A man who might have been the biggest male movie star since World War II died on Wednesday. His name was Kirk Douglas. "It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103," his son Michael Douglas wrote on Instagram, per the Hollywood Reporter. The actor known for his dimples and fierce gaze acted in a wide range of films, from The Bad and the Beautiful to Champion to Lust for Life and Paths of Glory. The three-time Oscar nominee (and recipient of an honorary Oscar in 1996) is also cherished in Hollywood for breaking the 1950s blacklist by crediting Dalton Trumbo for his screenplay on Spartacus, in which Douglas starred. He was also a political activist, family man, and charity benefactor, notes Variety.
His intense ambition was rooted in family. Born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Amsterdam, NY, Douglas was the poor son of a ragman. He rose up by putting himself through university, served in the Navy, and returned to civilian life to act on Broadway and, soon after, in Hollywood. A rebel with strong opinions—and a reputation for being difficult—he started his own film company and made his own films. He was married twice and had four sons, who all went into the movie business. A 1996 stroke nearly led him to suicide, but he fought on. And on the big screen, he's always a giant: "To me, acting is creating an illusion, showing tremendous discipline, not losing yourself in the character that you're portraying," he once wrote, per the New York Times. "The actor never gets lost in the character he's playing; the audience does." (Read more obituary stories.)