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Welcome to the Posts section of the official Kirk Douglas website. Its purpose is to let Kirk share his thoughts and activities with you, and to enable you to share your thoughts with him.

Below you’ll find links to the most recent posts, regardless of category.

If you click on the “Reflections” button to the left, you’ll be taken to a page where Kirk, a best-selling writer as well as a movie star, has posted his most recent thoughts and musings.

If you click the “Activities” button, you’ll be taken to a page where you can learn about current and past goings-on in which Kirk is involved.

By clicking “Fan Mail,” you’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts with Kirk.

Kirk's most recent book Life Could Be Verse was published December 2, 2014. This link will enable you to get a copy, and have part of the proceeds go to the work of The Douglas Foundation.

A Letter and a Challenge

--Huffington Post, April 2, 2015

I am closing in on 100. When I reflect on the many satisfactory experiences of my long life, I must include my correspondence with some of the world's most fascinating people. There is a special sensory enjoyment involved in writing a letter, stamping the envelope and sending it on its way. Whether you are getting something off your chest (some letters are indeed written in anger) or writing a love letter (my own favorite), it remains the most personal way to communicate, especially when written by hand.

After my stroke, I had fans who wanted me to tell them about my road to recovery. Answering their letters became part of my therapy, and signing them in my own handwriting part of my pleasure. 

In a world where "everything old is new again," I am amazed to hear that young people are now buying vinyl records. Does this bode well for the return of letter-writing? I hope so.

Despite the convenience of the new technologies, this ancient form of communication remains impactful and should be used more often.

Imagine a child writing to Santa Claus in a letter parents can treasure; a Dear John or Dear Jane letter the recipient can stain with tears and reread when the heart has mended; a New Testament without the Epistles.

While no one doubts the ego-satisfying thrill of the 140-character tweet sent to a multitude of followers or the convenience of emails complete with acronyms that substitute for words and cute little emoticons substituting for feelings, I urge readers to rediscover the pleasure of communicating by what is known today by the derogatory term "snail mail." 

My wife Anne has kept a trove of letters and poems I've written to her over our 60 year marriage. She can even quote from some of them. She can also see in them the man I was and the man I became. Anne has also meticulously archived decades of letters between me and people like my friends Henry Kissinger, Francis Albert Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot and others, as well as colleagues such as Lord Laurence Olivier and Dalton Trumbo. They all attest to a state of mind; they all reflect what was happening in their lives or mine; they all offer insight into the private thoughts and dreams of that moment in time.

I have written 11 books, and I was sure the one published on my 98th birthday would be my last. However, I have been reading through a lot of that saved correspondence and have decided on another book, much more ambitious than a man my age usually contemplates. I have already begun work on my book of "Letters."

Now, here's my challenge to all of you reading this open letter:

Write a letter today to someone you love that can be kept, savored, and passed along to family members when the time is right. Send a handwritten invitation by mail instead of an evite. Receive a gift and handwrite a thank-you note. Express your feelings to a member of government on an issue you care about and put it in a mailbox. Remember, when you sign a letter in your own hand, you are attesting that you and you alone are responsible for its content. I don't think that's possible with an email.

Let me hear from you, preferably not as a comment, but as a real letter between you and me. At first, rediscovering this form of communication may seem strange -- but I promise you, it gets easier the more you use it -- and ultimately more rewarding. 

I hope you will join my crusade to bring the art of letter-writing back into vogue.

Sincerely,
Kirk Douglas

Kirk and Anne Douglas Donate $2.3 Million to Children's Hospital Los Angeles for Surgical Robot

--Hollywood Reporter, March 26, 2015

 

Dr. Paul Kokorowski, Director of Robotic Surgery in the Division of Urology at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Kirk Douglas and wife Anne discuss the benefits of the da Vinci robot.

 

 

Dr. Paul Kokorowski, Director of Robotic Surgery in the Division of Urology at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Kirk Douglas and wife Anne discuss the benefits of the da Vinci robot.

 

Kirk and Anne Douglas — longtime supporters of Children's Hospital Los Angeles — have committed $2.3 million in new funding to be used for the purchase of a da Vinci robot for the hospital's division of pediatric urology in the department of surgery. 

Portions of the substantial financial gift will also support the training of physicians in the use of the surgical robot, which will be used on children as young as 4 months old to help correct urologic problems. CHLA's Robotic Program was launched in 2009, making it the first of its kind on the West Coast. To date, more than 400 successful surgeries have been performed, according to the hospital.

