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Kirk Douglas (1916-I'm Happy To Say He's Still With Us, Folks!)


TomJH
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I just wanted to pay a tribute to one of the great Hollywood leading men while he was still alive.

Known for his intensity and the fact that he was not afraid to play less than admirable screen characters, Douglas appeared in a large number of screen classics. Among his most noteworthy: Champion (1949), the film that cemented his stardom and brought him his first Oscar nomination, Ace in the Hole (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), his second Oscar nod, Lust for Life (1956), third Oscar nomination, Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are the Brave (1962) and Seven Days in May (1964).

There was a decline in the quality of Kirk's films, I feel, by the mid-60s, though his film work continued until 2008, a 62 year film career, despite a helicopter crash and a stroke. Douglas was also an author of numerous books, including The Ragman's Son, a much praised autobiography.

Douglas excelled at played a cold blooded character of questionable morality, one of his greatest triumphs, as the ruthless reporter in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole. But he could also play a compassionate man of humane instincts in Paths of Glory, or a mythic sword wielding hero in the epic all star Spartacus. That intensity would be perfect for one of his most celebrated roles as the tormented Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life.  Douglas' own favourite role of his career is my favourite, as well, as the loner cowboy going his own way in a conforming society in Lonely Are The Brave.

Recently I saw a little known TV drama that Kirk made, Cat and Mouse (1974) (also known as Mousey) in which Douglas played the creepy role of a man stalking his former wife. Yet, even here, Douglas was able to bring some sympathy to the role in the film's unexpected final scene.

Now Kirk has been accused of overplaying it on more than a few occasions with that intensity and, no doubt, it is true. Still, the film accomplishments of his career, and his sterling contributions to so many memorable movies cannot be denied.

Kirk Douglas, along with Olivia de Havilland, is one of the few giants of the Hollywood golden age who is still with us. While that is still true, I thought I'd pay this tribute.

Any other Kirk Douglas fans here and, if so, are there any films or performances that are particular favourites of yours?

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Champion

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Paths of Glory

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Spartacus

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Cat and Mouse, a terrific performance in a little known made-for-TV film

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I'm a Kirk Douglas fan. My favorites include SpartacusPaths of GloryThe VikingsLonely are the BraveChampionYoung Man with a HornAce in the HoleDetective StorySeven Days in May20,000 Leagues Under the SeaMan Without a StarLust for LifeTough Guys, and Saturn 3.

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Douglas was a fine actor that honed his craft and one can see his development as as actor over the years.  Yes, intensity might be his trademark and while he could get close to the edge of overdoing it,  most of the time the intensity he put into the character he was playing was what one would expect from such a character.   

Of course I'm a fan of the many noir films he was in;  The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers,  Out of The Past,  I Walk Alone,  Ace in the Hole, and Detective Story  (but in an odd way I don't think of him as an iconic noir actor like Mitchum or Andrews due to the length of  his career and output of films in other styles \ genres).

Dramas like Champion, A Letter to 3 Wives (a fairly low key performance for Kirk at the time), Young Man with a Horn (my favorite film from a jazz musician's POV from the era),  and  The Bad and the Beautiful.

Then there are the adventure films and western;  The Big Sky,  Man Without a Star, Gunfight At the O.K. Corral,  Lonely are the Brave capped off by Spartacus.

The bio picture Lust Life stands out as one of his best as does Seven Days in May (the first time I felt the casting was backwards and that Kirk and Burt should have switched roles but now I believe the producer got it right).   

His comedies fall somewhat flat;  My Dear Secretary and Top Secret Affair (with just as intense Susan Hayward),   but I found Kirk to be humorous when he was on Johnny Carson.  

  

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Always have been a big fan of Kirk's, but MY favorite scene of Kirk's was in..ahem..Airport '78!

Yep, you guys remember that one, doncha?!

_________________________________________________

Kirk Douglas: "Is my wife coming in on this flight?"

Young Airline Gate Agent(who looks a lot like a young James Coburn, and as I recall is sportin' a mustache at the time): "I'm sorry sir, but first, not only do I not have the inbound passenger list available to me, but even if I did and due to FAA regulations, I'm not allowed to give this information out to people."

Kirk Douglas: "What do you MEAN you can't give this information to me? You know who I AM, don't YOU?!"

_________________________________________________

(...yep, now THAT was a great scene, alright!) LOL

;)

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11 minutes ago, Fedya said:

Gate Agent: Does anybody know this man?  He doesn't seem to know who he is.

LOL

Yeah, well Fedya, I KNOW I could have gone with that as a reply to Kirk back then, but I didn't want to get the guy even more riled up. ;)

(...I mean SURE, he's a lot smaller in person than that bigger-than-life guy you always saw on the silver screen, but HEY, even though I had 4 or 5 inches in height over him, I've known some 5'9'' guys in my life who once ya get 'em all riled up can be pretty mean little SOBs, ya know!)

LOL

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I've always admired Douglas' athleticism -- whether he's battling Woody Strode in the gladiatorial arena of "Spartacus" or jumping onto the saddle in "The War Wagon." No wonder he and Burt Lancaster got along so well. Birds of a feather...

