Activities

Kirk Douglas was supposed to be on flight that killed Elizabeth Taylor's husband, Mike Todd

--New York Daily News March 26, 2017

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 Kirk Douglas might have died in a plane crash when his wife Anne was pregnant with their second son, if not for a premonition that kept him off the flight.

In the couple’s upcoming book, “Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood,” they recount the time producer Mike Todd — the third husband of Elizabeth Taylor and their neighbor in Palm Springs — hit him with a short-notice invitation to ride in his private plane to New York in 1958. Todd was to get an award there after a stop in Missouri to visit Harry S. Truman.

Douglas went home to tell his wife he was leaving in a few hours — but she had a strange feeling about it, and insisted he not go, leading to a huge fight.

The next morning, the still-feuding couple turned on the radio and learned that Todd’s plane had crashed in New Mexico, leaving no survivors. “You saved my life,” a weeping Kirk told Anne, promising to never doubt her intuition again.

It’s one of numerous tales in the book, which alternates the voices of the devoted pair with letters they wrote each other over their 62-year relationship.

We learn that Kirk, who just turned 100, feuded so much with Stanley Kubrick on the set of “Spartacus” that at Anne’s suggestion, they saw a psychiatrist to air out their differences. The shrink didn’t do much to help, but he did give Kubrick a novella by Arthur Schnitzler that he said would make a good movie — which became the basis for “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Douglas got along better with Ronald Reagan, whom he met when the future President was head of the Screen Actors Guild. Anne and Nancy Reagan were longtime friends, though the Douglasses’ son Eric, a school chum of the Reagans’ son Ronnie, strained things when he booed the Goldwater sticker on Nancy’s car one afternoon. The diehard Republican sent him home and banned the boys from playing together.

Another high-profile couple they befriended was Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, who had a complicated relationship. Leigh was bipolar — and in the late 1950s, treatment was basically nonexistent. She could be vicious to the gentle Olivier in public — and in private made his life hell, sometimes raging at him all night. She was also hypersexual, and would proposition male dinner guests in front of her husband — including Douglas. He passed on the proposition.

Inside Kirk Douglas's intimate 100th birthday celebration

--Associated Press  December 10, 2016

Kirk Douglas is embraced by his granddaughter KelseyCREDIT: CHRIS PIZZELLO/INVISION/AP

Kirk Douglas knows how to make an entrance. With boxing gloves in every centerpiece and the theme from "Rocky" blaring over the speakers, Douglas, one of the golden age of Hollywood's last living legends, walked confidently into the Sunset Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel Friday afternoon to celebrate his 100th birthday at an intimate gathering of friends and family.

Flanked by Anne Douglas, his wife of over 62 years, his son Michael Douglas, his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones and his grandchildren, Kirk Douglas looked out over the crowd of about 150 people, including Don Rickles, Jeffrey Katzenberg, his Rabbi and many of his closest friends and smiled. Not only was he surrounded by friendly faces, he knew, as promised by his doctor years ago, that if he lived to 100, he would get to have a glass of vodka.

But before the vodka was presented in a comically large martini glass, Kirk Douglas got to sit and listen to words from his loved ones as images from his many classic film credits such as "Spartacus," "Lust for Life," "Paths of Glory" and others played on a screen behind him.

Michael Douglas kicked off the proceedings, saying that it's not just about age, but about the life he's lived and what he's accomplished.

"One of the things that I find most incredible about dad is the third act of his life," said Michael Douglas. "After all he accomplished in his professional career and what he's given for his country, at the point in his life where he's faced adversity, losing a son, having a helicopter crash, having a stroke, and what he's accomplished in this third act in his life, I find quite extraordinary."

Kirk Douglas kept his remarks brief.

"I wonder who he was talking about? He said some nice things about someone I don't know," Kirk Douglas said, joking that Michael Douglas was chosen to organize the proceedings because "he has the most money."

Kirk Douglas also thanked everyone for coming and marveled at seeing most of his family in the crowd.

Zeta-Jones then lit the 12 candles on the cake.

"I'm so glad there's not 100!" she exclaimed, before leading the room to sing "Happy Birthday" with a string quartet accompaniment.

It was only the start of the afternoon, which included remarks from a few of his seven grandchildren, his Rabbi and his doctor. Charley King's Bluebell Events oversaw the afternoon tea where each table was designated not by numbers but by Kirk Douglas's films. The birthday boy was seated at the "Lonely Are the Brave" table, which is his favorite film.

Don Rickles lightened the reverent and respectful mood, quipping to the crowd from his seat that he wanted to go home.

He poked fun at Kirk Douglas's good looks and physique saying that he had to hear the "I'm Spartacus crap" every day, and how Burt Lancaster used to advise him that Kirk Douglas "doesn't know what he's talking about."

Rickles did get a bit choked up by the end

"You are an outstanding man because you've been blessed with warmth and love and class, and ... ah, forget it, you're all of that and more," He said. "May god give you strength and may you be with us for 100 more. If that's his wish, so be it, if not, I know in heaven you'll be in charge."

Off to the side, actress and dancer Neile Adams, who was Steve McQueen's first wife, recalled Douglas's mischievous side.

"Kirk was terrible when he was a young man! You could not sit beside him without his hand crawling up your leg. When Steve would leave the room suddenly he'd be on me," she said with a hearty laugh. "But he was cute."

She recalled his resilience, when a few years ago he had both of his knees replaced. Michael Douglas, she said, tried to encourage him to just do one and get a chair. Kirk Douglas, however, had a different idea and it didn't involve a wheelchair.

"You'll never see Spartacus in a (expletive) chair!" Adams remembered him saying.

Later in the afternoon, Katzenberg reflected on the generosity of the Douglas's, who are famous for their charitable giving.

"You have remained and will always remain my hero," Katzenberg said. "I will remind you of your words that you gave to me and I try to give to other people all the time which is 'you haven't learned how to live until you learn how to give.'"

Steven Spielberg, who arrived late, and on crutches having recently broken his foot on set came with a very specific message.

"I wanted to come here and say I've been shooting movies and television shows for now 47 years and I've worked with the best of them and you're the only movie star I ever met," Spielberg said. "There is something that you have that no one else ever had ... When you watch Kirk's performance in anything, in anything he's ever done, you cannot take your eyes off of him. It's not possible to look away from him."

