Anne Buydens is the wife of Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas, who died on February 5, 2020. Buydens, a movie producer, and Douglas had been married since 1954 and have two sons together.
Douglas was one of the last living people of the film industry’s Golden Age in Hollywood and he is the father of famous actor Michael Douglas. In his career, Kirk Douglas was a box-office hit, who was often seen in war, action and western movies. The two met on the Paris set of Act of Love and Douglas called her “the most difficult woman” he ever met, as he recalled to USA Today.
Read on for the details on Douglas’ marriage to Buydens, their relationship ups and downs, their family and the couple’s long life together:
1. Kirk Douglas Was First Married to Actress Diana Douglas Webster
From 1943 until 1951, Kirk Douglas was married to actress Diana Love Dill, who later became Diana Douglas Webster. Together, the couple had two sons – actor Michael Douglas and film producer Joel Douglas. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Diana Douglas said in 2011, that Kirk’s second wife, Anne Buydens, actually helped their co-parenting relationship. She explained that, “I know Michael has said since being an adult that he was always very grateful that we never did badmouth each other. Sometimes we probably wanted to. And also, I think that after [Kirk] got married to Anne, [she] made it very much easier, because she and I cooperated very much in terms of bedtimes and what they could watch on television and that kind of thing.” Kirk Douglas also said that Diana was a fan of his second wife, telling the LA Times, “Everyone loved her, including my first wife and my two eldest sons, Michael and Joel.”
In 2015, Diana Douglas died at the age of 92 years old. The cause of death was reported to be cancer, though the type of cancer was not reported. Previously, she survived breast cancer. Son Michael Douglas announced the news via Facebook, according to People.
After divorcing Kirk Douglas, Diana married Broadway producer and writer Bill Darrid, who died in 1992. Her third and final husband was a man named Donald Webster, who was a former US Treasury chief of staff under President Nixon. The couple remained married until her death.
2. Anne Buydens’ Son Eric Douglas Died of an Overdose
With husband Kirk, Buydens had two children – sons Eric and Peter. Like his parents, Peter also worked in the entertainment industry as a television and film producer. Some of Peter’s more well-known works include the movies Fletch, Inherit the Wind, A Tiger’s Tale, and The Enemy Within. As for Eric Douglas, he was an actor and stand-up comedian. Throughout his life, Eric often had legal issues, stemming from drugs and alcohol. After suffering from an accidental overdose of anxiety pills in 1999, Eric got a speech impediment. The overdose had put him into an eight-day coma, according to The Guardian.
When it came to Eric’s relationship with his dad, The Guardian reported Kirk saying his son inherited all of his worst qualities. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Eric said that, “We’re both perfectionists, energetic, passionate, intense, we make things happen. It makes us difficult to be around … I would just like my parents to see me happy and healthy and productive – before it’s too late.”
In 2004, Eric died of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 46, according to E! News. He was found on the living-room floor of a Manhattan apartment and Douglas family spokesman Allen Burry said at the time that, “The family is very shocked and saddened by this event.” According to The Guardian, Eric once explained his mindset in life, which may have led to his death. Eric reportedly said, “I start the day in a happy mood, feeling positive about life, but I see a hole in front of me. I know I should avoid it, but I know I will fall into it. And I do.”
3. Douglas’ Wife Saved Him From a Deadly Plane Crash
In 1958, Douglas and Buydens lived next door to the legendary Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, producer Mike Todd, in Palm Springs, California. In an interview with People, Douglas recalled, “Mike asked me to go on his private plane with him, and we were going to stop and see Harry Truman and then go on to New York. I was very excited … When I told my wife [about the plane ride], she said, ‘I don’t want you to go.’ We had a big argument. Douglas said that Buydens had a “bad feeling” about the trip and she won the argument, telling USA Today that she didn’t trust private plans at the time. The couple later learned that Todd’s plane crashed, killing everyone on board.
The Civil Aeronautics Board reported that the cause of the accident was that “the twin-engine plane was overloaded and suffered an engine failure while flying in icy conditions at too high of an altitude.” Apparently, Elizabeth Taylor was also supposed to be on the plane that day, but she was suffering from a fever, as reported by The Milwaukee Sentinel. So, if it wasn’t for Buydens’ “bad feeling”, Douglas would have died in that plane crash. But, this wasn’t Douglas’ only brush with death in the sky. In 1991, he nearly died when a helicopter and plane collided in the air, as reported by the LA Times. Two men were killed and Douglas was one of the three who were left injured. In the crash, Douglas suffered cuts to his head and a possible rib fracture.
When talking to the LA Times, Douglas said that his wife, Buydens, has saved his life several times throughout their marriage. In 2014, he told the LA Times that, “When I had my stroke 17 years ago, she drove me to the hospital like a Formula One racer. And when I wallowed in self-pity because of my impaired speech, she made me get up and work with a speech therapist. To this day, I write her love poems; to this day, she continues to give me tough love.”
4. Kirk Douglas Admitted to Cheating on His Wife
Over the years, Kirk Douglas has admitted to having affairs while married to wife Buydens. In the book “Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood”, Buydens admitted that, “As a European, I understood it was unrealistic to expect total fidelity in a marriage.” USA Today reported that Kirk would reveal his transgressions to his wife himself.
Cheating wasn’t the only obstacle the couple faced together. According to USA Today, when Buydens first started dating Douglas, she discovered that he was “flat broke”. She remembered thinking, “So I’m going out with a man that’s poor?! … 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 he gets when he makes a movie. It became a success. Today he is very, very philanthropic.”
According to People, when Douglas first met Buydens, he was actually engaged to actress Pier Angeli. Remembering the early days of their relationship, Buydens recalled, “When things got a little too warm between us, [Kirk would] say, ‘Don’t forget, I’m engaged.’ I said, ‘I won’t forget.’” It took a bit for Douglas to break off his engagement to Angeli, as reported by People.
5. Buydens Converted to Judaism as a Surprise to Her Husband
In 2004, Kirk Douglas and wife Anne Buydens celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with a grand affair at the Greystone Manor in Beverly Hills, California. Before the ceremony, as a gift to her longtime husband, Buydens surprised him by converting to Judaism. The ceremony was then officiated by the couple’s friend, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, as reported by the LA Times.
Ten years later, Douglas told the LA Times that, “This year, I was superstitious about planning a celebration too far in advance of our May 29 diamond anniversary. After all, I am only three years shy of my personal centennial, and my Spartacus days are well behind me. But my son Michael and his wife, Catherine, were determined to help us celebrate our 60th anniversary in style. They surprised us with a magical night with family and friends. Once again, we were at Greystone Manor, now transformed into an alfresco Cocoanut Grove-style nightclub. Anne looked as glamorous as she had the day she walked into my life in Paris, and I was proud to be by her side.”
Douglas and Buydens’ first wedding was not a big event. Douglas dished on his original nuptials to Buydens to the LA Times that, “I left the studio on a Saturday afternoon and picked up Anne, my lawyer and my publicist, and we flew to Las Vegas. Anne and I joined our lives before a hastily summoned justice of the peace. I was eager to get the vows over with so I could take everyone to my pal Frank Sinatra’s show at the Desert Inn.” According to USA Today, the longtime couple met on the Paris set of Act of Love.