The Dominion Post
Film publicist spurned Kirk Douglas before becoming his wife of 65 years
When Anne Buydens, who has died aged 102, met Kirk Douglas on the set of the film Act of Love in Paris in 1953, there was an instant attraction between them that she was determined to resist.
Douglas was divorced from his first wife, actress Diana Dill, and in a relationship with Italian actress Pier Angeli. Anne, who was a publicist on the picture, was married.
‘‘We talked for hours, and I had a strange feeling in my heart that I could fall in love with this man,’’ she later wrote. ‘‘I didn’t want to, because I had seen too many young women enter into intense affairs with visiting movie stars –
Cary Grant among them. Then the film wrapped and the men returned to their wives and families.’’
Douglas offered her a job as his assistant, which she also turned down. Nevertheless, he persisted. ‘‘She finally agreed to work with me on a trial basis, making it clear our relationship would be strictly business,’’ he wrote in Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood, the book that they coauthored more than 60 years later.
It did not work out that way. They moved on from Paris to Italy to shoot Ulysses, for which Anne was again the publicist, and spent time together on location in the Bahamas and Jamaica while Douglas was shooting the 1954 Walt Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Anne was by now divorced and, in a rare break between shoots, she and Douglas took off for Las Vegas, where they were married in May 1954. ‘‘Sinatra held up his show so that he could come but Anne got the vows wrong. She said, ‘I take thee, Kirk, as my awful wedded husband’,’’ Douglas said 50 years later when the couple renewed their vows.
Her caution over Douglas’ advances was understandable. ‘‘Kirk had already quite a reputation . . . and he was photographed with a succession of stunning women,’’ she said.
Those with whom he had affairs included Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich and Ava Gardner. ‘‘I was surrounded by beauty, so I was like a kid in a candy store, not knowing which one to reach for,’’ he admitted. He once claimed to have slept with 29 women in as many days and when he couldn’t manage a repeat performance on the 30th night, feared that he had become impotent. He claimed that when he consulted a therapist he was told that even God had allowed himself a day of rest.
Douglas’ first wife described him as a ‘‘sexually voracious bird of prey’’ who took part in orgies. The actor’s relationship with his second wife was also complex, but it endured for more than 65 years until Douglas’ death at 103 last year. He had been true to her ‘‘in his fashion’’, but felt that ‘‘fidelity was overemphasised’’. film publicist/producer b April 23, 1919 d April 29, 2021
Despite his straying, she remained devoted to him. ‘‘Dad would never have had the career that he did without Anne’s support and partnership,’’ said her stepson, Michael, from Kirk’s first marriage.
Kirk Douglas, whose pet name for his wife was ‘‘Stolz’’, German for stubborn, also recognised what he owed her. ‘‘I often wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t married Anne. I might not have survived without her business acumen and her finely honed instincts,’’ he said.
On one occasion those instincts saved his life. In 1958, Michael Todd, third of Elizabeth Taylor’s seven husbands, invited Douglas to fly with him on his private aircraft from Palm Springs to New York, principally to make up a card school during the flight. However, Anne demurred. ‘‘I had a strange feeling,’’ she wrote in 2017. ‘‘Absolutely not, Kirk. I don’t want you on that plane. You can fly commercial and meet him there.’’
The next day they were driving from Palm Springs to Los Angeles when they heard on the radio that the aircraft had crashed in New Mexico, killing Todd and the three others on board. Douglas pulled over to the side of the road and tearfully embraced his wife.
Anne is survived by their son Peter. A second son, Eric, died of an accidental drug overdose in 2004. Her first marriage to Albert Buydens was childless.
She was born Hannelore Marx in Hanover, Germany. The family fled to Belgium to escape from fascism when she was in her teens. She moved after the war with her Belgian husband to Paris, where her fluency in several languages earned her a job subtitling English language films, and to further jobs in the film industry.
She later became president of Douglas’ film production company, and they travelled the world together as goodwill ambassadors on behalf of the US State Department. A noted philanthropist, she founded the Anne Douglas Center for homeless women and the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, after her own recovery from breast cancer.
‘‘When I met her, she wanted to become a US citizen,’’ Douglas said. ‘‘As soon as she became a citizen, she became anxious to pay back.’’
After the couple sold their impressionist art collection in the early 1990s, she was able to do just that, founding with her husband the Douglas Foundation, which has donated some US$118 million to charitable causes. –