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Humiliated Kirk Douglas 'left in tears' after cruel bullying from Hollywood star

Daily Express logo Daily Express 03/10/2022 Callum Crumlish
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Kick Douglas hit TV screens over the weekend BBC 2 in the exceptional 1965 movie The Heroes of Telemark. While the film had Douglas parading around movie sets as a macho resistance fighter taking down Nazis, he struggled to uphold this butch bravado in real life. Especially when it came to working with fellow Hollywood icon Burt Lancaster.

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Douglas, of course, became a cinematic legend in the 1960s with his portrayal of the gladiator movie Spartacus. He later starred in such other massive hits as Gunfight at the OK Corral and Paths of Glory.

Throughout the years, Douglas worked with Lancaster numerous times across seven movies and one play. Because of this, the two Hollywood heartthrobs knew one another very well - whether they liked it or not.

The two alpha male actors were frequently clashed on and off set. And to make matters worse - because they had spent so much time with one another - they knew exactly how to get on their last nerves.

According to Lancaster's biography - An American Life, by Kate Buford - things got extremely out of hand when he started verbally assaulting Douglas at a dinner event.

Kirk Douglas © GETTY Kirk Douglas

During the glitzy occasion, the suited-and-booted Douglas and Lancaster stood in front of a room of their fans to make a speech. But Lancaster saw his opportunity to demean Douglas and seized it.

Before long, their friendly teasing turned into an all-out row, with Lancaster getting extremely personal about Douglas' insecurities. (Via Guardian, Factinate)

Lancaster, in particular, started picking on Douglas' height. The star was around five foot seven inches tall, which left him shadowed by large Lancaster's six foot two inches.

As if that wasn't cruel enough, Lancaster began revealing some secrets about Douglas' height insecurity and pointed out something very personal about the actor.

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Kirk Douglas burt lancaster © GETTY Kirk Douglas burt lancaster Kirk Douglas burt lancaster © GETTY Kirk Douglas burt lancaster

Lancaster began telling their fans how Douglas used "lifts" in his shoes to elevate himself into looking taller than he really was.

This incessant teasing apparently hit a nerve for the American star who reportedly burst into tears in front of the onlookers. Douglas was obviously very sensitive about his height, so this was surely a wound he didn't want picked at with an audience in front of him and was left wipinh his eyes while overcome with emotion.

Lancaster's unpleasantness continued at other events, as well. When introducing his pal he would say: "Kirk would be the first to admit he is a difficult person... I would be the second."

Despite their turbulent relationship through the years, the actors became very close friends. And their kinship lasted long after Lancaster died.

Lancaster suffered a heart attack in his apartment in Los Angeles on October 20, 1994, and died aged 80-years-old. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered under a large oak tree in Westwood Memorial Park, California. Before his death, he insisted he did not want a memorial or funeral service held for him.

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Shortly after Lancaster's death, Douglas praised his co-star and friend. He said the loss was the "passing of a giant". In 2017, Douglas said: "I miss Burt Lancaster. We fought a lot, and I miss him a lot."

Not every moment between the two actors was filled with vitriol, Douglas later revealed. During the filming of Gunfight at the OK Corral they forced the director to yell "cut" because they could not stop uncontrollably laughing together.

Douglas dedicated a passage in his memoir, My Stroke of Luck, to Lancaster and this hilarious moment.

Douglas wrote: "We go out on the porch and Burt says to me: 'Thanks, Doc'. I was supposed to say: 'Forget it.' When I came to 'forget it', the ridiculousness of the scene, our great bravery, our machismo, made us howl. We did the scene over and over. It just made us laugh harder."

Douglas died just a few years after his 2017 autobiography was released. He died peacefully at his home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by his family on February 5, 2020.

His funeral was held at the same place Lancaster's ashes were scattered, at Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery. He was buried with his son, Eric, who died in 2004, aged 46, from "acute intoxication". Douglas' wife, Anne, died aged 102 and was buried with both Kirk and Eric.

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