Kirk Douglas turns 100 on Friday, and he has found the perfect gift to celebrate. Running Press later today officially will be announcing the May 2 publication of a new book, Douglas’ 12th, written with his wife of 62 years, Anne Buydens Douglas, called Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood.
The book isn’t quite ready yet to hand out at Friday’s afternoon tea party for 150 or so close friends and associates that son Michael and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones are throwing for Kirk, but it is yet another indication that this legendary star is not letting another digit to his age slow him down a bit. It was just a year ago, on the occasion of his mere 99th, that I wrote about Kirk’s birthday present that year, a $15 million donation to the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s new $35 million Alzheimer’s facility on its Woodland Hills campus that will be named the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion. It brings to $40 million his lifetime donations to the organization. This summer he and Anne were out in force at the MPTF’s 95th birthday celebration — where it was noted he’s been around since before it was even founded — and an early birthday cake was rolled out for Kirk, who got a standing ovation after a tribute from Michael Douglas.
The new book for the seemingly indefatigable Douglas comes from the Running Press/Turner Classic Movies publishing program and features letters and commentary on the couple’s secrets to longevity in a marriage still going strong. The book is said to chronicle the couple’s courtship and marriage; stories of their famous contemporaries like Sinatra, Peck, Wayne, Lancaster, Bacall and others; anecdotes from numerous film sets and dinner parties; the couple’s travel to more than 40 countries as goodwill ambassadors; personal stories of their relationships with several U.S. presidents and first ladies starting with JFK and Jackie; plus surviving the down times including his near-fatal helicopter crash, a debilitating stroke and the death of their youngest son, Eric. It also included several previously unseen photos.
It is interesting to note that Douglas will be joining a very exclusive club of famed Hollywood actors who became centenarians including George Burns, Bob Hope, Charles Lane, Gloria Stuart, Estelle Winwood, Luise Rainer and some like Norman Lloyd and Olivia de Havilland (who turned 100 in July) who, like Douglas, are still active and going strong. I had the honor of doing a couple of onstage interviews with Douglas at both the Motion Picture Academy and Television Academy theaters in 2012 for his book I Am Spartacus, and he got up at one of them to do a sword fight with the actor then starring in the TV version of Spartacus.
Douglas certainly has been busy in the days leading up to his 100th milestone; just last week he sent a taped message to honoree Warren Beatty, who received the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s annual dinner. There have been numerous tributes for the star in anticipation of the big day, as well as several film retrospectives featuring many of his 87 movies including Spartacus, Lonely Are the Brave (which he cites often as a particular favorite), and his Oscar-nominated turns in Lust for Life and Champion. Another of those movies was 1953’s Act of Love, which is where during production he met his future wife, Anne, then a publicist.
Among those expected to attend the Douglas centennial in Beverly Hills on Friday are Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Don Rickles, three sons including Michael and seven grandchildren. It will mark a great new moment in the “Kirk and Anne” continuing love story, perhaps the first chapter of a sequel to the new book.