He called it an optimistic ferocity and it's something he challenges all his actors to achieve in his films.

"You're a miracle man," he said.

 And, even after 100 years to show for it, he's still fighting.

KIRK DOUGLAS, A HUNDRED YEARS OLD

--The New Yorker December 9, 2016

Many happy returns to Kirk Douglas, who is a hundred years old today. How should the occasion be celebrated? The most obvious method would be to leap joyfully, from oar to oar, along the flank of a longship; that is how Douglas announced his homecoming in “The Vikings” (1958), making the happiest of returns to his people. If you miss your footing and tumble into the water, so much the better. The trouble is that not all of us have a fjord at hand. Maybe we should just line up to greet the great man, as his colleagues did in “The Arrangement” (1969), welcoming him back to the office with an eager handshake and a tray of drinks, but be warned: that scene ends with Douglas slumping into a chair, throwing up his hands, and saying, “Bullshit.”

Centenarians of the cinema are a rare breed. The last big name to hit three figures was Bob Hope (1903-2003), and you don’t need to be an admirer of either man to note the connection. A couple of stills will do the job, confirming that the key to longevity, in Hollywood, has nothing to do with morals, marriages, exercise regimes, or green vegetables. It’s a maxillary matter, as simple as that. You take a breath, say a prayer, stick your neck out, and chin your way to a hundred.

The cleft in the Douglas chin is, with the exception of the Grand Canyon, the most popular natural rift in America. The geology of the guy is open to public view, demanding recognition; one glance at that dimple is enough, like a single syllable of Jimmy Stewart’s voice. Fans of the Asterix comic-strip books, set during the Roman occupation of Gaul, will point you to “Asterix and Obelix All at Sea” (1996), which is dedicated partly to Douglas, and in which the heroic figure of Spartakis is drawn directly from him; what’s wonderful is that this cartoon version, with its stiff hedge of blond hair and its promontory of jaw, is almost no exaggeration at all.

If that sounds improbable, check out the first forty seconds of “Lonely Are the Brave” (1962), and the list of things that the camera finds on its travels: desert scrub, a dying fire, then boots, denims, shirt, cigarette, and the lower half of a sunburned face. We know who this is. What follows, on the other hand, throws us off track. Douglas sits up, tips back the brim of his hat to reveal all, then stares into the sky, where three jets leave vapor trails across the heavens—long white scars against deep gray, since the film is a fine example of late monochrome. What the hell is a cowboy doing with jets overhead? Shouldn’t they be arrows, or circling vultures? But that is the nub of the story: this fellow is the last of a breed, defiantly homeless, snipping wire fences on the principle that nobody should be hemmed in, and riding on through. He saddles his beautiful palomino, and we expect an open prairie, but he winds up in a bright new kitchen, agleam with mod cons, where Gena Rowlands makes him ham and eggs. He fits in like a clown in a monastery. Even more unnerving is the movie’s end, as the hero and his mount are knocked down, on a rainy road, by a truck ferrying toilets.

“Lonely Are the Brave” was one of Douglas’s favorite projects, and you can see why; not just because he was center stage—where else is a star supposed to hang out, for God’s sake?—but because the stage stretched from the old world to the new, and he was not someone who liked to be assigned, let alone confined, to a regular period or place. He was quite at ease in the O.K. Corral, or the Roman arena, clad in cast-iron underpants and on-the-shoulder chain mail, but drop him into the here and now and he would show you how to wear a good suit as if it were armor-plated. Look at the broad double-breasted number that he sports in “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952), descending the stairs to meet Lana Turner, who has dropped round in full battle-dress, including a floor-length jewelled gown and a cloud of white fur. His snarl is like the jab of a trident. “Maybe I like to be cheap once in a while. Maybe everybody does,” he tells her, and adds, “Who gave you the right to dig into me and turn me inside out and decide what I’m like?” Whatever you say, Mr. Douglas.

He was born Issur Danielovitch, in Amsterdam, New York. It was quite a family: three sisters, then the boy, then three more sisters. No wonder his life thronged with women. His father, Herschel, born in Russia in 1884, had come to American around 1908; he took the lowliest of jobs, gathering stuff that even the poor had thrown away. Hence the title of Douglas’s autobiography, published in 1988: “The Ragman’s Son.” It’s an exhausting read. All the fights and the fallouts, the wrestling bouts, the litany of carnal conquests and contractual flareups: the carnival of immodesty starts early and never subsides. He remembers hearing the story of Abraham and Isaac, and asks, “Is that any way for a God to act? Don’t you think he’s taking advantage of his position? Don’t you think he’s cruel?” There is even a glint of menace in his complaint: “I also didn’t like the way God treated Moses.” So that’s why Kirk Douglas is still going strong, at a hundred. God’s afraid to meet him.

The author’s memories of childhood, unlike a few of his West Coast anecdotes, have the brunt of the believable. “I stole food. I reached under a neighbor’s chicken for the warm egg, cracked it open, swallowed it whole in secret.” And don’t forget the twelve-block walk to Hebrew school: “I had to run the gauntlet, because every street had a gang and they would always be waiting to catch the Jew boy.” If that’s the kind of bruising you grow up with, then struggling to get the name of Dalton Trumbo—banned by the blacklist—into the credits of “Spartacus,” as Douglas did, is hardly a battle at all.

Then there was Mrs. Livingston. She was Issur’s teacher, who introduced the lad to romantic poetry, took a shine to him, and invited him home “to help her with some English papers one evening.” Byron would have approved, although even he might have suggested, now and then, that Douglas the Don Juan pause his pen. The recitation of amours is unflagging, and it certainly gives you a historical shock to realize there is a man—if not quite a gentleman—alive today who can inform you of what it was like to make out with Joan Crawford. (“We never got past the foyer,” he writes. “There we were on the rug.”) I prefer the elegant euphemisms: “Ann Sothern played my wife. We rehearsed the relationship offstage.” And I would trade all such revelations for that poised encounter, in “Man Without a Star” (1955), when Jeanne Crain, seated politely at a desk, with a ledger open in front of her, inquires of Douglas, “What do you want?” In response, he takes a pen, and scratches the word “You” in rough letters across the page. They kiss. “I’m going to have a lot of trouble with you,” he says, and spins her chair around in glee. “You’re so right,” she says. The honors are even.

