For some people, long-term relationships can be incredibly rewarding – as well as happy enough to last for practically a lifetime. And Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens appear to be a case in point, as they wed all the way back in 1954 – meaning the couple have now been together for well over six decades.
Prior to marrying Buydens, however, Douglas was known for his womanizing. At one point in time, his dressing room was apparently even referred to as “the lion’s den,” such was his reputation. Despite all that, though, the superstar went on to form a lasting bond with the woman who would become his second wife.
At this point, Buydens was plying her trade as a movie publicist, operating out of Paris, France. And after spurning Douglas’ advances at first, she ultimately warmed to the actor – with the result being, of course, an enviably long union. However, as the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary approached in May 2019, Buydens chose to reveal some of the ups and downs in their marriage.
Buydens herself had entered the world in April 1919 and had spent the early years of her life in Hanover, Germany. When the future publicist was just a teenager, though, her family packed their bags for Belgium. And even though another relocation – this time to Switzerland – was ultimately in the offing, the young Buydens still kept up her studies.
But Buydens’ journey across Europe didn’t end there. In time she relocated to the French capital of Paris, where her multilingual skills earned her a job as a movie subtitler. Then Buydens changed tack in the early 1950s by setting up shop as a publicist – a move that eventually led to her meeting Douglas.
By contrast, Douglas – then known as Issur Danielovitch – had grown up in Amsterdam, New York, with his parents Herschel and Bryna. His folks had previously moved to the U.S. from their original home of Chavusy – a town located in the old Russian Empire. Yet this relocation didn’t immediately pay financial dividends; in fact, the couple really struggled for funds during their son’s early years.
As a result, the young Douglas had to earn the money for his higher education through a number of different jobs. Thanks to a loan, though, he found a place at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he began to learn his craft as an actor. Then, upon the advent of America’s entry into WWII, Douglas took up service of a very different kind by joining the U.S. Navy in 1941.
Prior to enlisting, the man then known as Danielovitch had made another decision: to adopt a different name. Thus the future star became Kirk Douglas, and it would be under this moniker that he would carry out his three-year stint in the military. During this period, Douglas celebrated his first marriage as well, as he tied the knot with Diana Dill in 1943.
Then, following Douglas’ return from the Second World War, he continued to pursue a career in acting, honing his talents through radio work. There was also a spell on Broadway, with his time in Kiss and Tell in particular leading him on to further opportunities.
And for Douglas, 1946 proved to be a pivotal year, as it was then that he made his big-screen debut. Specifically, the fledgling actor appeared in the romantic drama The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, in which he features alongside stars such as Van Heflin and Barbara Stanwyck. But of course, this role was by no means his last.
Douglas appeared in three movies during 1947, in fact, before showing up in a couple of other pictures the following year. In 1949, however, the war veteran’s career hit new heights thanks to his breakout performance in Champion. Taking on the character of Midge Kelly, he subsequently bagged his first Oscar nomination.
Off the back of this honor, Douglas’ star continued to rise in Hollywood. But while the actor’s career was heading in the right direction, he faced some difficulties a little closer to home. In 1951, you see, he split from his wife, thus ending their eight-year marriage.
Yet Douglas’ turbulent personal life didn’t put paid to his career, as even more film roles came his way in the 1950s. During this period, for instance, he traveled to Paris to shoot Act of Love. And while in the French city, the actor also wanted to hire a multilingual publicist – something that ultimately led to his meeting with Buydens.
That said, Douglas and Buydens didn’t exactly hit it off upon their first encounter. “[Buydens] was terrible!” Douglas told USA Today in 2017. “She was the most difficult woman I ever met. I mean, I was a big movie star! And I invited her to dinner, and she said, ‘Oh, thank you very much, but I’m so tired.’”
Buydens had her own version of events, however. She told USA Today, “[Douglas] took a look at me, and then he said, ‘Would you like to have dinner tonight with my friends at some chic restaurant?’ And I said, ‘No, thank you. I think I’ll go home and make myself some scrambled eggs.’”
“Well, that was not what [Douglas] expected,” Buydens added. Her husband also revealed what his immediate reaction to the rejection had been. “And to myself, I said, ‘You b****!’” Douglas admitted. But despite such a fraught introduction, the Hollywood superstar nevertheless recruited Buydens for the publicist role.
And after that, Douglas and Buydens became friends, with the actor touching on the early days of their relationship in the couple’s 2017 joint memoir. “With no romance in the picture, I stopped trying to impress Anne,” he wrote in Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood. “Instead, I stopped talking about myself and began to listen to her.”
During this period, Buydens and Douglas also exchanged a number of handwritten letters as their friendship eventually evolved into romance. Some of these messages are included in the book as well, giving readers a fascinating glimpse into the couple’s relationship – and one of Douglas’ notes is particularly heartwarming.
Following an argument, Douglas wrote an apologetic missive to his then-girlfriend. “Darling, I have a feeling you’re not coming back tonight,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong! It’s been a bad day for me and probably a worse one for you. But I hope that you are here to read this and that I find you when I get back.”
“Suddenly, it seems stupid that I am going to dinner without you,” Douglas added. “Because, believe it or not, I love you!” And, of course, Buydens did come back after the lovers’ tiff, as the couple ultimately wed in May 1954. Yet life was not always easy after that for the publicist, as she revealed in a letter that came two years into their marriage.
