LA Mission gala honors actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
- Created on Thursday, 16 November 2017
- Written by Amanda Salas
--Fox 11 November 9, 2017
Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is an Oscar winner married to Hollywood Royalty, and supports a long list of charitable causes. Tonight she was honored for her philanthropy, and it definitely runs in the family!
Anne Douglas, wife of Kirk Douglas, and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ mother-in-law, had her 7th annual Los Angeles Mission’s Legacy of Vision Gala tonight in Beverly Hills. Catherine was presented with the Anne Douglas award, which is give annually to the person who has made significant contributions to the community. Anne Douglas was present alongside her husband Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, and his son Cameron Douglas as well.
The event took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where I talked to Catherine and Michael on the red carpet before the Gala begun. She gave praise to her mother-in-law calling her a real life “Wonder Woman”. She also shared how her children are following in the family’s philanthropic footsteps, and what she is most grateful for...just in time for Thanksgiving!
2017 Los Angeles Mission Gala To Honor Catherine Zeta-Jones
- Created on Thursday, 19 October 2017
- Written by Los Angeles Mission
--Cision Newswire October 17, 2017
The Los Angeles Mission has announced that its 7th Annual Legacy of Vision Gala will honor multiple award-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. (She has won the Academy Award, the SAG Award, a BAFTA, the Tony Award and numerous other acting accolades.) Jones will be honored with Anne Douglas's namesake Award at the November 9th gala. (Ticket/Sponsorship information here.)
Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio will receive the Legacy of Vision Award at the Mission's gala. He is the owner of the popular new restaurant ink.well.
The gala event will be hosted by Michaela Pereira, Anchor and host of the daily program "Michaela" on HLN. Music will be provided by country music star Adam Craig.
The Anne Douglas Award is given each year to the person who has made significant contributions to the community. The award is named for Mrs. Douglas, the benefactor of the Los Angeles Mission's Anne Douglas Center for Women and the wife of actor Kirk Douglas.
The event is scheduled to take place at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. Information and tickets are available by calling the Mission at 213-629-1227, ext. 325.
Sponsors for the event included the Johnny Carson Foundation, the Goldwin Foundation, American Airlines, City National Bank, Go Country 105, the Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Charities, Resource One and Shapiro West Productions.
For more than 80 years, the Los Angeles Mission has served homeless and hurting men and women of downtown Los Angeles, providing emergency services such as shelter, food and clothing. In addition, the Los Angeles Mission also offers long-term residential rehabilitation programs, including education, job training, transitional housing and counseling.
Go to www.losangelesmission.org for more information about the Los Angeles Mission.
Hollywood Legend Kirk Douglas Continues to Be in Good Health Ahead of His 101st Birthday
- Created on Monday, 16 October 2017
- Written by Samantha Lear
--Closer October 14, 2017
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since Kirk Douglas turned 100. Since the Hollywood icon is gearing up to celebrate his 101st birthday on Saturday, Dec. 9, many fans are wondering how he and his 98-year-old wife, Anne Buydens, are doing today. Keep reading for a health update on Kirk!
This time last year, the couple of 63 years stepped out several times to commemorate Kirk’s impressive milestone birthday. The big day was fêted at the Beverly Hills Hotel by a star-studded group that included the late Don Rickles, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, Kirk's son Michael Douglas and his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones. Those at the event said the centenarian looked to be in good shape, walking into the celebration with confidence.
That was further confirmed by Kirk's 17-year-old grandson — Michael and Catherine’s son — Dylan, who posted a video of the man of the hour ahead of his special night. The Instagram clip showed the Spartacus actor sporting a tracksuit and dancing with more energy than men half his age have. “Happy 100th, Pappy. Love you with all my heart❤️(I swear he's not crazy),” the teen captioned the sweet clip.
Kirk's good health today comes 20 years after he suffered a severe stroke which permanently impaired his speech. At the time, doctors told his wife he may never talk again, but through daily therapy, he was able to regain (limited) speaking ability. In fact, just two months later, he stepped onstage at the 1996 Academy Awards to accept an honorary Oscar. This difficult period of time was documented in his book, My Stroke of Luck, which he wrote to help other families of stroke victims.
In February 2017, Kirk released his 12th book, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood, featuring decades-worth of letters exchanged between himself and his wife. Around that time, he did an interview with The Guardian — his most recent media appearance — where he admitted he “never, ever thought I would live to be 100."
The reporter detailed that the legend was in good spirits, despite needing a walker and a group of nurses to help him get through his day. The impact of Kirk's ‘96 stroke was still evident in his slurred diction, but his mind was sharp. He and his longtime love even told Fox News they still partake in date night. “We spend what we call the ‘golden hour’ together at around 6:30 each night,” he said at the time. “We’ll sit and talk and laugh and share our day and our thoughts with each other.”
Judi Dench Named Recipient Of Santa Barbara Film Festival’s Kirk Douglas Award Of Excellence
- Created on Monday, 09 October 2017
- Written by Pete Hammond
--Deadline Hollywood September 20, 2017
The award will be presented to the 82-year-old Oscar winning star on Thursday November 30 at a black tie gala dinner at Bacara Resort & Spa. It is often viewed as a precursor of awards season glory and Dench is once again in the race with two films set for release, including a reprisal of her role as Queen Victoria in Victoria & Abdul opening this Friday, as well as Murder On The Orient Express due November 10. The Douglas award has been presented since 2006 and past honorees include last year’s recipient Warren Beatty as well as Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Forest Whitaker, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, Quentin Tarantino, and John Travolta.