What rises from the pages of “The Ragman’s Son” is the unmistakable whiff of certainty. The transformation from Issur Danielovitch to Izzy Demsky to Kirk Douglas seems ordained, unavoidable, and brazenly luckless. He had to happen. If your first movie is “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (1946)—seeing off Richard Widmark and Montgomery Clift to snag the role, which pairs you with Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin—then you are unlikely to be plagued by the demons of self-doubt. You brush them off like flies. Even stronger was Douglas’s third outing, in “Out of the Past” (1947), where he plays a gangster who would very much like his moll back, plus the forty thousand bucks she took with her. Love is not the issue. “My feelings? About ten years ago, I hid them somewhere and haven’t been able to find them,” he admits. One of the virtues of Kirkery is the brio, oddly unjealous, with which he squares off against other actors; stealing a scene, perhaps, but always content to share the loot. In this case, he had Robert Mitchum. “Cigarette?,” one man asks. “Smoking,” the other replies, showing him what already smolders in his hand. A word, a gesture, and they’re done. Actors like this can make a gunfight out of Lucky Strikes.

So much mythologizing energy is expended on those who flamed and crashed in their youth, from Rudolph Valentino to Heath Ledger, that we sometimes neglect the power of the long burn. The bewildering thing about Douglas is that, when you gaze back at his career, it seems to have been fireworks all the way. He entered movies not watching his step, still less with the shy trepidation of a novice, but like somebody spoiling for a fight. Is it any surprise that audiences, freshly released from the toils of the Second World War, should have sensed that momentum, stuck with it, and revelled in the hopefulness of its forward thrust? By the time that Douglas played a boxer, in “Champion,” in 1949 (he trained with an ex-welterweight named Mushy Callahan), his name preceded the title onscreen, and we were forced to wait awhile, viewing him only from behind as he padded through the tunnel’s gloom and entered the glare of the ring. Finally he turned and unleashed the grin. We looked up at him from below, as if we were already down on the canvas and taking the count. He didn’t even have to throw a punch.

Ah, the smile of Kirk: one of the steeliest blades in cinema, unrusted by the years. It was still there when he reunited with his friend Burt Lancaster, in the slight but elegiac “Tough Guys” (1986). They had acted together many times, beginning with “I Walk Alone” (1948); they had even sung and danced together, at the 1958 Academy Awards, performing “It’s Great Not to Be Nominated.” What binds the two of them—and you could make it three, by adding Charlton Heston—is that, in each case, the smile was somehow more frightening than the roars of rage. The most remorseless smiler of our age is Tom Cruise, yet he is careful never to forgo a winning geniality, whereas Douglas and Lancaster, in their pomp, bared their teeth as they did the undulation of their muscles. If Douglas had played Quint, in “Jaws,” the shark would have rolled its black eyes, backed off, and swum away.

Not that Douglas, in his movies, was a mere bully; that is no guarantee of fame. As far as punishment goes, his characters may dish it out, but fate tends to dish it right back, and, indeed, the registration of pain can grow startling to the point of masochism, as anyone who flinched from his Vincent Van Gogh, in “Lust for Life” (1956), can testify. Best of all is his Colonel Dax, in “Paths of Glory,” released the following year, and directed by Stanley Kubrick—“a talented shit,” in Douglas’s opinion. He plays a French colonel in the First World War, tasked first with leading a fruitless attack on an impregnable German position and then with defending his men against charges of cowardice; what shakes him is not an artillery barrage but the indifference of the top brass, and what lends the performance its grip is that you can never be sure when, and how, he will lose his soldierly cool. Thus, he disarms us, one evening, lounging on his bunk, jacket unbuttoned, and tugging off his boots. The mood is mild. In comes a sergeant, whom Dax suspects of treating the lower ranks unfairly, and whom he then orders, by way of a bitter lesson, to take charge of a firing squad:

“You draw your revolver out, you walk forward and put a bullet through each man’s head.”

“Sir, I request that I be excused from this duty.”

“Request denied. You got the job. It’s all yours.”

Look at Douglas, just before he delivers that last line. His whole being tautens; the chin is implacable; justice is served. Was that emotional rawness too much for Kubrick, who liked everything to be cooked just right? He was summoned by Douglas again, to take the helm of “Spartacus,” in 1960, but not until Jack Nicholson was called upon for “The Shining,” two decades on, would Kubrick entrust a film to an actor of such bridling intensity. And you have to wonder, in turn, how Douglas and his dramatic demeanor—at once masterful and eruptive, commanding the space of a movie yet prey to the dictates of his own heart and guts—would fare in times like ours. Could anyone now get away with the sublime insolence of Chuck Tatum, the reporter played by Douglas in Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” (1951)? Newly landed at a quiet provincial newspaper, he strikes a match by holding it against the cylinder of a typewriter and pressing the carriage return. Later, the same trick is repeated, but this time someone else presses the key on Chuck’s behalf. He has the place in his thrall.

The miracle, by my reckoning, is how much of Douglas’s achievement does not seem dated; how thoroughly it answers, in fact, to a resilient notion of what a leading man is for. Likable is fine, credible always helps, but watchable is everything: he must be a lure to the eyes. And with that magnetic pull comes an attitude—the particular angle, so to speak, at which an actor confronts the world. In Douglas’s case, he leans forward, as if forever grasping the prow of a Viking ship, breasting the waves and building up an appetite for experience. “Now that you’ve got a big hit, you’ve become a real son of a bitch,” the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper said to him, in the wake of “Champion.” To which Douglas replied, “You’re wrong, Hedda. I was always a son of a bitch. You just never noticed before.” Life is hard, as Issur Danielovitch discovered, but if you go at it, fists at the ready, with whetted words to match, you may just come out on top. And even if you don’t, you can still be left standing at the end, a hundred years on; that is a kind of triumph in itself. The old poem says, “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” Not yet.

Anthony Lane has been a film critic for The New Yorker since 1993.

Kirk Douglas Celebrates 100th Birthday With New Book Written With Wife Anne

--Deadline Hollywood December 7, 2016

 

Kirk Douglas turns 100 on Friday, and he has found the perfect gift to celebrate. Running Press later today officially will be announcing the May 2 publication of a new book, Douglas’ 12th, written with his wife of 62 years, Anne Buydens Douglas, called Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood.