Related image

 

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On 9/10/2018 at 8:46 PM, Dargo said:

LOL

Yeah, well Fedya, I KNOW I could have gone with that as a reply to Kirk back then, but I didn't want to get the guy even more riled up. ;)

(...I mean SURE, he's a lot smaller in person than that bigger-than-life guy you always saw on the silver screen, but HEY, I've known some 5'9'' guys in my life who once ya get 'em all riled up can be pretty mean little SOBs, ya know!)

LOL

Well, I sort of met Kirk at a book signing in 2002, and let me assure you his 5'9" days were long behind him then. But getting smaller as we age is something we can all look forward to (some of us there already, I'm sure).

By the way Kirk told the crowd there a few anecdotes, and one of them was in regard to the depression he felt after his stroke. Things got so bad, in fact, that he put a gun in his mouth one day. However, as he did so the gun banged a tooth, and the pain was so bad he quickly withdrew the gun. Kirk laughed about the fact that that sudden toothache saved his life.

The book that Kirk was promoting was My Stroke of Luck. I've told this anecdote before so my apologies to those reading it for a second time.

Everyone at the store signing paid $25 in advance for Douglas' book, then we were able to get an autograph. But the store was so crowded. There were hundreds there, much to my dismay, and it got hot, really hot waiting for Kirk to appear, as in shoulder to shoulder contact with one another.

I was in about the middle of the crowd, wondering how nuts I was to go through this. Anyway, Kirk finally arrived on a platform, accompanied by Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones. Michael said a few nice things about his Dad, and, I believe, Catherine said a few things too. Kirk gave his anecdotes then sat down as the book signing began.

Well, no one could get near Douglas. He was on a platform at a desk signing away as people would hand their books up to the big security boys on the platform who passed them on to Kirk. People further back in the room, such as where I was, had to pass their book to the person in front of them who would pass it to the one in front of him, etc. till it got to the platform, then, after getting the big KD autograph, it would be passed hand to hand back to the owner.

Well, I was still well back from the platform and watched my book get passed hand to hand up to the platform. I saw Kirk sign it then the book was passed back to one of the people by the platform. Hand over hand I saw it coming back in my direction and then - suddenly - it was gone!

I'm looking around and starting to sweat and my $25 paid for Kirk Douglas autographed book just got pocketed by someone in the crowd ahead of me! I'm surrounded by heads of people looking for their own book to come back. Then I spot another signed copy coming back in my direction and, quicker than Kirk was in those Spartacus battle scenes, I jumped in the air and snagged the book for myself.

Sorry if someone there lost out on a signed copy of the book they paid for. I was just determined that that someone wasn't going to be me!

After getting the book I squeezed myself out of the crowd and just watched the book signing from a distance. After a while I noticed that security was putting up some yellow tape along the left side of the room. Everyone else was still looking up at the platform where Kirk was and not paying much attention.

However, I had a hunch about that taped off section so moved over to the tape. Sure enough about 15 minutes later Kirk was leaving the room through that taped off section smiling and waving to the crowd. I stuck my mitt out as he passed by and got a handshake, probably one of only three or four in the room who did.

"I just shook the hand of Spartacus," I thought at the time.

That was my one and only book signing and while I'm glad I went I doubt there will be another one for me. I'm just not spry enough to snatch a book out of the air anymore.

kirk-douglas.jpg?w=400&e=042c8ba717577f4\

This is a photo of Kirk acknowledging the cheers of fans that day I saw him in Toronto's Indigo Bookstore in January, 2002

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5 hours ago, Dargo said:

Cool story there, Tom. Just one question though...

Is Catherine as hot lookin' in person as she was the first time I ever took notice of her in that first Zorro flick she did with that Banderas dude?

(...bet she was, huh) ;)

I couldn't tell you. That guy's head in front of me was so huge.

Nah, just kidding, the lady seemed to be as much of a beauty in real life as she was on the screen.

 

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On 9/10/2018 at 9:26 PM, jakeem said:

I've always admired Douglas' athleticism -- whether he's battling Woody Strode in the gladiatorial arena of "Spartacus" or jumping onto the saddle in "The War Wagon." No wonder he and Burt Lancaster got along so well. Birds of a feather...

Related image

 

 

Always remember "Spartacus" as the first widescreen movie I watched aired on TV (AMC).   Music score by Alex North is magnificent!

 

Sad no one post a recent photo, shouldn't be ashamed of aging (the American hangup).

 

Kirk with wife Anne Douglas also with us.

la-ca-kirk-anne-douglas-letters-20170429

 

Edited by hamradio
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39 minutes ago, hamradio said:

 

Always remember "Spartacus" as the first widescreen movie I watched aired on TV.  TCM proudly presented it in 1993. Music score by Alex North is magnificent!

That was impressive, particularly since TCM didn't go on the air until 1994. 

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44 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

That was impressive, particularly since TCM didn't go on the air until 1994. 

