Screen legend Kirk Douglas - star of such classics as Spartacus and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - turned 103 on December 9, an occasion marked by Instagram posts by his son, actor/director Michael Douglas, and his daughter-in-law, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Michael Douglas, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the Netflix series The Kominsky Method that day, wrote alongside a picture of himself with his father: "12.9.2019 what a great day! Thank you to the HFPA for the @GoldenGlobes nomination, and for making my Dad proud on his 103rd birthday! #TheKominskyMethod"
Next to a second picture, Michael wrote: "Happy birthday Dad! You are a living legend and your entire family sends you all the love in their hearts! #KirkDouglas #103"
Zeta-Jones posted a photo that shows her celebrated father-in-law sitting on her knee. "This guy on my knee, is 103!!!!!Happy Birthday Pappy!!! I love you with all my heart," she wrote.
Born Issur Danielovitch (also known as Izzy Demsky) to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Douglas became a star during Hollywood's golden age, appearing in nearly 100 movies. He was nominated for three Oscars: for his roles as a boxer in Champion, as a producer in The Bad and the Beautiful and as Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life. He received an honorary Oscar in 1996, to celebrate his "50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community."
Always open about and proud of his Jewish heritage, he played Colonel David "Mickey" Marcus in Cast a Giant Shadow. Marcus was a US army veteran who came to fight for Israel in the War of Independence and was killed in Abu Ghosh in 1948. In his memoir, Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning, Douglas wrote about how he rediscovered Jewish spirituality late in life, following a visit to Jerusalem that moved him. When he returned home he began studying Torah with a rabbi. Although he worried that the Bible would be "gibberish... I found riveting stories filled with adventure, fratricide, murder, incest, adultery. Now I understood why it was the best-seller of all time."
Following a stroke in 1996, he lost the ability to speak but managed to regain it through rigorous therapy. He occasionally contributes blog posts to the Huffington Post, most recently two years ago when Nancy Reagan died.
Michael Douglas appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show last month and said that his father had requested not to have a big party. "He's begging me, he's got tears down his eyes. 'Let's just have dinner, the family together. Bring the kids.'"