The book isn’t quite ready yet to hand out at Friday’s afternoon tea party for 150 or so close friends and associates that son Michael and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones are throwing for Kirk, but it is yet another indication that this legendary star is not letting another digit to his age slow him down a bit. It was just a year ago, on the occasion of his mere 99th, that I wrote about Kirk’s birthday present that year, a $15 million donation to the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s new $35 million Alzheimer’s facility on its Woodland Hills campus that will be named the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion. It brings to $40 million his lifetime donations to the organization. This summer he and Anne were out in force at the MPTF’s 95th birthday celebration — where it was noted he’s been around since before it was even founded — and an early birthday cake was rolled out for Kirk, who got a standing ovation after a tribute from Michael Douglas.

The new book for the seemingly indefatigable Douglas comes from the Running Press/Turner Classic Movies publishing program and features letters and commentary on the couple’s secrets to longevity in a marriage still going strong. The book is said to chronicle the couple’s courtship and marriage; stories of their famous contemporaries like Sinatra, Peck, Wayne, Lancaster, Bacall and others; anecdotes from numerous film sets and dinner parties; the couple’s travel to more than 40 countries as goodwill ambassadors; personal stories of their relationships with several U.S. presidents and first ladies starting with JFK and Jackie; plus surviving the down times including his near-fatal helicopter crash, a debilitating stroke and the death of their youngest son, Eric. It also included several previously unseen photos.

It is interesting to note that Douglas will be joining a very exclusive club of famed Hollywood actors who became centenarians including George Burns, Bob Hope, Charles Lane, Gloria Stuart, Estelle Winwood, Luise Rainer and some like Norman Lloyd and Olivia de Havilland (who turned 100 in July) who, like Douglas, are still active and going strong. I had the honor of doing a couple of onstage interviews with Douglas at both the Motion Picture Academy and Television Academy theaters in 2012 for his book I Am Spartacus, and he got up at one of them to do a sword fight with the actor then starring in the TV version of Spartacus.

Douglas certainly has been busy in the days leading up to his 100th milestone; just last week he sent a taped message to honoree Warren Beatty, who received the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s annual dinner. There have been numerous tributes for the star in anticipation of the big day, as well as several film retrospectives featuring many of his 87 movies including Spartacus, Lonely Are the Brave (which he cites often as a particular favorite), and his Oscar-nominated turns in Lust for Life and Champion. Another of those movies was 1953’s Act of Love, which is where during production he met his future wife, Anne, then a publicist.

Among those expected to attend the Douglas centennial in Beverly Hills on Friday are Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Don Rickles, three sons including Michael and seven grandchildren. It will mark a great new moment in the “Kirk and Anne” continuing love story, perhaps the first chapter of a sequel to the new book.

 

 

How We Should Remember Kirk Douglas on His 100th Birthday

--Forward  December 6, 2016

As he approaches his 100th birthday on December 9, Kirk Douglas is both a movie legend and a Hollywood anomaly: a star divided. Most stars lodge in our collective consciousness. Douglas, while a first-magnitude star, was never quite an indelible one, save maybe for the dimple in his chin, never one who seemed to capture the zeitgeist the way some of his contemporaries did. Arriving in Hollywood when it was transitioning from classical acting to the Method, he was part traditional actor, part Method. Handsome but occasionally petulant, he was both pretty boy and thug. He could be cool, but also explosive, both iceberg and volcano. And perhaps above all he was always both outsider and insider — the man who never quite fit comfortably into any peg-hole.

By now most Jews know that Douglas was born Issur Danielovich to two illiterate Russian Jewish immigrant parents, in Amsterdam, New York, not far from Albany. He grew up destitute, a “nobody,” as he later put it, and he grew up resentful. First out of survival and then out of professional necessity, he tried to hide his roots, as he edged from Issur Danielovich to Izzy Demsky and finally to Kirk Douglas, a name he chose for himself after graduating from St. Lawrence University and embarking on his acting career. He moved to New York, got a scholarship to the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, found himself on Broadway, and then was lured to Hollywood when a friend and fellow Jew, Lauren Bacall, who had preceded him there, passed his name to producer Hal Wallis.

From poor first-generation Eastern European Jew to Hollywood star — Douglas’s was an assimilationist fairy tale. But the assimilation was never complete, which may have been a Jewish actor’s occupational hazard. There wasn’t much room for Jewish actors in Hollywood unless they foresook their Jewishness. Paul Muni, born Muni Weisenfreund, buried himself in make-up and other ethnic identities; it was said he answered the door in costume. Edward G. Robinson, born Emanuel Goldenberg, made his career playing Italians. Swarthy Jeff Chandler, born Ira Grossel, played Cochise in “Broken Arrow.” And John Garfield, born Julius Garfinkel, affected an average American Joe.

Douglas’ accommodation was one of the most unusual. His Jewishness was too stubborn to shake, even if he wanted to shake it, and in any case, he was extremely ambivalent about doing so. Virtually alone among Jewish stars, he played Jews, including a Holocaust victim in “The Juggler” and Israeli colonel Mickey Marcus in “Cast a Giant Shadow.” Issur was like a second self — or, maybe, a first self. And of all the divisions that roiled in him, this seemed the most significant: the division between Issur and Kirk. It gnawed at him, haunted him, rebuked him. In his autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son,” he frequently recalls episodes of anti-Semitism as Issur/Izzy and others, later, as Kirk, when gentiles thought he was one of them and could talk openly about their Jew hatred. And what emerged then, in the man and in the performances, was rage — rage at his childhood poverty, rage at his shiftless father, and rage at the anti-Semitism that surrounded him and taunted him. “There was an awful lot of rage churning around inside of me,” he confessed in “The Ragman’s Son.” Kirk Douglas was the virtuoso of rage. A lot of that was Jewish rage.

Other stars of that era, the late 1940s and 50s, brooded and seethed. It was almost de rigeur for a character to be writhing in psychological turmoil. Montgomery Clift, James Dean, and, of course, Marlon Brando were all tortured souls — misunderstood rebels, chafing against the culture and challenging the mores and aesthetics of button-down 50s America. While they did erupt under pressure — Brando’s eruptions were historic — these were always veiled cri de coeurs of men in anguish lashing out at their hurts and pleading for help.