While working at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, Buydens longed to see Douglas and their young child Peter. “I am so sad and depressed,” she wrote. “I don’t think I ever wanted to be near you as much as right now. The toilet paper is too hard, [and] the coffee is too strong.”
“The telephones are impossible,” Buydens added. “Don’t I sound like a true American? But even being a European broad, what on Earth am I doing here?” Yet although these messages don’t always portray their senders in the most flattering lights, Douglas nevertheless had a reason for including some of his and Buydens’ letters in their book.
According to Douglas, you see, this form of communication barely exists in today’s society. “I happened to read the letters that my wife wrote to me 60 years ago,” the Hollywood legend told USA Today. “And I said, ‘My God, they don’t write letters anymore.’ I said, ‘Hey, this is very interesting.’”
“My wife kept all the letters from 56 years ago,” Douglas added. “I said, ‘Wait a minute.’ I thought, ‘Hey, this is my book.’ [And] there it is.” And Buydens seemed to agree, too, that handwritten messages had somewhat fallen out of style.
“Nobody writes a letter anymore,” the former publicist told USA Today. “[A letter] is so personal – something that touches you or disappoints you. But today you get an email. It does nothing to you. It’s cold. It’s the new world. I like the old world better.”
And in the interview, Buydens also chose to reveal some interesting information about her long marriage to Douglas. During the initial stages of their relationship, you see, the actor’s financial situation had piqued her curiosity – only for Douglas to reveal that he was actually rather hard up for cash.
“So I’m going out with a man that’s poor?!” Buydens said. “That is when my business education from my father rose to the surface, and I got somebody very knowledgeable about how to invest the salary that [Douglas] gets when he makes a movie. It became a success. Today, he is very, very philanthropic.”
Buydens touched upon a more sensitive subject, though, in Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood. Specifically, she lifted the lid on Douglas’ previous affairs – as well as her husband’s attitude to sharing news of his infidelity.
“Kirk never tried to hide his dalliances from me,” Buydens wrote in the memoir. “As a European, I understood it was unrealistic to expect total fidelity in a marriage. [He told me about the affairs] himself because I wanted to hear it from him directly – not via an idle piece of gossip.”
But although Buydens and Douglas’ relationship didn’t always run smoothly, the actor’s career continued to go from strength to strength. Douglas’ performance as Vincent van Gogh in 1956 biopic Lust for Life even ended up earning him his third Oscar nomination.
Two years later, Douglas appeared in Richard Fleischer’s epic The Vikings, joining a star-studded cast that features among its number Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Ernest Borgnine. And although Douglas received praise for his portrayal of Einar, it hasn’t proved to be his most famous role.
No, said title arguably goes to Douglas’ turn as the eponymous Thracian slave in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus. The famous director assembled an impressive cast for the movie, too, with stars such as Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov and Jean Simmons signing on to appear in the historical epic along with Douglas. And the 1960 film went on to earn $60 million worldwide – making it a bona fide box-office hit.
From there, Douglas continued to feature in a number of movie releases throughout the decade, although he also took a detour into television in 1966. Yes, the actor played himself in an episode of The Lucy Show, with the role marking his first small-screen appearance in over ten years. His work didn’t end there, though.
Over the next few years, in fact, Douglas was a near ever-present on the big screen, although the 1980s seemingly saw him decide to slow down his output. However, in 1991, tragedy struck the actor when he was involved in a serious accident. On that occasion, the helicopter in which Douglas was riding hit a plane in Santa Paula, California. And sadly, two individuals passed away as a result of the crash.
But even despite this near-death experience, Douglas returned to work, later appearing in the 1992 TV movie The Secret. Some two years on from that, he featured as one of the leading roles in the comedy Greedy. Taking on the character of Uncle Joe, he starred alongside Nancy Travis and Michael J. Fox.
And Douglas scored another memorable role in 1996, with the star lending his voice to the character of Chester J. Lampwick in a classic episode of The Simpsons. He made his return to the big screen, too, in 1999’s Diamonds, which also features Lauren Bacall and Dan Aykroyd. The dark comedy proved to be one of the actor’s last movies, however.
Indeed, Douglas has only appeared in two more films since the tail-end of the ’90s, although his penultimate picture was notable for a very special reason. You see, It Runs in the Family saw the Hollywood legend share the screen with not only his son Michael, but also his grandson Cameron and his ex-wife, Dill. As for Douglas’ final on-screen performance to date, that came in the 2008 TV movie Empire State Building Murders.
Yet even after Douglas’ remarkable acting career came to a close, in December 2016 he celebrated one more incredible milestone: turning 100 years of age. Buydens would join her husband in that very exclusive club, too, by becoming a centenarian herself in April 2019.
Plus, at the end of May 2019, Douglas and Buydens celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. And while the pair continue to spend plenty of time together, Buydens has revealed that she and her husband do manage to carve out some moments for themselves, too. “I gave him the iPad for his 100th birthday,” she told USA Today.
“Every night, we always have what we call [our] ‘golden hour’ and then dinner,” Buydens added. “And during this golden time, we each have our drink and used to talk about what happened during the day. Nowadays he takes his iPad that I gave him, I take my iPad, and we both look at CNN or something like that. And we don’t talk!”