The world didn’t just lose one of its biggest movie stars when Kirk Douglas died last week.
It also lost a prolific letter writer.
Handwritten correspondence played a significant role throughout the life of the 103-year-old star of such classics as “Spartacus” and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”
Douglas and his wife Anne Buydens, an actress and producer, exchanged letters throughout their 63-year marriage. Buydens reportedly preserved the notes, carefully folding away the ones he mailed her, and rescuing those she wrote to him from the bottom of his suitcases when he returned home from a film shoot.
The couple published a 2017 book, “Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood,” that reveals details about their marriage and anecdotes about their friends, including Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, John and Jackie Kennedy and another couple known for their love letters, Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
Writing letters and answering fan mail also played a role in Douglas’s therapy after he suffered a stroke during the 1990s — and later prompted him to embark on an effort to promote the value of handwritten correspondence.
In a 2015 HuffPost essay, Douglas called on readers to help him revive letter writing.
“Write a letter today to someone you love that can be kept, savored and passed along to family members when the time is right,” he wrote.
“Send a handwritten invitation by mail instead of an evite. Receive a gift and handwrite a thank-you note. Express your feelings to a member of government on an issue you care about and put it in a mailbox. Remember, when you sign a letter in your own hand, you are attesting that you and you alone are responsible for its content. I don’t think that’s possible with an email.”