If you ask us, Kirk Douglas is one of the most remarkable of the Hollywood legends.
For example, he was a big Movie Star when he agreed to work with a young and relatively unknown director named Stanley Kubrick in Paths of Glory (1957). Or how about the time Douglas helped give blacklisted scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo proper screen credit for Spartacus (1960). Among other things, Douglas is also a philanthropist and author of 11 (!) books.
Today, we’re going to gush about Kirk Douglas, the actor. If you’re not familiar with him and are wondering why the fuss, you should see one of his films. He’s a handsome and charismatic screen presence, one who makes a good film even better.
We’ve been a Kirk Douglas fan ever since we first saw him in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). We watched this film on TV during our angst-ridden teenage years and, while we were impressed by the turtleneck-clad James Mason, we were enthralled with larger-than-life Douglas. His character has a Big Personality that gets him into Big Trouble.
Here’s a quick scene from the film:
Now, you’re likely wondering how one might become a such a legend, to do things like frolic in the ocean and get higher billing than James Mason.
Well, wonder no more. Here is the Recipe for Making a Kirk Douglas.
1 Dazzling Smile
2½ Doses of Ambition
10 Bushels of Talent
- Choose versatile roles and mix well. If you look at two of Douglas’ earliest roles in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and Out of the Past (1947), you’ll see two very different characters. In Ivers, Douglas is a frustrated, troubled man who silences his conscience with hard liquor. In Past, he’s a charming underworld boss who slaps you on the back even as he plans to kill you.
- Fold in socially-conscious movies. In the early 1950s, Douglas played anti-heroes in films that are almost more relevant today than they were when first released. For example, in Ace in the Hole (1951), Douglas plays a manipulative journalist whose decisions lead to tragedy. In The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), he’s a narcissistic Hollywood studio executive who mercilessly uses and casts people aside.
- Add other heroes to your films, even if you get less screen time. Look at Douglas’ role in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), where he plays the self-destructive Doc Holliday to Burt Lancaster’s righteous Wyatt Earp. Douglas doesn’t overtake Lancaster in this film, even though he could have. Instead, he develops an on-screen partnership with his co-star, a technique he repeats in the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May. In the latter film, Douglas portrays a conflicted army officer who nearly steals the movie when he confronts a traitorous Lancaster .
- Knead in television and character roles. In the 1970s, Douglas began making more television appearances, including Arthur Hailey’s The Moneychangers (1976) and, more recently, Empire State Building Murders (2008). Yet he continued making an impact on the big screen in films such as the Australian hit The Man from Snowy River (1982) and the intergenerational It Runs in the Family (2003).
- Sprinkle with awards. In addition to his Academy Award/Golden Globe nominations, Douglas has received many accolades, including an Honorary Academy Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild and – get this – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
We hope that, on December 9, you’ll raise a glass in honour of a true Hollywood legend: the fabulous Kirk Douglas.
- Read The Hollywood Reporter‘s look at Kirk Douglas HERE.
- Kirk Douglas appeared on The Simpsons Season 7 Episode 18 “The Day the Violence Died“.
This post is a very early contribution to the Kirk Douglas 100th Birthday Blogathon, hosted by Shadows and Satin. Click HERE to see all the fab entries!