In an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kirk said the "bottom line is that it's a great help for children." "With this new machine, we will be one of the only hospitals on the West Coast to help children in this way," he said, referring to the surgeries aided by the da Vinci robot, which enables surgeons to operate with enhanced vision, precision, dexterity and control. "Before, there were areas that needed to be reached during an operation that they couldn't get to."

 

"This single piece of equipment will create more hope and better treatment outcomes for thousands of children suffering from a variety of issues that can be improved surgically," said Richard Cordova, FACHE, president and CEO of CHLA. Added Roger E. De Filippo, M.D. and chief of the division of urology: "It allows for smaller incisions, precise levels of accuracy and magnified high-resolution 3D images of the surgical field. It is an incredible gift."

And one that continues the couple's decades-long tradition of philanthropic endeavors. The duo started The Douglas Foundation in 1964 and over the years their charitable activities have included the rebuilding of more than 400 playgrounds at Los Angeles elementary schools, the Anne Douglas Center for homeless women at the Los Angeles Mission, and the Harry's Haven Alzheimer's unit at the Motion Picture & Television Fund's retirement home, among many others. 

In July 2012, Kirk, 98, and Anne, 84, announced a $50 million pledge to further support the causes they are most passionate about, giving made possible by the high-profile auctions of their extensive art collection. More recently, Kirk backed the Kirk Douglas Fellowship at the AFI Conservatory, new in 2015.

 

The couple sat down with THR at their modest Beverly Hills home on March 25 to discuss the CHLA donation and why they're so passionate about the health and welfare of children. They also shared some laughs about why Kirk no longer enjoys slides, which he lovingly blames on his wife of more than 60 years — proof that they both are still going strong. 

 

How does it feel to know that this machine will help thousands of children?
Anne: I think it will help infants of 3 and 4 months, even. This is all, for me, outer space. I don’t understand how it works. But if it’s that important and they need it so badly and they have wanted it for awhile, so be it.


Kirk: This is the first time we are gifting a complicated machine. We don’t know how robotic surgery works, but we know that they need it for children. This is the first time we’ve given a machine that we don’t know what it does, but the doctors are pleased with it. We’re giving something that is very useful, and that feels good. 

 

Why did you decide to gift this particular piece of equipment?

Anne: Because we have done a lot for the children of Los Angeles - it's been one of our interests, among others. For eacmple, I read in the Los Angeles Times 15 years ago or more how the playgrounds for children at elementary schools were in poor codition with accidents all the time, and so therefore, they closed the playgrounds and kept the children inside or on the steps. It bothered me. At the time, Mayor Riordan [was in office] and I called him and he said to come over. The next morning at 8 a.m., I brought a girlfriend of mine and by 8:40 a.m. we had $2.5 million from people we called. We started to refurbish nearly all the elementary schools in the L.A. school district.

 

Kirk: One thing that annoyed me is that when we attended the inauguration of every playground, my creative wife said it would be very nice if Kirk Douglas would go down the sllide. I tell you, I did that for about 9 years, and I said, "Honey, please finish this project because I can't go down any more slides." Fortunately, she finished and I don't go down a slide any ore. (Anne laughs.) 

 

Have you identified any other items on the hospital's wish list for upcoming gifts, or other causes you want to support?
Anne: If the funds are not running out of the foundation, we will do what we can to support various important necessary things that we are interested in and that are needed. That might be the Children’s Hospital, it might be something else. But we will continue to donate where we think it is needed as long as the money doesn’t run out.


Kirk: I started my interest in helping other people because I worked my way through college. Years ago, the first thing that I established was a scholarship for black students because when I was in college, I saw no black students. For years, I have supported a scholarship. We try, in a small way, to help other causes, and Anne helps take women off the street. We have a nice building and nice programs. Anne is fantastic with people who have nothing. 

 

Looking back on these 50-plus years of the foundation, is there a cause or gift you’re most proud of?
Kirk: I’m proud of everything that we do to help. I'm proud of what Anne does with the women. I’m proud of the children who are playing on rubberized surfaces and modern equipment. I'm proud of the letters from the students who tell me that they marvel at the scholarships. I don’t know how to pick out one. I’m so proud of everything.

