The Untold Truth Of Kirk Douglas' Wife

Hollywood media considered him to be one of the brightest stars of cinema's golden age. Kirk Douglas, star of the classic Spartacus, was a true legend with over 90 acting credits, a starring role in nearly 75 movies (via People), and author of 11 books (via USA Today). Douglas passed away at the age of 103 on February 5, 2020, and is survived by his wife of 65 years, Anne Buydens, and sons Michael, Joel, and Peter. 

Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens' story is the stuff of Hollywood fairy tales — publicist meets movie star, movie star is smitten, but publicist decides he's not worth her time until he does something that makes her realize he is more than just a pretty face. For nearly the time they were married, Anne stayed largely in the background, until the book Kirk and Anne was published in 2017. It was only then that we learned more about the woman who held Kirk Douglas' heart.

Anne Buydens and Kirk Douglas had very different upbringings

Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens couldn't be more different. He was born Issur Danielovitch Demsky, the son of a Russian-Jewish immigrant who lived in New York, who picked rags for a living. Anne Buydens was born in Germany and was educated in Switzerland; her father was a successful businessman and life was good before they had to flee the Nazis to settle in Paris.

Buydens' European upbringing appears to be a huge factor in their marriage's longevity. In Kirk and Anne, she writes: "As a European, I understood it was unrealistic to expect total fidelity in a marriage." She says Douglas told her about the infidelities on his own, "because I wanted to hear it from him directly, not via an idle piece of gossip."

Kirk Douglas called his wife 'the most difficult woman I ever met'

In an article published by the Los Angeles Times, Douglas describes meeting the woman who became his second wife. "She came in to help me with press and translation during the filming of Act of Love. I offered her a job, and she said, 'No, I can recommend someone else, but I will be going to New York soon,'" he remembered. "Okay, I thought, I'll take this young beauty to dinner at the most romantic (and expensive) restaurant in Paris, La Tour d'Argent. She's sure to approve of my taste and my ability to get a last-minute reservation. Once again, she turned me down. 'No, I think I'll stay in and have some scrambled eggs,' she said."

When he recalled the story of their first meeting in an interview with USA Today, Douglas said, "She was the most difficult woman I ever met. 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 —'" And he admitted saying to himself, "You b****!" at the time, but her refusal turned out to be the catalyst for romance, because the couple married in May of the following year.

Kirk Douglas' first wife approved of Anne Buydens

Anne Buydens entered Kirk Douglas' life a few years after his divorce from fellow actress Diana Love Dill, who later became known as Diana Douglas Webster. In a 2011 interview (via The Hollywood Reporter), Webster, who passed away in 2015, said Buydens had actually made things easier for her. "... I think we [Kirk and I] both decided too, when the time of divorce came, that we had to maintain a certain amount of civility because of the children. 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."

Anne Buydens turned Kirk Douglas' finances around

After Anne Buydens started seeing Kirk Douglas, she discovered that the actor was a financial mess — and that Douglas didn't know it himself. It took a conversation with Douglas' business manager for her to realize things were amiss. Buydens says she was shocked by the discovery that not only were they poor, but they were living off a daily studio allowance. "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," she said during the 2017 interview with USA Today. It was Buydens' business sense and eye for art that helped the couple acquire a valuable art collection, some pieces of which were sold in 1990 to fund the Douglas Foundation.

Kirk Douglas loved Anne Buydens until the end

When Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2014, Douglas wrote and published a moving tribute to his wife, who he credited with running their production company and for her philanthropic work, which resulted in the building of playgrounds for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the establishment of the Anne Douglas Center at the Los Angeles Mission, Harry's Haven for Alzheimer patients, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre. He said, "I don't know why Anne stuck with me through those early decades. If anyone I worked with is still alive, they will attest that I wasn't Mr. Popularity. I had a lot of anger matched by a lot of arrogance. Some people put up with me, I think, simply because I had such a wonderful wife. Everyone loved her, including my first wife and my two eldest sons, Michael and Joel."

And when a friend had asked him how his marriage had lasted so long, Douglas said, "'That's easy,' I replied. 'I just told my wife, if you ever leave me, I'm going with you.'"