As news broke that Kirk Douglas, one of the last of Hollywood’s Golden Age stars, died on Wednesday, stars from Old and New Hollywood honored the three-time Oscar nominee as a “a pillar of Hollywood” and “inspirational scalawag” for his willingness to fight for (often) liberal causes.
Leading the tribute was Douglas’ son, Michael, a Hollywood star in his own right who first announced his father’s passing on Instagram.
“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 Douglas wrote.
“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.”
Steven Spielberg also paid tribute: “Kirk retained his movie star charisma right to the end of his wonderful life and I’m honored to have been a small part of his last 45 years,” the director said in a statement. “I will miss his handwritten notes, letters and fatherly advice, and his wisdom and courage – even beyond such a breathtaking body of work – are enough to inspire me for the rest of mine.”
Mitzi Gaynor, one of Douglas’ few still living co-stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, hailed him for “an incredible life.” Gaynor, who starred with Douglas in the 1963 romantic comedy “For Love or Money,” tweeted, “Thank you for so generously sharing your amazing talent with all of us. The film we made together will always hold a special place in my heart. My love to Anne & your beautiful family.”
Bravo Kirk Douglas on an incredible life. Thank you for so generously sharing your amazing talent with all of us. The film we made together will always hold a special place in my heart. My love to Anne & your beautiful family. #KirkDouglas
— Mitzi Gaynor (@TheMitziGaynor) February 5, 2020
Legends never leave us! RIP Kirk Douglas. We grew up watching you. #BePeace
— Carl Weathers (@TheCarlWeathers) February 5, 2020
Many posts from fans and peers featured pictures from arguably his most famous film, the 1960 epic “Spartacus.” Not only did it elevate Douglas to an even higher status as one of cinema’s top leading men, it also made him a part of Hollywood history when he publicly announced that Dalton Trumbo, one of the writers added to the Hollywood blacklist on accusations of Communist sympathies.
Douglas’ decision to stand alongside Trumbo is credited as being one of the main factors behind the decision to end the blacklist. In addition, “Spartacus” itself became a rallying cry against the Red Scare, particularly for the iconic scene when Spartacus’ army is demanded by the Roman forces to identify the general, only for them all to one by one declare “I am Spartacus!” and sacrifice themselves for him.
KIrk Douglas will always be an icon in the pantheon of Hollywood. He put himself on the line to break the blacklist. My love goes out to my friend Michael and the whole family.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) February 5, 2020
— Ed Asner (@TheOnlyEdAsner) February 5, 2020
Others also shared stories from Douglas’ life, including his struggles to find work because of his Jewish background. Douglas, who was born with the name Issur Danielovitch, managed to get a job at an upstate New York resort owned by an anti-Semitic woman by applying under the alias “Don Dempsey.” According to biographies on Douglas’ life, his relationship with that employer took a very interesting turn.
A Kirk Douglas story that's stayed with me for a very long time. pic.twitter.com/0QvC0CVFLS
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) February 5, 2020
Read more tributes to Kirk Douglas below.
View this post on Instagram
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
The SAG Awards mourns the loss of the legendary and talented Life Achievement Recipient Kirk Douglas. His commitment to acting and justice were inspirational. Our thoughts go out to his family at this time. pic.twitter.com/ydrciLNRZm
— SAG Awards® (@SAGawards) February 6, 2020
Kirk Douglas. The inspirational Scalawag. 103 years on this earth. That’s got a nice ring to it! Great hanging with you man.
— Danny DeVito (@DannyDeVito) February 6, 2020
We lost another one way too young. RIP Kirk Douglas.
— marc maron (@marcmaron) February 6, 2020
Kirk Douglas Dead: Iconic Actor Was 103.
Kirk! A pillar of Hollywood has fallen. Nobody danced on Viking oars like you! Safe travels, stud! https://t.co/FtQDuDLcT6
— Bruce Campbell (@GroovyBruce) February 6, 2020
What a lege! Shine on, Kirk Douglas. Forever a star. https://t.co/Ohq3cC8WLM
— Lucy Lawless (@RealLucyLawless) February 6, 2020
Heartbroken. Kirk Douglas was a friend and an absolute legend of a star and human. He got better with every passing day. So honored to have known him. My love to his family. We could use a true Spartacus. #ripkirkdouglas
— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) February 6, 2020
“I wanted to be an actor ever since I was a kid in the second grade. I did a play, and my mother made a black apron, and I played a shoemaker. After the performance, [my father] gave me my first Oscar: an ice cream cone.” -Kirk Douglas
Goodbye to a Hollywood legend. pic.twitter.com/vnu1Hkb2FA
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) February 5, 2020