Kirk and Anne Douglas’s romance blossomed into one of Hollywood’s longest-lasting love stories: a 65-year marriage that ended only with Kirk’s death at the age of 103 last week. Anne, 100, survives him.
So what was their secret? Patience, certainly on Anne’s behalf. as she endured his casual infidelities and, at times, emotional cruelty. But most significant was their deep-rooted emotional connection, fuelled via the ardent love letters, many undated, sent during their frequent separations.
Their story began when 36-year-old Kirk — newly divorced from his first wife, Diana, the mother of his sons Michael and Joel, and enamoured with Italian actress Pier Angeli — travelled to France. He needed a bilingual assistant and, in Paris in January 1953, he was introduced to 33-year-old Anne Buydens, the German-born assistant to film director John Huston. She was legally still married to Albert Buydens, a Belgian, who she had been obliged to wed after he helped her to escape the Nazis during the war
Here, in their own words from their joint autobiography, Kirk and Anne explain how their love conquered so many obstacles . . .
Anne Douglas, 100, and Kirk, 103, (pictured) who were married for 65 years, revealed how love conquered many obstacles in a joint autobiography
ANNE: Kirk had already quite a reputation. The Press had dubbed him Le Brute Cheri, the darling brute, and he was photographed with a succession of stunning women.
KIRK: I was fascinated by Anne, who sat with her slim ankles crossed under her a la mode blue suit. Within minutes, I offered her the job. She took seconds to turn me down. I was not used to rebuffs.
But she finally agreed to work with me, making it clear our relationship would be strictly business.
With no romance in the picture, I stopped trying to impress Anne. Instead, I began to listen to her.
ANNE: We had been working at Kirk’s apartment when he asked me about my life. I had a strange feeling I could fall in love with this man.
We went out for the evening — and then back to his place for a nightcap, which turned into something more.
KIRK: This self-possessed beauty was different from the women I had been involved with in Hollywood. Anne was sophisticated, unlike my virginal Pier Angeli, who took her mother on all our dates.
ANNE: I started spending more time with Kirk, staying with him some nights. He kept his independence, and I wasn’t always meek about it.
This is the note he wrote to me after I walked away angry one afternoon. I found it the next morning and was glad he understood he’d hurt me.
In one letter, Anne revealed that she remained in France after Kirk returned to the States in early 1954, pictured: the couple in 1954
I have a feeling you’re not coming back tonight. I hope I’m wrong!
It’s been a bad day for me and probably a worse one for you. Because my bad day means all of my problems added to yours. Forgive me.
But I hope you are here to read this and I find you when I get back. Suddenly it seems stupid I am going to dinner without you. Because, believe it or not, I love you!
KIRK: I warned Anne not to expect a commitment. I was secretly engaged to Pier Angeli, I told her.
I cannot believe how insensitive I was. I even asked Anne to come to Bulgari and help me choose an engagement ring for Pier.
ANNE: With the Bulgari ring in his pocket, Kirk flew to London to propose to Pier on her 21st birthday. She said yes.
KIRK: I flew back to the States to spend Christmas 1953 with Michael and Joel. I was back in Paris for New Year’s Eve, taking Pier out, just the two of us — no Mama!
Over dinner, knowing there were no obstacles to a night of passion, I fell out of love with her. I broke off our engagement. I couldn’t wait to tell Anne.
ANNE: I was nursing my broken heart with friends in the South of France when Kirk called. I took the train back to Paris — back to my love and the possibility of more heartbreak. When Kirk returned to the States in early 1954, I remained in France. We started writing to each other. He had a pet name for me — Stolz, German for stubborn. Here is a letter I wrote to him while working at Cannes Film Festival later that year.
Anne detailed in another letter to Kirk that she felt unhappy when they were apart and she had no sex life after he left
Every moment we spent together is still so very much alive.
I am awfully lonely without you. Sweetheart, write to me, call me, come over. I want to be close to you. I want to be loved and loved — and loved again!
Please, I need it. A
KIRK: I phoned Anne, invited her to LA, and later got this letter.
You cannot imagine at what point of unhappiness I was. Then you called me to come for a visit! Darling, how happy I am. I can’t wait any more. I have no sex life since you left.
I am verrrry hungry. Anne
My darling Anne
I want to see you. I have such strong feelings for you, but I curb myself. I am so afraid of doing or saying the wrong things.
The most important thing is that you come out here and lie beside me. I hope you like my little house and my very comfortable bed. There is a half of it that has never been used.
Get over here when you can.