 

 

 

 

A Life in Film: Kirk Douglas on four of his greatest roles

--Entertainment Weekley February 24, 2015

Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory

Kirk Douglas—the beloved screen legend who turned 98 in December—never tires for great conversation, especially when the subject is moviemaking and how to survive it. (One tip: Drag your hotshot director to therapy.) We invited the actor, still blessed with the playful masculinity and moral fiber of the Old Hollywood icon that he is, to reminisce about four of his greatest roles.

SPARTACUS (1960)

Douglas’ most indelible role—as a Roman slave leading an epic rebellion—is also the one that best allowed him to flex his muscle within Hollywood. “Spartacus represents all people who work for freedom,” he says, noting that as a producer he’d hired blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to pen the film under a pseudonym. “Then I decided—the hell with it! I’m going to put his name on it. That’s the thing I’m most proud of. It caused me a lot of trouble, but it was worth it.” Douglas admits there was a limit to the freedom even he could exhibit on set, though. “There wasn’t much to my outfit,” he laughs, referring to his wardrobe-malfunction-prone tunic. “I had to be careful. But I’m always careful.”

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952)
Douglas earned one of his three Best Actor nominations (he got an honorary Oscar in 1996) for this acid-bath melodrama about Hollywood. “Usually it’s difficult to make a movie about making movies, and to make it believable,” he says. But the characters here, especially Douglas’ supermacho studio boss, are so venal that when one dies, extras are hired to attend his funeral. “I think the film is a very realistic story about Hollywood,” he jokes.

PATHS OF GLORY (1957)
In this extraordinary antiwar movie, Douglas stars as a colonel in the First World War who refuses to command his soldiers into a bloodbath. It’s as fresh, relevant, and technically dazzling—check out those tracking shots in the trenches—today as it was six decades ago. Douglas credits the film’s then-28-year-old director, whom he handpicked, for that: “The picture made Stanley Kubrick. He was such a talent, but very difficult and troubled. Sometimes he confided in me, so I had an idea: Why don’t we go see a psychiatrist together? And we went. The psychiatrist was very impressed with Kubrick’s mind and ended up pitching a film idea to him.” More than 40 years later, that idea became Eyes Wide Shut, the director’s final project.

 ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)
“It’s a very good film, but the critics gave it unkind reviews,” he says of Billy Wilder’s ink-black exposé of the media, which cast the actor as a journalist. “But I think it was because it was about an unscrupulous newspaperman and that hit too close to home.” In preparation, Douglas hung out in a New York City police station. “It was a rainy, cold day and someone was lying down in the courtyard. I asked, ‘What’s that?’ They told me, ‘Oh, that’s a dead guy. We’re trying to figure out who he is.’ I don’t know if they ever found out. Maybe he’s still there.”

 

 

 

Kirk Douglas Shares Secrets Behind His 60-Year Marriage

--Closer Weekly February 4, 2015

Kirk Douglas and Wife

In an exclusive interview with 'Closer,' Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, 98, shares the secrets behind his 60-year marriage to his beloved wife, Anne.

“I never thought of our marriage as unique,” Kirk tells 'Closer.' “I fell in love with a girl, and after 60 years, I still love her.”

So it’s no surprise that Kirk still knows how to turn up the charm. His new book of love poetry, 'Life Could Be Verse,' was written for Anne, he says. “There’s a poem in there I like that starts, ‘Romance begins at 80,’” Anne, 84, tells 'Closer' of her husband’s 11th tome. She winks. “It took him a long time.”

Anne’s playful wit is one of the first things that attracted Kirk, and it continues to keep him guessing. “She’s unpredictable,” he confides to 'Closer.' “I don’t know what she’s going to say or do. I love the intrigue.”

Kirk tells 'Closer,' “Marriage is not just about love, but friendship.”

Over the years, however, they faced serious challenges to their union. Kirk had affairs, but Anne forgave him. “After 60 years of marriage, you go through a lot of obstacles — and all of them were beautiful!” she says knowingly.

 

Kirk and Anne’s relationship is a rare example of an enduring Hollywood marriage, which has inspired son Michael Douglas. “We have a very close, loving and supportive relationship,” Michael exclusively tells 'Closer,' adding that his dad and stepmom “have been a great lesson in how to conduct and live your third act.”

 

For their 60th anniversary, Michael feted the couple by transforming Greystone Manor into an old-timey Cocoanut Grove–style nightclub. “It was easy to see my son is rich,” Kirk tells 'Closer.' “It was so lush. Michael is guilty of liking to do the unexpected.”

