Inside Kirk and Anne Douglas' Nearly 70-Year Marriage: 'We Solve Our Disagreements with a Kiss'
Kirk and Anne Douglas’ nearly 70-year love story was built on a foundation of love and understanding.
Their secret to almost seven decades of wedded bliss? “We solve our disagreements with a kiss,” Douglas told PEOPLE in 2015.
The legendary Hollywood star died Feb. 5 surrounded by his loved ones. His son Michael, 75, shared an emotional statement with PEOPLE announcing the news and celebrating Kirk’s legacy as “a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to,” Michael said. “But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband.”
Douglas first met Anne Buydens, who was a producer at the time, on the Paris set of 1953’s Act of Love when both were involved with other people — he was secretly engaged to actress Pier Angeli and she had married a Belgian friend for safety reasons during World War II.
In their 2017 book, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood, Douglas wrote that he was immediately drawn to the German-born Buydens.
“This self-possessed beauty was very different from the women I had been involved with in Hollywood since Diana [his ex-wife] left me,” he wrote.
So, he asked her out for a date. “She turned me down!” he recalled, laughing. “But I was determined to win her over.”
Although it took time for Douglas to break off his engagement to Angeli, he and Anne went on to marry in Las Vegas in 1954 after she threatened to leave him. Douglas admitted in Kirk and Anne that he realized he would be “lost without her.”
The couple had two sons together, Eric and Peter, who joined Douglas’ two sons from his previous marriage — Joel and Michael. Anne also befriended Douglas’ ex-wife Diana and the two often had lunch together. The actor said Anne referred to Diana as ‘our first wife.’ ”
There was a playfulness to their love. Speaking to PEOPLE in 2015 about his collection of poetry, Life Could Be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters, Douglas said his wife often referred to him as one of his most iconic characters.
“[My wife] used to have on our answering machine, ‘Spartacus and I are not home at the moment, please leave a message,'” he shared, adding that the best poem in his book was written for Anne, called “Romance Begins at 80.”
Anne admitted that her husband loved planning special surprises for her and recalled a birthday when Douglas jumped out of a borrowed fake birthday cake — from the set of Some Like it Hot. “My husband likes to surprise me,” she said.
Like any couple, they had their share of ups and downs, but weathered any storm together. In their book Kirk and Anne, Mrs. Douglas revealed that she intentionally turned a blind eye to her husband’s infidelity, and that he was honest about it.
“Kirk never tried to hide his dalliances from me,” she wrote. “As a European, I understood it was unrealistic to expect total fidelity in a marriage.”
Anne also cheekily hinted that because Douglas “secured my permission before including stories of his trysts in his 1988 autobiography, The Ragman’s Son. I’m positive his candor helped him make the book a major bestseller,” she wrote.
The couple was never shy about expressing their love for one another. When Douglas accepted his honorary Oscar in 1996, he dedicated it to Anne.
“I see my four sons. They are proud of the old man. And I am proud, too,” he said. “Proud to be a part of Hollywood for 50 years. But this is for my wife, Anne. I love you.”