ReMIND, ReWIND – Kirk and Ann

Their 65-year marriage was much more than just a Hollywood love story.

By Jeff Pfeiffer, ReMIND Magazine

Anne Buydens and Kirk Douglas (photo from Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Image)

Over his seven-decade film career, Kirk Douglas shared the big screen with a multitude of lovely leading ladies. But in his personal life offscreen, only one woman truly shared top billing with the actor.

He didn’t find her early, though. In 1943, at the age of 26, Douglas married his first wife, actress Diana Dill. Before divorcing in 1951, the couple had two sons: Michael, who has gone on to become an actor and producer almost as famous as his father, and Joel, a film producer.

But it wasn’t until 1953, when he was in his late 30s, that Douglas met the true costar in his life – Anne Buydens, with whom he would embark upon a nearly 70-year marriage that lasted until his death. Their powerful romance also inspired them to write the 2017 book Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood.

Their coming together was like a Hollywood movie. Buydens was a producer and film publicist working in Paris when she was introduced to Douglas on the set of his film Act of Love (1953). She declined his offer to take her to dinner, which stunned the megastar, who admitted he had an inflated opinion of himself, especially when it came to women.

“She was the most difficult woman I ever met,” Douglas said. “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 eventually became Douglas’s publicist, and their relationship remained platonic until, he says, “I stopped talking about myself and began to listen to her.”

She was won over by his willingness to change, and the couple married on May 29, 1954, in Las Vegas. A year later, in 1955, their son Peter was born, followed in 1958 by son Eric.

Throughout their years, Douglas and Buydens enjoyed a fairy-tale marriage filled with exotic travels, hobnobbing with presidents and enjoying all the glamor a famous lifestyle offers. Hollywood couples, however, are not any more immune to problems and tragedy than other people, and over the years, they stood strongly by each other as they faced a variety of illnesses and heartbreak: the death of Eric from an accidental drug overdose in 2004; Buydens’s battle with breast cancer; Douglas’s struggle with depression following his stroke in 1996. Through all of that and more, the couple and their love endured.

A love and marriage like that, which ultimately spanned nearly seven decades, is a rarity for anyone, let alone a Hollywood couple. It requires not only the good fortune of living long (Buydens herself is 101 years old), but also the sort of genuine affection, passion and respect that have always been evidenced by the couple, whether in their public appearances or in the private correspondence that they have laid bare to the reading public.

As great an actor Douglas was, not even he could fake the intense feelings he clearly always had for Buydens, the “difficult” woman whose love in return likely helped him to not only be a better artist, but also a better man.

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