"That was the most emotional and loving evening -- so fantastic," Anne gushes. "the 60 years we spent together were all represented; they had photos adn mementos from way back. Michael is very romantic, and he organizaed it with all the affection and love he has for both of us."

 

How Spartacus and Kirk Douglas Defied the Hollywood Blackllist

--Sydney Morning Herald February 1, 2015

Kirk Douglas both starred in <i>Spartacus</i> and owned the company that produced it.

Remember that scene in Spartacus when Kirk Douglas tries to befriend a fellow gladiator, played by the great Woody Strode? "You don't want to know my name. I don't want to know your name," says Draba (Strode).

 

Spartacus is all about names. The most famous line is a claim to a name: "I am Spartacus", uttered by hundreds of slaves who refuse to give up their leader after the Roman general Crassus (Laurence Olivier) has defeated their rebellion.

 

It was obvious, even in 1958, that Spartacus was more about Washington than Rome. It's a denunciation of slavery and despots, a defence of rebellion, a critique of corruption within a powerful republic. But who wrote it and under what name? And who deserves credit for breaking the Hollywood blacklist, the event that triggered the whole film?

 

Was it that great scriptwriter Sam Jackson? Or Marcel Klauber or Ben L. Perry? These were all pseudonyms of Dalton Trumbo, who was the highest-paid writer in Hollywood before the blacklist. Trumbo was one of the 10 writers and directors who refused to testify before the House Committee on un-American Activities (HUAC) in late 1947. All had been members of the Communist Party of the USA but all refused to answer questions or name names. They went to prison in 1950 for contempt of Congress.

 

After a year in jail, Trumbo moved his family to Mexico, writing under aliases. The historical novelist Howard Fast also defied HUAC. While in prison, he began writing a novel about the Roman slave revolt. After warning visits from the FBI, no American publisher would touch it, so he self-published, shipping an extraordinary 48,000 hard copies from his own basement. One of those landed on Kirk Douglas's desk in December 1957.

Kirk Douglas as <i>Spartacus</i>.

 

Douglas was a huge star. Through his Bryna Company, he had produced and starred in Paths of Glory with a young director called Stanley Kubrick. Fast sold the film rights to Bryna for $100 and the promise that he could write the screenplay of Spartacus. By this time he had renounced his membership of the Communist Party and denounced its activities.

 

Lew Wasserman, Kirk's agent at MCA, smoothed the path for the project at Universal, the studio he was about to buy. He helped Douglas to secure Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton – they were all Wasserman's clients. The casting helped Douglas to defeat Yul Brynner's rival project about Spartacus, based at United Artists. UA owned the name Spartacus. They agreed to let Douglas have it only when they realised he would get his film made first.

 

Fast's attempt at a script was terrible, according to Douglas. He already had another writer working for Bryna, "Sam Jackson". Douglas often used blacklisted writers; they came cheap. "Sam Jackson" (Trumbo) moved on to Spartacus in secret. He and Fast did not like each other, despite their shared history. Universal had been nervous about having the repentant ex-communist Fast write the script; they would be apoplectic if they found out the unrepentant Trumbo was doing it, so Douglas lied. He told the studio that Eddie Lewis was rewriting the script. He even made Lewis tell that same lie to Howard Fast.

 

In his 2012 book I am Spartacus: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist, Kirk Douglas says Fast exploded at this. Fearing that Fast might wreck the project, Douglas kept him writing, but using a new outline provided by Trumbo. Meanwhile, Trumbo laboured in secret on a separate screenplay. In a breathtakingly cynical sentence, Douglas writes of Fast: 'We knew that his work would never be used. He never had a clue about the parallel play that was being written simultaneously by 'Sam Jackson'."  

 

The deceptions multiplied. At Universal's insistence, Douglas hired veteran Anthony Mann to direct, then fired him after a week of shooting. Stanley Kubrick took over the next day, but the script was still unfinished. Peter Ustinov had been allowed to rewrite Trumbo's dialogue, to beef up his own scenes and those of Charles Laughton. When he found out, Trumbo resigned. Douglas went to his home to plead with him. Douglas says he decided on the spur of the moment at that meeting to break the blacklist. He told Trumbo: "When it's in the can, not only am I going to tell them that you've written it, but we're putting your name on it. Not Sam Jackson's name – your name, Dalton Trumbo – as the sole writer."