And then there was Douglas. Douglas didn’t convey that sense of woundedness — of a man wronged by an implacable world. Douglas was just plain angry, and his characters were closer to derangement than those of any other major star. His face was often clenched, which is how impressionist Frank Gorshin would imitate him, and his famously affable grin could, and often did, instantly turn into a snarl. There is a scene in William Wyler’s “Detective Story” where Douglas, playing a cop on the trail of an abortionist, discovers that his beloved wife has had an abortion. The volcano erupts. “I would rather go to jail for twenty years,” he yells viciously, “than to find out my wife is a tramp.” It erupts again in “Lust for Life” where Douglas plays Vincent Van Gogh crossing the line into madness. It erupts in Champion where Douglas plays a hell-bent boxer who uses and discards everyone on his way to the top, and again in “Young Man With a Horn” where he turns on his mentor then descends into an alcoholic hell. Indeed, Douglas is scarcely in control of himself in many of his most famous roles.

And that is the other thing about Kirk Douglas. Though he played his share of straight arrows and men of conviction — see “Paths of Glory” or “Seven Days in May” or “Spartacus” — he specialized in unlikable characters, users and heels and no-accounts, to the point where, if no actor was ever as angry as Douglas, no actor flirted with unlikability as much as Douglas did either. He began his film career in the noir “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” as the titular heroine’s drunken, emasculated husband and continued down that road. Think of his ambitious down-at-the-heels reporter in Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” who manages to stage a media extravaganza out of a man trapped in a mountain cave, and prolongs the rescue to prolong the show, until the man dies. Or think of him in one of his three Academy Award nominated roles, Vincente Minnelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful,” in which he plays a ruthless film producer who uses people as rungs on his ladder to success, and practically defines the role of snake. This was Douglas’s preference. “Virtue is not photogenic,” he once said. Villainy clearly was.

Even on those occasions when he played a relatively conventional hero, he was usually challenging authority. Again, “Paths of Glory” and “Spartacus” come to mind. The role he had always coveted — to the point of buying the rights to the book — was Randle McMurphy in Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which speaks to how well Douglas understood his persona. McMurphy was strong, iconoclastic, a bit addled, and angry — a pretty good description of Douglas’ screen image, though McMurphy had less malice than Douglas. Unfortunately, Douglas could never get the financing, so he turned the rights over to his actor/producer son Michael, who did, and who then cast Jack Nicholson because, he said, his dad was too old. Nicholson made a great McMurphy. It may be his signature role. You have a feeling, though, that Douglas would have brought more menace and heat to the character and more of that derangement.

The film in which he said it did come together for him was a modern Western, “Lonely Are the Brave,” in which he plays an itinerant ranch hand who tries to spring a friend from jail (where he is being held for having helped illegal immigrants) by getting himself incarcerated and then, when the friend won’t budge, beats up a deputy and escapes into the hills. A long pursuit ensues, pitting Douglas and his horse against the incursions of modernity. The film is an elegy for a way of life as well as a celebration of it. Douglas obviously identified with the doomed cowboy — with his rage, his loneliness, his anguish, his anti-authoritarianism and his anachronistic sense of selfhood in a conformist world. Douglas seemed to feel that way too, his stardom notwithstanding.

Douglas was always something of a lone wolf. While other stars had the security and support of the studio, even as the studio system was crumbling, Douglas preferred to be a free lancer. When the system finally fell, he was one of the first to form his own production company, Bryna, named for his mother, and along with commercial fare like The Vikings and Seven Days in May, he produced unusual projects, like Paths of Glory and Lonely Are the Brave, that were not obvious box office attractions. One of the accomplishments of which he was proudest was not something he did as an actor but as a producer when he claimed to have broken the Hollywood blacklist against suspected communists by hiring writer blacklistee Dalton Trumbo to pen “Spartacus” and then giving him screen credit. (Trumbo would also write “Lonely Are the Brave.”)

There are disputations over whether Douglas really deserves that credit. Trumbo’s family later said that Trumbo himself deserved it, and the film’s hands-on producer, Eddie Lewis, has said he was the one who got Trumbo. But the point is that Douglas did buck the authorities and did put himself on the line, even if the communist stigma had already begun to fade. It was certainly in character for him to do so, not least because so many of those blacklistees, though not Trumbo, were fellow Jews. It may be odd to say of an actor whose stage name was Scottish and who didn’t emit any apparent ethnicity, that as well as being one of the angriest stars and often one of the most unlikable, he may also have been the most Jewish of stars in the 50s and 60s before ethnicity became voguish. I think that is because just as Barbra Streisand would transform Jewish otherness into a generalized otherness for her audience, Douglas transformed Jewish resentment into a generalized resentment for his audience.

That is how we may remember him on his 100th birthday: as the man who never forgot who he was or how hard it was to maintain his identity in a society that was not receptive to it, and yet who never stopped fighting to be himself.

Neal Gabler’s most recent book is “Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity and Power.”

 

 

Warren Beatty to be honored by Santa Barbara International Film Festival

--KEYT.COM December 1, 2016

GOLETA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will honor Warren Beatty with the 11th annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film on Thursday.

A gala to honor Beatty will be held at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta at 6:00 p.m.

Since 2006, the annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film has been awarded to a lifelong contributor to cinema through their work in front of the camera, behind or both. Past honorees include Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Forest Whitaker, Robert DeNiro and Michael Douglas.

Beatty is known for his iconic roles in "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Dick Tracy." He's returning to the big screen in a new film called "Rules Don't Apply."

This celebration coincides with Kirk Douglas' 100th birthday.

Funds raised at the event will go to support many educational and community programs.

The 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place from Wednesday, February 1st through Saturday, February 11th.

Pushing 100! Kirk Douglas Honored Ahead of Milestone Birthday by Michael Douglas, George Clooney at Hollywood Gala

--People  October 2, 2016

Led by host George Clooney, Hollywood's A-list turned out to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the Motion Picture & Television Fund, the longstanding support system for entertainment industry seniors and industry professionals. But it was an even older showbiz institution who stole the show: soon-to-be-centenarian Kirk Douglas.

Clooney, who with his wife Amal toured the expansive Woodland Hills, California, facility that provides housing, medical care and other assistance programs for aging and ailing members of the show business community earlier in the day, opened the song-and-dance-filled celebration with a nod to both the MPTF and legendary film star Douglas' impressive longevity.

