Shirley Douglas, who is best known for her work as an actress as much as she is known for her activism and advocacy, died on Sunday after complications with pneumonia. She was 86.
Douglas’s son, actor Kiefer Sutherland, took to Twitter to announce the unfortunate news. “Early this morning my mother, Shirley Douglas, passed away due to complications surrounding pneumonia (not related to COVID-19),” Sutherland wrote. “My mother was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life. Sadly she had been battling for her health for quite some time and we, as a family, knew this day was coming. To any families who have lost loved ones unexpectedly to the coronavirus, my heart breaks for you. Please stay safe.”
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Douglas was born on April 2, 1934 in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Her acting career kicked off in 1950 at the Regina Little Theatre. She graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in 1952 and worked in England before returning to Canada in 1957.
She has appeared in films from acclaimed filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (1962) and David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988). Her other features included Shadow Dancing (1988), Mesmer (1994) and The Stone Angel (2007). On the TV side, she appeared in Wind at My Back (1996) and Shadow Lake (1999) a TV film for which she won a Gemini Award. She starred alongside Sutherland in a 1997 production of The Glass Menagerie at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and at the National Arts Centre. She also performed in The Vagina Monolgues in 2000.
As an activist, she was part of the American Civil Rights Movement, which campaigned against the Vietnam War. She was an ally to immigrants, advocated for women and established the fundraising group “Friends of the Black Panthers”. She also was an advocate for publicly funded healthcare over privatized care in Canada. She was also named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.