It might have been AMC, no other channel I can think of showed widescreen back then. Know it was 1993 because I was on vacation. The only format that had widescreen was Laserdisc. Edited my OP, goodness AMC use to be so much like TCM back then, couldn't tell them apart. Even had their own host version of the late Robert Osborne, Bob Dorian.

Image result for amc 1990's

 

AMC today...CRAP!! :(

 

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1 hour ago, hamradio said:

 

Always remember "Spartacus" as the first widescreen movie I watched aired on TV.  TCM proudly presented it in 1993. Music score by Alex North is magnificent!

 

 

 

44 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

That was impressive, particularly since TCM didn't go on the air until 1994. 

Whether first broadcast on TCM in '93 or '94, Spartacus remains my favourite of the late '50s early '60s blockbuster epics. Dalton Trumbo (the first blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter to get screen credit from producer Kirk Douglas, a gutsy move on his part, helping to break the blacklist) wrote a literate, intelligent screenplay which really helps to flesh out the characterizations in this film to a far greater degree than most other films of this time.

The once in a lifetime cast is another of the film's marvels, with Olivier, Ustinov and Laughton all terrific in their roles (Ustinov's Oscar winning sly/comic performance is a particular joy for me). Douglas manages to not only be in possibly the best physical shape of his career but he also gives a performance with considerable sensitivity in some scenes, making the lead character more than just another muscle action figure.

The musical score by Alex North, as pointed out by Ham, is also a blessing. And while there may be no scene in the film quite as memorable as the chariot race sequence in Wyler's Ben Hur, Spartacus's gladiatorial fight to the death with Draba (Woody Strode) is not only impressively staged but manages to make a statement at the same time about the inhumanity of contests of this nature arranged for the enjoyment of their Roman masters. In addition to that, watching the Roman legions on the battlefield making their pre-battle military maneuvers in machine-like fashion is both impressive and eerie.

I believe that Stanley Kubrick (who had replaced Anthony Mann as director) later disowned this picture because it was less his vision than that of producer Douglas. Well, let him. A great film accomplishment in my opinion for which producer star Kirk Douglas has great reason to feel proud.

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One other thing that stood out about "Spartacus" was the crucifixion scene.  Seems that the producer had some insight, knew how the hands and arms were affixed to the cross but wasn't certain about the feet so just left them dangling.  Genius. 

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The Romans did crucify them close to the ground, not 20+ feet up in the air.  They served as BILLBOARDS, stating...Don't Even THINK of Defying Rome - You Can Be NEXT!

sparta3.jpg

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  • 2 months later...
On 9/10/2018 at 7:38 PM, Fedya said:

Gate Agent: Does anybody know this man?  He doesn't seem to know who he is.

 

On 9/10/2018 at 7:46 PM, Dargo said:

LOL

Yeah, well Fedya, I KNOW I could have gone with that as a reply to Kirk back then, but I didn't want to get the guy even more riled up. ;)

(...I mean SURE, he's a lot smaller in person than that bigger-than-life guy you always saw on the silver screen, but HEY, even though I had 4 or 5 inches in height over him, I've known some 5'9'' guys in my life who once ya get 'em all riled up can be pretty mean little SOBs, ya know!)

LOL

But Dargo, was his wife really on the flight and did you get to see her when she disembarked?

How did that scallywag story end up?

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3 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

 

But Dargo, was his wife really on the flight and did you get to see her when she disembarked?

How did that scallywag story end up?

Yep, I remember glancing over to the gate which that flight arrived into and seeing his wife Anne coming off the flight, and then Kirk meeting her as she walked off the jetway and into the terminal gate area.

Considering that this happened some 40 years ago, I'm thinking this is how they might have looked back then...

512x.jpg

 

And btw, this of course being years before the events of 9-11 would change the air travel practice of now only allowing ticketed passengers past the security checkpoints and into the boarding gate area, and so now days arriving passengers can not be met at the gate areas by their loved ones.

(...and as I've said many times since, the ONLY "good thing" to have come out the horrific events of 9-11, as after that fateful day "my" boarding areas were a lot less hectic and filled with families waiting for grandma/sis/dad to come off the flight and/or see them off, and when and where it was inevitable that whole damn families would SEE grandma/sis/dad coming down the jetway and then rush into it to greet grandma/sis/dad inside it and/or stand right at the doorway to meet grandma/sis/dad and thus slowing and delaying the deplaning process for everybody else...as you can tell, that REALLY used to bug the hell out of me...can't tell you how many times I'd have to say to people, "Please greet grandma/sis/dad a little further inside the terminal and so all the other people wanting to get off this plane can do so...thank you")

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On 9/12/2018 at 10:39 AM, TomJH said:

Dalton Trumbo (the first blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter to get screen credit from producer Kirk Douglas, a gutsy move on his part, helping to break the blacklist)

Michael Douglas also claims this in the TCM promo that runs about his dad, and I'm not claiming to be any authority on what is true, but I also read recently in a Stanley Kubrick biography that initially Douglas was not going to give Trumbo credit and only did so after he'd already gotten an on-screen credit for Exodus.

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