Much, much love, K
Kirk once wrote to Anne that saying ‘I miss you seems so inadequate’, pictured: the pair together in 1970
My love — me, too, I am afraid of doing the wrong thing but I don’t care. I want to be happy even only for a short while, and you can give me this happiness.
I have changed. I have suffered from our separation — I miss you so very much. I think I became a virgin for the second time. I can’t think of someone else but you touching me.
Now more than ever do I need the love you might hold in your heart for me. To say I miss you seems so inadequate.
I have been dating very little . . .
Come to me, Darling. My heart is empty and I need you near.
Vous, Mon Impossible Amour
This is a title of a song — but also you.
Darling, I need you so desperately! I look so much forward to talk to you, to see you, to be with you, to love you!!! The idea of waiting for you in the evening when you come home from work — I like!!!
Kirk revealed in a note that he gained sudden clarity when he saw Anne packing to leave him, pictured: Kirk and Anne in 1967
KIRK: April, 1954, we had a beautiful reunion in Los Angeles. It was going to be a romantic idyll — nothing permanent, at least not in my mind.
ANNE: I believed when Kirk saw how I fitted into his life in America, he would propose. A month later, I was still waiting.
I wrote to him on May 24, exactly a month since my arrival.
In order to put yourself at ease, I write you this note which will avoid any further conversation concerning our relationship.
The moment I take off from here, I will take you out of my life. I know this won’t be easy for me, but I will find the strength somewhere.
This shows how you can be sometimes wrong in mathematics. One and one does not always make two. It can also make nothing. Let me thank you for the wonderful time you gave me here and for everything else.
KIRK: A few days later I walked into Anne’s room and saw her packing. That’s when it hit me. If she got on that plane, she would never give me another chance. Suddenly blessed with clarity, I asked Anne to marry me. She said yes — and we immediately flew to Las Vegas.
Anne gave birth to to their son, Peter, in November 1955, pictured: The couple attending the BAFTAs in 1985
Darling Isidor! [His real name]
Mon cheri, are we really married? I can’t realise it. How did I do this?
Do you think God felt that I really deserved you and that He wanted to give me the greatest gift you can give a woman — the man she loves with all her heart?
Because, my Darling, I really, sincerely have the most wonderful feelings for you and I want so much to make you happy! I have so many more words to tell you this again and again that I hope it will take our lifetime before you get tired of it!
KIRK: Anne gave birth to our son, Peter, in November 1955. In 1957, I travelled to Munich to film Paths Of Glory.
How is it that when I am away from you, such love for you overwhelms me that at 2.30 in the morning I awake to write to you.
Suddenly I look at your picture and my need for you and Peter is overpowering.
How incomplete I seem without my family. How can any man live alone? To live just for yourself is to be dead. And yet I welcome this parting from you to rekindle my awareness of how much you mean to me.
ANNE: In June 1958, I gave birth to our second son, Eric. Just over six weeks later, Kirk was filming in England and urged me to come as soon as the doctor gave his OK.
Kirk wrote in 2007 that he admires Anne and is astounded by how much he needs her, pictured: Kirk and Anne at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles in 2013
How I will manage to leave Peter and Eric I don’t know yet, but I know I will.
I finished my check-up. I can play tennis again, take massages, do exercises and f***! The latter will have to wait.
My darling wife
Why am I writing? You will be here soon. But I know that when you get here, we will still not have time to say all the things we want to say to each other.
In fact, if we live to be 100, there will still be so many unsaid things, which is just as well, perhaps, because then, if there is a life after death, we will have many things to talk about later.
As I write, I realise I have been the happiest in my life with you.
When did I fall in love with you? I don’t know. I remember when I came back to America and you stayed in Europe. How I missed you then and how I miss you now! I want to change that. I want to be more aware of my love for you when you are with me, than to realise how deep my love for you is when we are apart.
How silly I am! You will be here tomorrow.
But I want you to know when I am near you, not thousands of miles away, that I love you, my darling wife, with all my heart!
KIRK (writing in 2017): Today, my unabated admiration and need for this remarkable woman still astounds me. I wrote: ‘If we live to be 100, there will still be so many unsaid things.’ As I have reached that milestone, I can attest that it’s still true.
Extracted by Maureen Brookbanks from Kirk And Anne: Letters Of Love, Laughter And A Lifetime In Hollywood by Kirk and Anne Douglas, published by Running Press, £16.99. © Kirk and Anne Douglas 2017. To order a copy for £13.60 go to mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155. P&P free. Offer valid until March 15, 2020.