Kirk Douglas’ Son Had Problems with Law & Addiction and His Father Still Dedicated a Poem to Him

Joe Akins
Jan 04, 2022
11:35 A.M.
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Kirk Douglas was one of the most famous stars of the 20th century, featuring in some of the greatest movies of the era. Unfortunately, he was struck by personal tragedy following the death of his son.

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Kirk Douglas's imposing face and skills were showcased in classic films such as "Spartacus" and "The Bad and the Beautiful." Douglas is also the father of popular movie star Michael Douglas.

His reign in Hollywood spanned several decades, with the '60s proving to be the biggest years of his career. While his career was exceptional, Kirk's personal life sometimes gave him reasons to be concerned.

Eric Douglas at the Drama Department 2nd Annual Company Picnic at the Greenwich House in New York City[left] A picture of actor Kirk Douglas [right] | Photo: Getty Images

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MEET KIRK

Kirk was born in Amsterdam, New York, in 1916 to Russian-Jewish Immigrants. He grew up to be recognized for his remarkable voice, intimidating physique, and cleft chin.

His upbringing did not mirror the life of fame and luxury he later lived. Kirk grew up poor and had to work odd jobs to pay for his college fees and foot his bills as he was studying to become an actor at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Portrait of actor Kirk Douglas, circa 1990 | Photo: Getty Images

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Kirk made his film debut after a brief career on Broadway and serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He appeared in the 1946 movie "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers," starring actress Barbara Stanwyck.

More successful roles came his way in the years that followed. He soon got his first Academy Award nomination for his role as Midge Kelly in the hit 1949 movie "Champion." 

Kirk Douglas attends Former President Jimmy Carter surprise 70th. birthday party at The Carter Presidential Center in October 1994 | Photo: Getty Images

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More Academy Awards and nominations showed Kirk's worth as a prolific actor. He starred alongside other leading actors and wowed both his fans and critics with his abilities. Kirk also worked with several leading directors of the '50s, including Billy Wilder, for the 1951 classic "Ace in the Hole."

However, his collaboration with popular Director Vincente Minnelli produced two of his greatest performances: "The Bad and the Beautiful" and "Lust for Life." The films earned him two Academy Awards nominations.

Portrait of Kirk Douglas in 1963 | Photo: Getty Images

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Kirk became a significant box-office draw in addition to his critical praise. He frequently starred alongside fellow Hollywood heavyweight Burt Lancaster in films such as "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," "The Devil's Disciple," and "Seven Days in May."

Kirk also starred in Stanley Kubrick's World War I movie "Paths of Glory." He also portrayed a Roman slave who leads a revolt in the classic 1957 movie "Spartacus," which became one of his well-known movies.

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Kirk garnered numerous awards over his illustrious career, including the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award in 1991. In 1994, he was named a Kennedy Center honoree, in 1996, he got an honorary Academy Award, and in 2001, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

The late actor was married twice during his lifetime and shared two kids with his first wife, Diana Dill — Joel, and Michael. His next marriage was to Anne Buydens in 1954. The couple had Peter and Eric, but the latter was always Kirk's concern.

Kirk Dougles and his wife Anne Douglas smile after their wedding in Las Vegas on May 30, 1954 | Photo: Getty Images

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ERIC AND HIS STRUGGLES

Like his siblings, Eric had a good start in life. Being the son of a famous actor meant he got the best of everything and attended the best institutions and training money could buy.

He was awarded a bachelor's degree from Claremont College and once attended UCLA. Eric later trained for an acting profession at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

Eric Douglas at the Drama Department 2nd Annual Company Picnic at the Greenwich House in New York City | Photo: Getty Images

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Eric followed in his father's steps to pursue a career in entertainment and sometimes took up comedy. However, his life off the screen was filled with drama and drug abuse that made it difficult to enjoy his father's success.

Eric starred in several television episodes and films, including "Delta Force 3." However, he was best recognized for his high-profile legal battles. Eric had several brushes with the law, which ached his famous father.

Elizabeth Stack and Eric Douglas during "Time Bandits" New York City Premiere at Loews Twin Theatre in New York City, New York | Photo: Getty Images

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The comic star was arrested in the mid-1990s after a scuffle with airline crew members on a flight from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J. He reportedly let his dog out of its carrier and threw blankets at flight attendants.

Eric later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge. His charges were filed after he signed for a package of crack and antidepressants from an undercover police officer dressed as a delivery man.  

Eric was part of various rehabilitation programs. He once confessed that being the youngest son of a famous family proved too much of a mental burden for him as he often had to compare himself to his siblings.

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Photo of Eric Douglas and Diandra Douglas, circa 1980 | Photo: Getty Images

At the height of his woes in 1999, Eric was once in an 8-day coma following an episode of drug abuse. He was also was thrown out of a North Carolina motel after the managers discovered him intoxicated in a trash-filled room.

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He claimed to be a stand-up comedian and a member of a weight-loss program when police apprehended him. Close friends of the actor said he tried to get sober several times, but he never could.

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HIS UNTIMELY DEATH

Eric's problems got the best of him in 2004. He was discovered dead in a New York apartment on a Tuesday. A cleaner discovered Eric's lifeless body upon arriving at the Manhattan apartment for work. He was 46 when he passed.

According to authorities, he was discovered on the floor in the one-bedroom apartment on East 29th Street. Police authorities disclosed there were no signs of foul play in his death as it appeared to be an obvious case of overdose.

Following his death, a family spokesman issued a statement. The words expressed the family's sadness over Eric's passing and amazement at what had occurred.

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Although Eric publicly humiliated his family, including mocking his brother, Michael's role in a movie, he was sorely missed. Eric's death left a big void in his father's heart, and the movie icon could not get over it.

The legendary actor wrote a poem in honor of his deceased son. Kirk had once confessed that his youngest son inherited his worst qualities, but seeing him go in his 40s was the biggest heartbreak the "Spartacus" hero suffered. 

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