We went to Washington – remember, honey...’

Anne: ‘...for our second anniversary...’

Kirk: ‘...and we had dinner with Bobby Kennedy and friends. And the President [JFK] was supposed to go...

Anne: ‘...to the country with the ambassador to England but it was terrible weather so the President called Bobby because he knew we were all there. And he said, “Why don’t you all come over here...”

Kirk: ‘...so we went over to the White House with Bobby and all our friends and we were upstairs in the private quarters and we had a wonderful evening...’

Anne: ‘...and Jackie wanted to make a joke, she wanted to take us to see Rose [JFK’s mother] in her bed and so we snuck in and opened the door and there was Rose reading a book and we all went in and said “Hello!” And then we went back and all the Kennedy boys were singing. And there was Gene Kelly...

Kirk: ‘My name is Kirk in case you forget it!’

Anne (ignoring the interruption): ‘...and everybody was dancing and singing and having a good time upstairs in the private quarters. The president was drinking champagne out of Jackie’s slipper! These are moments in life you will never forget!’

Acting was always Kirk’s passion. He was six when the bug bit him. He recited a poem in kindergarten, the audience applauded and the seed was planted. ‘I never had any desire to be a film actor,’ he once told me. ‘All of my training was so that I could become an actor on the stage.’

Still, his friend Lauren Bacall persuaded him to give movies a try and it wasn’t long before he was propelled to stardom. It was his tough guy image that dominated his career, despite other gentler, romantic roles. He didn’t think of himself as ‘the good-looking movie type’ but he was one of the most handsome stars in Hollywood.

In 1960 Kirk became a different kind of hero when he broke the infamous blacklist that barred anyone connected with Communism. He hired blacklisted Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay for Spartacus and gave him a credit, despite fearing it could mark the end of his career.

‘I was scared to death,’ he remembers, ‘but I insisted on doing it.’ It was the first acknowledgement of a blacklisted writer in 13 years and it marked the end of one of the darkest chapters in America’s history. The scandal was portrayed in the 2015 film Trumbo with Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren.

‘Giving Trumbo the credit and helping to break the blacklist is the achievement I’m proudest of,’ says Kirk. His pride is palpable.

It’s no exaggeration to say Kirk has amassed a fortune. But he has given much of it away, a lesson drummed into him by his mother. Despite their poverty, she always found something to give the tramps who came begging for food.

‘Even a beggar must give to a person who has less,’ she told him. ‘I’ve tried to pass that message to the children,’ Kirk says. ‘If all religion were based on helping others, a lot of problems in the world would be solved.’

For years the couple has enjoyed a traditional ‘golden hour’. Each night at 6.30 they sit and talk. During the day Kirk reads the NY Times and Anne reads the LA Times and both have iPads for research so there’s plenty of news to discuss. ‘At that moment of the day,’ Anne says softly, ‘we’re just two people who love each other.’

They keep mentally fit by playing word games and solitaire. Asked for a recipe for longevity, the answer is their ability to be with each other. ‘Love,’ Kirk says, ‘like a work of art or a fine wine, must also pass the test of time.’

It’s done that in spades for the Douglases, and rather touchingly, 63 years on the letters continue to flow. ‘We still like to write a little note to each other,’ says Anne. ‘I’ll find one on my pillow at night or he sends it in a formal letter and tells me how much he appreciates something. It’s lovely.’ 

Kirk And Anne: Letters Of Love, Laughter And A Lifetime In Hollywood, Running Press, £16.99.

 

 

New book reveals a lifetime of love letters between Kirk Douglas and wife

--Jewish Journal  May 25, 2017

KD AD grass 1991

“If I live to be one hundred, there will still be so many things unsaid,” Kirk Douglas wrote his wife, Anne, in 1954, shortly after their marriage in Las Vegas.

Some 62 years later, after marking his 100th birthday, the movie star wrote, “As I have now reached that milestone, I can attest that it is still true.”

Both declarations are included in the couple’s newly published book, written with Marcia Newberger, “Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood.”

The book, Kirk’s 12th and Anne’s first, chronicles the ardent, if sometimes stormy, relationship between two strong personalities — he the son of a hard-drinking Jewish immigrant ragman and junk collector, she the daughter of a prosperous German family.

During his 60-year film career, Kirk was frequently away for long periods on location shoots, and husband and wife wrote to each other constantly. Fortunately, the couple started writing on actual paper stationary and continued the habit even after the start of the email era. And it helped that Anne kept every letter, both ways, preserving one stack in the couple’s temperature-controlled wine cellar in Beverly Hills.

Along the way, the reader learns not only about the couple’s love life — including Kirk’s infidelities with various movie queens — but also about the affairs of fellow Hollywood stars, sparing few graphic details.

But that’s only part of the book. The couple befriended U.S. presidents and their wives, from John and Jackie Kennedy and Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson through to Ronald and Nancy Reagan and Barack and Michelle Obama.

