Actress Diana Douglas, mother of Michael Douglas and Joel Douglas, died today at the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, CA. The first wife of actor Kirk Douglas, she was 92 and died of cancer, her husband of 15 years Donald A. Webster said.
Diana Douglas had a long career in movies, TV and in theater. She appeared in 22 films. Her final feature film was the Fred Schepisi-directed It Runs in the Family, which also starred Kirk, Michael, Joel and grandson Cameron Douglas. Her other movies included Planes, Trains And Automobiles, Star Chamber (with Michael Douglas), Cold Heaven and several others stretching back to her first film Keeper Of The Flame in which she played the “Forward American Girl.”
She also appeared in nearly 60 TV shows and sederal made-for-TV movies. Her series work included ER, The West Wing, The Paper Chase, The Waltons, Dynasty and the daytime soap opera Days Of Our Lives.
She also had starring or supporting roles in numerous plays including My Fair Lady, Best of Friends, Cactus Flower, Major Barbara, Modern Primitive, A Winter’s Tale, Hedda Gabler, Light Up the Sky and The Highest Tree. One of her favorite roles was as Queen Gertrude opposite David Birney’s Hamlet.
She was born in Bermuda in 1923. Her father, Thomas M Dill, was Attorney General of Bermuda and disapproved of her interest in acting and consented to her studying in the U.S. because he thought it would get it out of her system. She also became a model for the Powers Agency and made the cover of Life magazine in a fashion issue. She later jumped at Warner Bros’ offer of an acting contract in Hollywood but returned to New York to focus on modeling and the theater.
Kirk Douglas, who had been one of her classmates at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, was serving in the Navy at the time she appeared on the cover of Life. He told his buddies he was going to marry her, and after a whirlwind courtship, they wed in 1943.
In addition to her husband Donald, Diana Douglas Webster is survived by her sons Michael and Joel, and grandchildren Cameron, Dylan and Carys. A memorial service will be held in Los Angeles at a date to be announced.