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Jewish Journal

Douglases: Good as Gold

by Tom Tugend

May 27, 2004 | 8:00 pm

Heralded by the blowing of shofars, Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne, stood under the chuppah Sunday afternoon and reaffirmed the marriage vows they first recited 50 years ago.

The first time around the couple eloped to Las Vegas, when Kirk managed a day off from shooting "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," with one witness present.

This time there were three generations of Douglases on hand, an A-list of 300 guests, and an actual rabbi, David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, said Kirk's longtime publicist, Warren Cowan.

During the celebration at the historic Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, the 87-year-old groom serenaded the 74-year-old bride with his own composition, "Please Stay in Love with Me."

The impressive guest list of veteran civic and Hollywood celebrities included former first lady Nancy Reagan, Lauren Bacall, Theodore Bikel, Tony Curtis, Anjelica Houston, Vidal Sassoon, Barbara Sinatra and Jack Valenti.

The religious ceremony chosen by Kirk and his German-born, Belgian-raised wife was one more marker on the movie star's long road back to his Jewish roots, which included a second bar mitzvah observance at age 83.

Notorious, even in Hollywood, for his ego and womanizing during a career of 85 movies, the legendary tough guy returned to his faith after a helicopter crash left him in constant pain and a stroke left him speechless.

Born Issur Danielovitch, the son of an illiterate Russian immigrant, Douglas reevaluated his life after the 1991 helicopter accident, which killed two young companions.

"I came to believe that I was spared because I had not yet come to terms with my Judaism, that I had never come to grips with what it means to be Jewish," he told this reporter some years ago.

Douglas embarked on an extensive course of Torah study with Orthodox and Conservative rabbis, has endowed children's playgrounds in Los Angeles and Jerusalem and, after his stroke, taught himself to speak again.

He has also written a best-selling autobiography, "The Ragman's Son," the introspective "Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning" and a Holocaust-themed story for children, "The Broken Mirror."

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