Kirk Douglas: a love story

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Kirk Douglas is done with writing.

The rakish screen legend with the famously dimpled chin made that abundantly clear on a recent afternoon at his Beverly Hills home, a few days before the release of his poetry collection Life Could Be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters.

“To me, this is my best book, and my last book,” said Douglas, seated next to Anne Douglas, his wife of over 60 years.

It was a pronouncement that came up more than a few times. The Spartacus star, who just turned 98, has 87 films to his name, 11 books, and is one of the last living members of old Hollywood. By now, the world probably thinks it knows Kirk Douglas.

But in some ways, Life Could Be Verse is his most personal work, featuring poems from throughout his life along with essays and private family photos that help paint a picture of Douglas as a man, a father and a husband.

In an industry not known for domestic stability, Kirk and Anne Douglas may be one of the great Hollywood romances. Seated closely on a cozy couch in a home that is elegant, modest and lived-in, the couple recalled their first meeting in Paris. He was working on the film Act of Love. She was the publicist.

“I thought she was so beautiful, and I lowered my voice and said, ‘Would you like to have dinner?’ ” he said. “I waited for an answer and she said, ‘No, I think I will go home and make some eggs and go to bed.’ ”

Anne Douglas (then Buydens) had her own thoughts about transient movie stars. A lot of her friends were going out with actors at the time. “I said to myself, I’m not going to do that. I will work and I will do my work for the movie that I was hired for, but no intimate connection with the movie stars,” she said.

Then she attended a charity event where actors played the parts of circus performers. Kirk Douglas, sporting a tuxedo, decided his talent would be cleaning up after the elephants.

“I held on until he picked up the elephant doo,” she said, laughing heartily. “That did it for me.”

Douglas, not missing a beat, chimed in: “Obviously she was looking for a garbage collector.”