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The Secret Behind the Late Kirk Douglas’s 65-Year-Long Marriage

“Anne never tried to change me, but she never hesitated to speak her mind.”

Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne Buydens, were just shy of their 66th wedding anniversary before the actor’s passing last week. The couple tied the knot on May 29, 1954, and were undeniably one of the longest running romances in entertainment history.

But like any marriage, they had their fair share of bumps along the way. In fact, Anne rejected her husband’s advances at first. Kirk was already a major Hollywood star when they met in 1953 when he asked to take her out to dinner. “I thought, I’ll take this young beauty to dinner at the most romantic (and expensive) restaurant,” he said in an article he penned about their marriage for the Los Angeles Times. “She’s sure to approve of my taste and ability to get a last-minute reservation.” 

The actor was used to impressing people with his influence, but Anne wasn’t so easily convinced. Rather than being swept off her feet, she responded, “No, I think I’ll stay in and have some scrambled eggs.” Not only did she turn him down, she also said no to a job offer doing public relations for the film he was working on at the time. 

Of course, this only made Kirk all the more determined to woo her. “The fact that I didn’t impress her certainly impressed me,” he admitted. Luckily, he was eventually able to convince her to do PR for the film (aptly named Act of Love) at least. They quickly became friends on set, and that friendship turned into the loving relationship that’s stood the test of time.

The secret to their enduring romance seemed to be a mix of intuition, understanding, and tough love. “Anne never tried to change me, but she never hesitated to speak her mind,” Kirk said. He even credited her for saving his life. He was scheduled to travel with Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor’s film producer husband, on a flight that ultimately ended in tragedy, but Anne had a bad feeling about the journey and convinced Kirk to skip the trip. “We stopped speaking over that one until we heard the news the next morning. Elizabeth Taylor became a widow, but not my Anne.” 

Anne, who will be 101 in April this year, summed up their lives together eloquently: “After 60 years of marriage, you go through a lot of obstacles — and all of them are beautiful.” Kirk put it more simply, “I just told my wife, ‘If you ever leave me, I’m going with you!’”

You can read more about the couple’s affection for each other in their memoir, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood ($14.13, Amazon).

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