"Wow, 95 years – that's a long time for most of us," said Clooney. "I mean, for Kirk Douglas, not so much. He's not impressed!"

Douglas, who turns 100 on Dec. 9, was on hand for the celebration, sitting stage-side with his wife, Anne, as his son, actor and producer Michael Douglas, took the stage to pay tribute to the couple's renowned charitable generosity.

But first, Michael offered a competitive nod to Clooney.

Noting that his father initially invited him to pen a foreword for his 2012 memoir I Am Spartacus: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist, Michael discovered not long after that Kirk had instead chosen someone else: Clooney.

"He replaced me with a younger actor!" exclaimed Michael.

Speaking to attendees who included Robert Downey Jr., Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pine, Bryan Cranston, Jane Lynch, Kevin Spacey and Derek Hough, Michael commented on his dad's personal and professional longevity.

"My dad turns 100 years old in a few weeks," he said. "It's an amazing personal century, filled with so many accomplishments and achievements that, if I recounted them all, we'd still be here for Kirk's 105th birthday. My dad is an icon. He's a legend. He's a true movie star from an era when movie stars were looked at as our version of royalty, and Kirk earned that status. Three Oscar nominations, two Golden Globes, over 90 films that spanned seven decades – and not one sequel."

He praised his father's many philanthropic efforts, including donating a surgical robot (nicknamed for his famous film character Spartacus) to the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, establishing over 400 playground parks for children across Los Angeles, funding minority scholarships at major universities, and donating over $40 million to ambitious programs and centers at the MPTF alone.

A cake made out of strategically tiered cupcakes was brought out as Michael and the audience sang "Happy Birthday" to the screen legend, who took a microphone. And though he still struggled with some speech difficulties – the result of his 1996 stroke – the film icon proved he was still sharp and witty.

He noted that his wife Amal was nearby with some of his old colleagues who were now MPTF residents. "She's over there with some friends that stay here that I worked with 35 years ago, so she's getting the down-low on some old stories!" he said with a laugh.

Other attendees noted their personal connections to MPTF: On stage, Pine revealed his memories of visiting his grandmother, 1940s-era horror film actress and pinup Anne Gwynne, during her twilight years as a resident there, while Cranston shared a warm, hilarious and slightly scandalous story of his mother, actress Audrey Peggy, in her final years at the campus, striking up a passionate – and apparently quite torrid – romance with one of her fellow residents. Spacey, whose mother volunteered there during his youth, recalled caroling there as a child during the holidays and meeting aging stars like The Three Stooges' Larry Fine.

Spacey was among the evening's many performers as well, singing and dancing to Frank Sinatra's "Can I Steal a Little Love?" and Sammy Davis, Jr.'s "Mr. Bojangles." Among the many other one-of-a-kind performances included Jackman singing a medley of songs from "Les Misérables," Derek Hough dancing to tunes from "Singin' In the Rain," Jane Lynch and The Office's" Kate Flannery staging "Mairzy Doats," Johnny Mathis crooning his classic "Misty," and a surprise performance of "You and Me Against the World" by MPTF resident Helen Reddy.

"It's really nice to know that this is here, and it's been 95 years, and let's do 95 more," Lynch told PEOPLE before the event. "I, of course, am thinking I hope it's here for me when I need it."

Warren Beatty to Be Honored with Kirk Douglas Award by Santa Barbara Film Festival

--Variety September 19, 2016

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has announced thatWarren Beattywill receive the 11th annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film this year.


The honor will be presented at a fundraising dinner on Dec. 1, one week after Beatty’s latest film, “Rules Don’t Apply,” hits theaters on Nov. 23. Proceeds are to support SBIFF’s free year-round educational programs.


This year the event coincides with Douglas’ 100th birthday, which is Dec. 9. Previous recipients of the award include Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Forest Whitaker, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris, John Travolta and Douglas himself.

“Warren Beatty upholds the highest artistic standards of the film industry,” Douglas said. “His choice of material has entertained us as well as made us think more deeply about the world we live in. I’m delighted he is accepting this recognition of his extraordinary talent.”

Set in 1950s Hollywood, “Rules Don’t Apply” — Beatty’s first film in front of the camera since 2001’s “Town & Country” and his first as director since 1998’s “Bulworth” — follows the budding romance of a young actress (Lily Collins) and businessman (Alden Ehrenreich), which is forbidden by their employer, Howard Hughes (Beatty). It is set to open AFI Fest on Nov. 10.

The 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs Feb. 1-11, 2017.

 

 

 

As Kirk Douglas approaches his 100th birthday, what made him such a distinctive star?

--The Independent August 18, 2016

Champion end

In September and October, the British Film Institute in London will stage a season of films ahead of the great actor’s centenary in December. Geoffrey Macnab looks back on a long and varied career.

It is no surprise that Kirk Douglas (who will be 100 in December) has out-lived almost all his contemporaries. In his greatest roles on screen, the Hollywood star has always played survivors. Whether he was cast as a Hollywood producer down on his luck (The Bad And The Beautiful), an arrogant boxer getting his come-uppance (The Champion), a seedy journalist looking for one last scoop to save his career (Ace In The Hole) or the leader of a slaves’ revolt (Spartacus), his characters have a relentless inner drive. They don’t give up. Look at any still of the dimple-chinned actor, whether in a western, a melodrama or a gangster movie, and his expression is always the same. His brow is furrowed. He is staring defiantly and very fiercely at whatever is in front of him.

Last year, in the movie Trumbo, about blacklisted Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo, Douglas was portrayed on screen as a young man by Dean O’Gorman. It was a skilled piece of mimicry. O’Gorman looked very like Douglas and had clearly researched his role exhaustively. What O’Gorman lacked, though, was the saturnine ferocity that characterised the Hollywood legend and sometimes made him very frightening on screen.

“I came from abject poverty: there was nowhere to go but up,” Douglas once commented of his transformation from ragman’s son to movie star. It was a statement of intent that he never wavered from. He knew exactly where he was headed. You had the sense he would trample on anyone who got in his way. At the same time, even when he was playing heroic types, he was always keen to show us their darker, more vicious side. Look, for example, at William Wyler’s Detective Story (1951), in which he plays a New York detective called Jim McLeod. He is clean-cut, handsome, popular and deeply in love with his young wife (Eleanor Parker). It’s an overwrought and stagey movie, almost entirely set in the police station, but has some extraordinary scenes late on after the detective discovers his wife once had an abortion. The all-American hero turns into a near psychopath in his rage and disgust at her betrayal. When he talks about the “dirty pictures”, he sees in his mind, we quickly realise the depths of his own self-loathing and capacity for violence. “I’d rather go to jail for 20 years than find out my wife was a tramp!” he yells at his most abject moment.

