Actor Kirk Douglas, who narrowly escaped death last month in a helicopter crash, was honored Thursday as the 19th recipient of The American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.

Douglas, who has starred in 79 feature motion pictures in 42 years, joined a pantheon of film greats during the three-hour banquet attended by more than 1,000 movie celebrities and friends at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.Joining in the celebration hosted by his son, actor-director Michael Douglas, were three previous awardees, James Stewart, Gregory Peck and Jack Lemmon.

Douglas, apparently fully recovered from injuries suffered in the helicopter-airplane collision over an airport in Santa Paula, Calif., Feb. 13, sat at a table with family members.

After accepting the award, Douglas said, "This has been a touching evening. In the helicopter crash I thought I was supposed to see my life flash before my eyes as it happens in the movies. But I was knocked out and didn't see anything. I got a second chance tonight.

"I feel I'm much too young to be getting this award . . . but I'm really very excited."