The Douglases also played and worked with Los Angeles’ rich and famous and cast a frequently jaundiced eye on the predominantly Jewish — and often imperious — magnates who dominated the studios, before these transformed into bland corporations.

The pair also take particular pride in their Douglas Foundation, which has contributed some $120 million for charitable projects, among them numerous playgrounds for poorer communities in the United States and Israel.

Anne addressed her love letters to “Isidore” or “Izzy,” and Kirk wrote back to “Stolz.” Thereby, like almost every other entry in the book, hangs a story.

Back in Russia, Kirk’s father’s name was Herschel Danielovitch, but after settling in New York, he “Americanized” his name, sort of, to Harry Demsky. When his son (born Issur Danielovitch) entered St. Lawrence University in northern New York state — on a wrestling scholarship – he enrolled as Isidore Demsky. He was usually called Izzy, a salutation adopted later by his wife.

Anne’s family left Germany shortly after the Nazis came to power and moved to Belgium, where Anne married and became a Belgian citizen. With Hitler’s quick conquest of Belgium, Ann took a train to soon-to-be occupied Paris.

As a multi-linguist, she quickly found work in the French movie industry in public relations and as a writer of movie subtitles. When Kirk, who had divorced his first wife, actress Diane Dill, came to Paris in 1953 to star in “Act of Love,” he met the pretty and brainy Anne Buydens.

Kirk already had established an impressive reputation for his outsized ego and appetite for bedding an endless parade of women, and at the moment was engaged to marry Italian-American actress Pier Angeli. Nevertheless, he made a play for Anne and immediately asked her out for dinner. He was stunned when she declined this and subsequent invitations. That’s when Kirk started to label her “Stolz,” a German word usually translated as “proud,” but, Anne said, also meaning “stubborn.”

Kirk, now 100, and Anne, 98, recently opened their spacious, but not ostentatious Beverly Hills home for an interview with the Journal. To compress a lively courtship, the couple married in 1954 in Las Vegas, and when the justice of the peace asked her if she would take Kirk as her lawful husband, she replied, in yet-imperfect English, “I take thee, Kirk, as my AWFUL husband.” After the laughter died down, the flustered Anne explained that she thought the word meant “full of awe.”

Despite this rocky start, after 49 years of marriage, Anne decided, on her own, to convert to Judaism under the tutorship of Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in West Los Angeles. She described her mikvah experience to the Journal.

“After removing all nail polish, I entered the swimming pool and put my head under the water,” she recalled. “I came out looking like a wet dog – but I was Jewish.”

She announced her new status at a large party marking the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. “Kirk has been married to two shiksas,” she opened. “It is time he got a nice Jewish girl.”

One immediate impact was that Kirk, who had lighted the Friday evening candles at their home throughout the marriage, now transferred the honor to his wife.

Kirk has developed his own definition of Judaism. “I grew up praying in the morning and laying tefillin, but I gave up much of the formal aspect of religion,” he said. “I believe in God and I’m happy to be a Jew. But I think too much religion has not helped civilization. Caring for other people is my religion.”

The sons and grandchildren from Kirk’s two marriages follow the elective-choice pattern of many interfaith families. Of Kirk’s children, Oscar-winner Michael Douglas, born of his first marriage, identifies most strongly as Jewish and two years ago used a $1 million prize to launch an outreach program to connect children of mixed marriages with their Jewish heritage.

None of Kirk’s four sons had a bar mitzvah, but four of his seven grandchildren insisted on celebrating their b’nai mitzvah.

Kirk, who changed his name to Douglas before entering the Navy during World War II, learned about anti-Semitism early on. His father couldn’t get a job at the local mills because they didn’t hire Jews, and young Issur was turned down for a newspaper delivery route for the same reason. When Kirk was elected class president at St. Lawrence College, a major donor threatened to withhold major donations unless the election result was nullified.

Even as a bona fide movie star, Kirk and the likes of Walter Matthau, Peter Lorre and Billy Wilder couldn’t escape prejudice in the 1950s and ‘60s.

In his new book, Kirk writes, “Sometimes it was easy in Hollywood to forget that anti-Semitism, polite or overt, was still mainstream. Jews ran the major studios. With Anglicized names and beautiful blonde shiksas replacing their starter wives, they lived like the wealthy WASPS of their movies: entertaining lavishly at their grand estates; presiding over screenings in projection rooms hung with museum-quality art; voting Republican.”

In the mid-1950s, Douglas formed his own independent production company, naming it Bryna, in honor of his mother, who also gave birth to six daughters. Among the company’s first productions were “Paths of Glory,” followed by “Spartacus,” arguably Kirk’s most famous movie.

Kirk took his mother to one of his film premieres, with the words “Bryna Productions Present” high up on the marquee. When his mother saw this she turned to her son and whispered in Yiddish, “Isn’t America a wonderful country?”