In interviews, Douglas often talked about being drawn to play dark characters rather than the “nice fella” on the grounds that “virtue is not photogenic”. Even when he is cast as principled and heroic figures – for example, when he played the French officer defending shell-shocked and traumatised soldiers accused of cowardice in Stanley Kubrick’s First World War drama Paths Of Glory (1957) – he brings a seething, restless quality to the role.

Douglas was born as Issur Danielovich in Amsterdam, New York. His parents were immigrants who had fled to the US from Belarus to escape anti-Jewish pogroms. They changed their name to Demsky. (Douglas as a kid was known as Izzy Demsky.) The actor’s biography reads like the typical all-American wish fulfilment fantasy. The ragman’s son who grew up in dire poverty discovered his knack for acting at high school. He took countless menial jobs (including a stint as a carnival wrestler) so that he could afford to get himself into college. From there, he landed a scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

His big break came courtesy of fellow student Lauren Bacall who (after she was established in Hollywood herself.) She recommended that producer Hal Wallis check him out. Wallis watched him on Broadway and promptly signed up Douglas to appear opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Lewis Milestone’s film noir The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers (1946). He wasn’t playing the romantic lead. His role was as Stanwyck’s needy, browbeaten, alcoholic husband but that familiar neurotic energy was already in evidence. Douglas very quickly landed eye-catching roles in films such as Out Of The Past and I Walk Alone (the first film in which he appeared on screen with Burt Lancaster). Within a decade, he was established as a big Hollywood star and had won Oscar nominations for Champion, Lust For Life and The Bad And The Beautiful.

As a screen actor, Douglas straddles two different traditions. He arrived in Hollywood when the old-style studio system was in its last throes and appeared opposite very glamorous stars such as Bacall, Linda Darnell, Jane Greer and Ann Sothern. At the same time, he had a febrile, introspective quality which allied him with the new generation of Method actors. In one of his most famous roles, as Van Gogh in Vincente Minnelli’s Lust For Life, he admitted that he “became so immersed in his tortured life that it was hard to pull back”. His wife grumbled that he was so obsessed with the part that he “came home in that big red beard of Van Gogh’s, wearing those big boots, stomping around the house, it was frightening”. Douglas had his own production company. He stood up against the Hollywood anti-communist blacklist by hiring Dalton Trumbo to script Spartacus. He worked with the very best directors of his era, among them Kubrick, Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, Minnelli, Joseph L Mankiewicz and Elia Kazan.

I once attended a press conference Douglas gave when picking up a lifetime achievement award at the Berlin Film Festival. He seemed very frail. He had survived a helicopter crash that killed two other passengers. He had had a stroke and his speech had been affected. Feelings of pity that anyone might have felt for him were very quickly swept away. Even in late old age, he was as fiery, combative and as witty as ever – and he knew just how to play an audience. His eyes still had that same gimlet-eyed ferocity. Just as at the start of his career, he gave the sense that he knew exactly where he was going and that no one was going to stop him from getting there.

As Kirk Douglas turns 100, a major UCLA retrospective looks at his amazing body of work

--Kenneth Turan Los Angeles Times July 28, 2016

Approaching the Century mark

I recently spent a day with Kirk Douglas, and the experience was exhilarating, energizing and surprising.

This was not time spent with the vital actor himself, who turns 100 on Dec. 9, but rather with a generous sampling of the films still to be shown in the UCLA Film & Television Archive's continuing series "Kirk Douglas: A Centennial Celebration" at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood.

Seeing a number of Douglas movies one after another both confirms and challenges your preconceptions about the actor.

To be sure, few performers have exuded joy in the physicality of stardom as energetically as Douglas. This was someone who not only lit up the screen but seemed capable of powering the entire theater should the necessity arise.

But immersing yourself in Douglasiana also highlights that this was an actor who had more range than he is always given credit for, an actor who could go from arrogance to despair in a single shot and often took on non-commercial projects simply because they appealed to him.

What finally seems most remarkable about Douglas is his gift for being at the same time defiantly himself and convincingly other people. Just as you would never mistake Douglas for any other actor, neither would you easily confuse one performance with another. His characters, in their yearning, desperation and fury, were always and forever completely individual.

That said, just to amuse myself I was able to place the films I saw into a trio of overlapping categories: the classics, the brawny entertainments and the unexpected ensembles.

Two unmissable classics share the screen this Friday 1949's "Champion" and 1950's "Young Man With a Horn."

A bleak film noir disguised as a boxing picture, "Champion" made Douglas a star and also got him the first of three Oscar nominations. In it, Douglas portrays the tormented fighter Midge Kelly. Directed by Mark Robson and written by Carl Foreman from a story by Ring Lardner, "Champion" unsparingly shows the cost of succeeding in a conniving world where finer feelings do not stand a chance. Even today, Douglas' ability to create almost inhuman fury and raw emotionality on the screen is a shock to experience.

Just as he did his own boxing in "Champion," Douglas learned to play the trumpet so his scenes as an obsessed, Bix Beiderbecke-inspired musician in "Young Man With a Horn" would look convincing. He costars with old pal Lauren Bacall, who helped him break into Hollywood, and Doris Day, whose sophisticated, seductive voice singing "The Very Thought of You" makes a strong impression.

Once he became a major star, Douglas enjoyed turning out heroic entertainments like 1965's "The Heroes of Telemark" (screening Aug. 19), a brooding World War II epic directed by Anthony Mann and evocatively photographed in snowy Norway by Robert Krasker.

Douglas, old enough by then to have to share the hero billing with a younger Richard Harris, stars as a Norwegian scientist who gets involved in a Resistance scheme to sabotage Nazi plans to build an atomic bomb of their own.

Two of Douglas' best remembered brawny features, both directed by Richard Fleischer, came to the screen a decade earlier and share an Aug. 28 double bill.

