Who is Anne Buydens?
Anne Buydens, or Anne Douglas, is a German-born actress, producer, and philanthropist who holds citizenships of both Belgium and the United States. She has been married to American actor Kirk Douglas for more than six decades. Buydens was in her early teens when she and her family immigrated to Belgium from her native country of Germany. After finishing her education in Switzerland, she started working as a public relation executive in the entertainment industry in Paris. It is in the City of Lights that she met Douglas who was there to film ‘Act of Love’, a romantic drama released in 1953. The attraction was instantaneous on Douglas’ part, who, despite the initial rejection, persevered. They married in 1954 in Las Vegas, Nevada with only his publicist and attorney as witnesses. Since then, the union has emerged as a tale of dedication and love, no less grandiose in scope than the films Douglas was the star of. It survived his chronic infidelity, her breast cancer, his stroke, and the death of their younger son, Eric, due to accidental drug overdose. In 2014, they celebrated the diamond jubilee of their marriage. As a producer, Buydens has been involved in projects such as ‘Scalawag’, ‘Posse’, and ‘Deep River’.
Childhood & Early Life
Anne Buydens was born Hannelore Marx on April 23, 1919, in Hanover, Germany to a prosperous native family. Shortly after the Nazi Party’s ascension to power, they left Germany and moved to Brussels where she married Albert Buydens, a friend, so she could gain Belgian citizenship.
She received her education in Switzerland and later relocated to Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II to work as a translator, publicist, and casting supervisor in the French movie industry.
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Career & Later Life
Anne Buydens was hired as a publicist for ‘Act of Love’ by the film’s director, Anatole Litvak, himself. When she met the film’s star Kirk Douglas, she was divorced, just as he himself was from his first wife actress Diana Dill, with whom he had two sons, Michael and Joel.
Although Kirk Douglas was already engaged to Italian actress Anna Maria Pierangeli, he asked Buydens—who was there to help him with the press and translation and whom he had found to be sophisticated, efficient, and with a wicked sense of humour—to have dinner with him at La Tour d'Argent, a high-end and historic restaurant in Paris. To his astonishment, she declined. That was when he started calling her “Stolz”, German for proud or stubborn.
Douglas later revealed that the fact that his Hollywood glamour did not impress Buydens impressed him. He became more determined in his pursuit of her. She eventually became his lover and confidant, and they enjoyed a passionate courtship in France and Italy. When Douglas left for the US, he invited Buydens for a visit.
The next few months went by quickly, and when she announced that she was going back to Paris, Douglas realized that he did not want to lose her. He took her, his publicist and his attorney to Las Vegas, and had an impromptu wedding before a justice of the peace on May 29, 1954. The couple welcomed their first son, Peter, on November 23, 1955, and their second son, Eric, on June 21, 1958.
As with any other long-term relationship, theirs too has had its share of struggles and hardships. In the early years of their marriage, Douglas had several extramarital affairs. But the relationship never deteriorated beyond salvage. They fought, as neither was afraid to speak their mind, but every time they worked through the concerning issue together.
She relished her role as a Hollywood wife and mother and became friends with some of the top stars from the golden age of American cinema, including Tony Curtis, Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. She and Douglas also maintained good relations with several US presidents and their wives, from the Kennedys to the Reagans to the Obamas.
She had saved Douglas’ lives at least two times. She prevented him from joining Elizabeth Taylor’s husband Mike Todd in his fateful flight to New York, as she had a certain strange feeling. The plane crashed and everyone on board was killed. When a stroke befell Douglas in 1996, she took him to the hospital driving like “a formula one racer”.
In 2004, at their 50th wedding anniversary, she surprised him by converting to Judaism. Douglas, in turn, gave her the lavish wedding she never had, with 300 of their friends in attendance.
For the better part of its existence, Buydens ran Douglas’ film production company, Bryna Productions. She has appeared in the TV series ‘The Jack Benny Program’ (1962) and served as an executive producer on the documentary ‘Kirk Douglas: Before I Forget’ (2009).
In 2017, she and Douglas published ‘Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood’, a collection of letters that they had exchanged over the course of their relationship.
Buydens first got involved in charity works during her recovery from breast cancer. She founded ‘Research for Women’s Cancer’, an organization that has since raised millions to fund a research facility at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Home in Woodland Hills. She and her husband have also donated to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles and Los Angeles Unified School District.
The Los Angeles Mission’s Women’s outreach was renamed Anne Douglas Center for Women to honour Buydens and her contribution as a patron for homeless women.
She is multilingual and is fluent in English, French, German, and Italian.
She became a US citizen in 1959.