“I am especially delighted to learn that Dame Judi Dench will accept the award that bears my name,” said the 100 year old Douglas who will turn 101 on December 9.
“She is a consummate artist of stage and screen who is a particular favorite of mine. I wish I could have had the joy of working with her, but I am happy for the pleasure of seeing my name coupled with hers in support of the Santa Barbara Film Festival.”
Dench won her Oscar in 1999 for Shakespeare In Love. She has been nominated a total of seven times , with other nominations coming for Mrs. Brown, Chocolat, Iris, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Notes on a Scandal, and Philomena. She has also won an impressive 11 BAFTA awards out of 26 nominations, as well as two Golden Globe awards among many other career honors. She has also become well known to a whole new audience as M in no fewer than seven James Bond films from Goldeneye through Skyfall.
Broadway Caricaturist Sam Norkin Subject of Online Exhibition This Fall
- Created on Saturday, 02 September 2017
- Written by Broadway World News Desk
--Broadway World August 31, 2017
Sam Norkin (1917-2011), who drew Broadway for decades, honoring opening nights with the caricature of a star or the entire company, most notably for The New York Daily News, is the subject of an online exhibition at Broadway Design Exchange, beginning now through November 19.
Ink on board drawings of several iconic Broadway productions, including the original GYPSY with Ethel Merman and the 1974 revival with Angela Lansbury, the original SOUND OF MUSIC with Mary Martin, FLORA THE RED MENACE with Liza Minnelli, and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST with Kirk Douglas, among many others, are being offered. One oil painting, BACKSTAGE, THE AMBASSADOR, is part of the exhibition.
Broadway Design Exchange founder, and Tony Award nominated set designer, Anna Louizos said, "Norkin loved the theatre and that emotion is evident in his artistry. He loved drawing the theatre."
The Home of Spartacus
- Created on Saturday, 19 August 2017
- Written by Linda Kremer
--Palm Springs Life August 18, 2017
Joel Douglas remembers the gate behind his parents’ home in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs. It connected to the home of Dinah Shore.
“It was a terrific place to live; we had so many friends who were neighbors — Dean Martin, Sidney Sheldon lived next door, and Dinah Shore’s house was behind us,” Douglas says. “We had tennis parties every Sunday.”
Douglas is the son of actor Kirk Douglas, who will turn 101 in December, and the younger brother of actor Michael Douglas — the two were both offspring of Kirk’s first marriage to Diana Dill. Together with their half-brothers, Peter and Eric, from Kirk’s second longtime marriage, to Anne Douglas, the family often spent summers in Palm Springs.
“Mike and I would come out on vacations from about age 12 or so. The home has quite a history to it,” Joel recalls. “Every guest you can imagine visited. When Henry Kissinger was up there for a week, we had to install special phones with 10 lines. They’re still there.” Designed by Donald Wexler and built by Robert Higgins in 1954, the 4,000 square-foot home was originally built for Bob Howard, whose father owned the legendary thoroughbred racehorse, Seabiscuit. Howard kept it for a short time before selling the property to the Douglases in 1957. Kirk Douglas sold the home in 1999.
The Palm Springs Preservation Foundation will host a tour of the spectacular Kirk Douglas Residence during Modernism Week Fall Preview, which runs Oct. 19 through 22. The tour will be held from 1 to 4 p.m., Oct. 21.
Joel, who owned a home in the same neighborhood until a few years ago, remembers Palm Springs as a close-knit community. “It was really a village then,” he recalls. “It was a wonderful place and my father was so much a part of their community. He was the grand marshall of Desert Circus one year and Mike and I were deputies.”
Desert Circus was one of the valley’s first festivals — a week of community fundraising and festivities, established in 1934 and popular through the ’80s.
The current owners of the former Douglas estate, Michael Budman and Diane Bald from Toronto, bought the house in April 2016 and have given it a “sensitive renovation” during which some of the original architectural features have been restored.
Modernism guests will have an opportunity to tour the property, not to mention the tennis pavilion where Kirk Douglas papered the walls with colorful (now vintage) movie posters from his long and distinguished career in which he received three Oscar nominations (Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful, and Lust for Life), an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In addition to this rare peek inside a Wexler-designed celebrity home, each guest will receive a copy of Palm Springs Preservation Foundation’s 60-page tribute journal, Donald Wexler: Architect.
Modernism Week Fall Preview, Oct. 19–22, modernismweek.com
Kirk Douglas was supposed to be on flight that killed Elizabeth Taylor's husband, Mike Todd
- Created on Tuesday, 28 March 2017
- Written by New York Daily News
--New York Daily News March 26, 2017
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
- Created on Sunday, 11 December 2016
- Written by Associated Press
--Associated Press December 10, 2016
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
- Created on Friday, 09 December 2016
- Written by Anthony Lane
--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
- Created on Thursday, 08 December 2016
- Written by Pete Hammond
--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.