Released in 1954, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was a much-beloved Disney family adventure, indelible for James Mason's evil Captain Nemo and an intense battle with a giant squid. But it also features Douglas as a fun-loving harpooner who gets to lustily sing "A Whale of a Tale."

"The Vikings," made four years later, is equally improbable, though Douglas manages to be convincing as a Norse berserker capable of head-butting a monk and kicking his way through a stained glass window, all in gorgeous Technicolor shot by the great Jack Cardiff.

Enmeshed in a pulp plot that has him vying with his half-brother (played by Tony Curtis, of all people) for the hand of Janet Leigh's Christian princess, Douglas does get off some good lines. "If I can't have your love," he bluntly informs the princess, "I'll take your hate."

But though you might not guess it from these films, Douglas also had a taste for thoughtful, significant films where his presence was essential to success but in the final analysis only one of a number of factors leading to these films becoming classics.

This was especially the case with 1958's "Paths of Glory," directed by Stanley Kubrick and screening on Aug. 27  on a double bill with 1953's "The Juggler," with Douglas as a German concentration camp survivor in the first Hollywood film to be shot in the state of Israel.

Showing in a fine UCLA restoration of Georg Krause's memorable black and white cinematography, "Paths of Glory" features Douglas in one of his most dynamic performances as a French officer in World War I horrified by the conflict's stupendous waste of human life. The film was so unapologetic about the callousness of France's military high command that it was banned in that country for 18 years.

Said to be Douglas' favorite of his dozens of features for its celebration of individualism is 1962's one of a kind "Lonely Are the Brave,"  directed by David Miller from Dalton Trumbo's excellent adaptation of  the Edward Abbey novel.

Screening Aug. 20, it stars Douglas as a contemporary cowboy who unhesitatingly faces off against a modern world intent on fencing him in.

Though Douglas is indisputably the star, he has expert support from costars Walter Matthau and Gena Rowlands as well as cinematographer Philip Lathrop and composer Jerry Goldsmith.

Closing the Douglas celebration on Sept. 30 is 1952's "The Bad and the Beautiful," a film that's one of the best of an always popular breed, the inside-Hollywood melodrama.

Showing in a fine UCLA restoration of Georg Krause's memorable black and white cinematography, "Paths of Glory" features Douglas in one of his most dynamic performances as a French officer in World War I horrified by the conflict's stupendous waste of human life. The film was so unapologetic about the callousness of France's military high command that it was banned in that country for 18 years.

Said to be Douglas' favorite of his dozens of features for its celebration of individualism is 1962's one of a kind "Lonely Are the Brave,"  directed by David Miller from Dalton Trumbo's excellent adaptation of  the Edward Abbey novel.

Screening Aug. 20, it stars Douglas as a contemporary cowboy who unhesitatingly faces off against a modern world intent on fencing him in.

Though Douglas is indisputably the star, he has expert support from costars Walter Matthau and Gena Rowlands as well as cinematographer Philip Lathrop and composer Jerry Goldsmith.

Closing the Douglas celebration on Sept. 30 is 1952's "The Bad and the Beautiful," a film that's one of the best of an always popular breed, the inside-Hollywood melodrama.Showing in a fine UCLA restoration of Georg Krause's memorable black and white cinematography, "Paths of Glory" features Douglas in one of his most dynamic performances as a French officer in World War I horrified by the conflict's stupendous waste of human life. The film was so unapologetic about the callousness of France's military high command that it was banned in that country for 18 years.

Said to be Douglas' favorite of his dozens of features for its celebration of individualism is 1962's one of a kind "Lonely Are the Brave,"  directed by David Miller from Dalton Trumbo's excellent adaptation of  the Edward Abbey novel.

Screening Aug. 20, it stars Douglas as a contemporary cowboy who unhesitatingly faces off against a modern world intent on fencing him in.

Though Douglas is indisputably the star, he has expert support from costars Walter Matthau and Gena Rowlands as well as cinematographer Philip Lathrop and composer Jerry Goldsmith.

Closing the Douglas celebration on Sept. 30 is 1952's "The Bad and the Beautiful," a film that's one of the best of an always popular breed, the inside-Hollywood melodrama.

Showing in a fine UCLA restoration of Georg Krause's memorable black and white cinematography, "Paths of Glory" features Douglas in one of his most dynamic performances as a French officer in World War I horrified by the conflict's stupendous waste of human life. The film was so unapologetic about the callousness of France's military high command that it was banned in that country for 18 years.

Said to be Douglas' favorite of his dozens of features for its celebration of individualism is 1962's one of a kind "Lonely Are the Brave,"  directed by David Miller from Dalton Trumbo's excellent adaptation of  the Edward Abbey novel.

Screening Aug. 20, it stars Douglas as a contemporary cowboy who unhesitatingly faces off against a modern world intent on fencing him in.

Though Douglas is indisputably the star, he has expert support from costars Walter Matthau and Gena Rowlands as well as cinematographer Philip Lathrop and composer Jerry Goldsmith.

 

Closing the Douglas celebration on Sept. 30 is 1952's "The Bad and the Beautiful," a film that's one of the best of an always popular breed, the inside-Hollywood melodrama.

Giving a vigorous but unusually restrained performance under the sure hand of director Vincente Minnelli, Douglas is impeccable as dynamic love-him-or-leave-him producer Jonathan Shields.

Said to be inspired by David O. Selznick, Shields is shown in extensive flashbacks alternately helping and betraying a series of  colleagues, including Lana Turner's actress and Dick Powell's screenwriter. Good at what he does, as charming as he is ruthless, Shields is described as "not a man, he's an experience." Which is not a bad way to sum up the actor who brought Shields and so many others to magnificent life.

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Where: Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood.

Price: $10

Contact: (310) 206-8013, www.cinema.ucla.edu

All screenings at 7:30 except as noted.

Aug. 5: "Champion," "Young Man With a Horn"

Aug. 14 at 7 p.m.: "Posse," "Tough Guys"

Aug. 19: "The Heroes of Telemark"

Aug. 20: "Lonely Are the Brave," "Strangers When We Meet"

Aug. 27: "The Juggler," "Paths of Glory"

Aug. 28 at 7 p.m.: "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "The Vikings"

Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.: "The Indian Fighter," "Last Train From Gun Hill"

Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.: "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,"  "Out of the Past"

Sept. 30: "The Bad and the Beautiful," "Two Weeks in Another Town"