 

The rest, as they say, is history.  Spartacus became a huge hit, although Universal butchered it to appease the censors. Kubrick never again let anyone else control a film he was making. Kirk Douglas became a political hero, while playing a hero, for defying the blacklist. It was probably his finest hour, forced upon him by a crisis.

 

 

Turns out many were Spartacus, after all.

At 98, veteran actor Kirk Douglas finds his poetic muse

--jweekly.com  January 29, 2015

Kirk Douglas (right) with son Michael and grandson Dylan at Dylan’s 2014 bar mitzvah.   photo/infinity kornfeld studios

Kirk Douglas (right) with son Michael and grandson Dylan at Dylan’s 2014 bar mitzvah. photo/infinity kornfeld studios

 Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, the son of an immigrant Russian Jewish ragman, marked his 98th birthday on Dec. 9 with the release of his 11th book.

The legendary star of 87 movies (who can forget “Spartacus”?) can look back, in happiness and grief, on countless one-night stands with filmdom’s most beautiful women, a helicopter crash in which he was the only survivor, a stroke, two bar mitzvahs and the death of a son.

He has written about these and many other parts of his life in previous works. But there is something special about his latest, “Life Could Be Verse.”

“I have expressed my personal feelings and emotions more than in any other of my books,” said Douglas, sitting in his art-filled Beverly Hills home.

In the slim volume of poems, photos and anecdotes, Douglas is no longer the swaggering Hollywood star and serial philanderer of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. His trademark dimpled chin and bright blue eyes are still there, but his blond hair is now fastened into a gray ponytail, and he walks carefully and speaks with a slur, a legacy of his stroke.

What he has not lost is his sharp sense of humor, his pride as a Jew and his love for Anne, his wife of 60 years. The cover of “Life Could Be Verse” shows an early photo of Douglas and Anne fondly kissing and the subtitle “Reflections on Love, Loss and What Really Matters.”

In his previous 10 books, Douglas’ prose is marked by the artlessness of a man whose casual conversation has been surreptitiously taped. His poetry, as well, makes no pretensions to Shakespearean loftiness. But there is no doubt of his deep devotion when he serenades his wife on their 50th wedding anniversary in “Please Stay in Love With Me.”

Does fifty years together

Seem so long to you?

The older the violin, the sweeter the music

It is often said, and it’s true.

To me, it seems like yesterday

We met in gay Paree.

Now Paris is sad, but I am glad

You chose to marry me.

A lesser-known side of Douglas is expressed in “For Eric,” an elegy for the youngest of his four sons from his two marriages, whose drug-induced death still haunts his father.

I sit by your grave and weep,

Silently, not to disturb your sleep.

Rest in peace my beautiful son

It won’t be long before we are one,

While I lie down by your side.

And talk, no secrets to hide.

Tell me, Eric, what did I do wrong?

What should I have done to make you strong?

Now I sit here and cry,

Waiting to be with you when I die.

Neither Anne nor Douglas’ first wife, actress Diana Dills, are of Jewish descent. But Anne converted to Judaism 10 years ago, explaining, “Kirk has been married to two shiksas, it’s time he married a nice Jewish girl.” The conversion did not change the couple’s relationship except for one ritual: Anne has taken over the Shabbat candle lighting on Friday nights that Kirk handled in their first 50 years together.

During an hourlong conversation, Douglas looked back on the lessons of a full and long life.

On God and religion: “I grew up praying in the morning and laying tefillin. I gave up much of the formal aspect of religion. … I don’t think God wants compliments. God wants you to do something with your life and to help others.”

Douglas celebrated his first bar mitzvah at the Sons of Israel congregation in his hometown of Amsterdam, New York, and his second at 83, after the traditional biblical lifespan of 70 years, at Sinai Temple in West Los Angeles. He skipped his third bar mitzvah at 96, and plans to do the same at 109, when he would be entitled to his fourth bar mitzvah.

“That would be showing off,” he said. “I’m an actor, so I have already been showing off all my life.”

After the interview, Douglas emailed a final thought on a more serious topic.

“In the Jewish tradition, a birthday gives a person special power,” he wrote. “And if he issues a blessing, this blessing becomes true. So on my 98th birthday, I bless all people in the Land of Israel that the current conflict resolves itself, that no more people die or are hurt and that you can continue your lives in peace.”