Kirk Douglas, the legendary actor who died Wednesday at 103, was influential in Hollywood since his first role in 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. At the 1996 Oscars, he received an Academy Honorary Award “for his 50 years as a creative and moral force in the film community,” and the moment still stands as a touching tribute to the icon.
Director Steven Spielberg introduced Douglas, then 79, and presented him with the gold statuette, commending his “grace and courage” in performing and helping to “hammer the Black List to pieces.”
“Most stars of his stature are shaped out of mythic clay,” Spielberg said. “Kirk Douglas never chose that. He doesn’t have a single character that makes him unique. Instead, he has a singular honesty, a drive to be inimitable.”
Accepting the award, Douglas said, “I see my four sons. They are proud of the old man. And I am proud, too. Proud to be a part of Hollywood for 50 years. But this is for my wife, Anne. I love you, and tonight I love all of you, and I thank all of you for 50 wonderful years. Thank you. Thank you.”
During Douglas’ 100th birthday party in 2016, Spielberg got up and spoke of the actor once again. “I’ve worked with the best of them,” he said, “but you’re the only movie star I’ve ever met.”
Watch Douglas’ acceptance speech above.