Kirk Douglas Turns 99 With A Party And A $15 Million Birthday Gift
- Created on Wednesday, 16 December 2015
- Written by Pete Hammond
--Deadline Hollywood December 11, 2015
Kirk Douglas celebrated his 99th birthday on Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills with wife Anne and sons Michael, Peter, Joel and daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones as he held court under a huge banner made of red and white roses that spelled out “99 Today”. On the dining room table was a large rectangular birthday cake. Earlier in the day the legendary star reversed the usual protocol and instead of receiving a gift he decided instead to give one, a BIG one.
With his initial donation of $15 million, the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Woodland Hills announced plans to build a two-story $35 million Alzheimer’s facility to be named the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion, which will be able to take care of upwards of 80 industry members with that disease. It is expected to break ground in late 2016. “It is in keeping with Kirk’s philosophy of giving back to the entertainment community that he is the one giving us the gift on his birthday instead of us lavishing one on him,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the MPTF Foundation, who adds that with this most recent commitment Kirk and his wife, Anne Douglas are some of the largest donors in the history of MPTF with over $40 million to date. In fact, in 1992 they helped create the Alzheimer’s Unit at MPTF known as Harry’s Haven which was named for Douglas’ father. Harry’s Haven will now become the first floor of the new facility. “When Jeffrey Katzenberg explained the urgency of enlarging the current facility to accommodate more patients, we had to say yes. Jeffrey knows it is our philosophy to provide funding where it is needed most. The Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion is going to help a lot of families in our community,” Douglas said in a statement.
But back to the party. Son Michael made a speech about his dad, remarking how many people want to talk to him about Kirk’s essays in the Huffington Post, his books and their favorite of his films. To which Kirk responded, “My son Michael is here, which just proves if you have enough money, you can have Michael Douglas speak at any event.” Among those stopping by to visit the actor was Katzenberg, who brought along a large 3-dimensional model of the new Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion that sat in the hall tied with a large ribbon. Universal chief Ron Meyer was there, with Douglas asking him how Kirk Douglas Way, the street named after him at U, was doing on the lot. He told Meyer he plans to put a Kosher Deli in as soon as he finds time. Longtime friend Don Rickles came in, made his way straight to Kirk and said, “I’m not staying,” a line that got a big laugh from Douglas. Laugh-In producer George Schlatter was there, already making plans with Anne for what they can do for Kirk’s 100th which takes place on December 9, 2016.
According to my spy on the scene, Kirk slipped out of his party after about an hour without saying goodbye. “All of his good friends and family know that he only likes hellos,” she said.
Coincidentally, Douglas shares the exact same birthday, December 9, as Dalton Trumbo (who would have been 110). Of course, Douglas figures heavily in the new movie Trumbo, since he was instrumental in breaking the Hollywood Blacklist by putting Trumbo’s name as screenwriter on the credits of Spartacus in 1960. All of this is recounted in the film, which ironically led all others on Douglas’ and Trumbo’s shared birthday in the SAG awards nominations Wednesday. It earned three, for Bryan Cranston who plays Trumbo, Helen Mirren who plays Hedda Hopper and for Outstanding Cast (which includes actor Dean O’Gorman who makes an uncanny Douglas). The film also earned a pair of Golden Globe nominations yesterday. Cranston and Trumbo director Jay Roach came by to visit Douglas for drinks and an early celebration on Sunday with a birthday cake.
Kirk Douglas donates $15 million toward new care center in Woodland Hills
- Created on Friday, 11 December 2015
- Written by Susan Abram
--Los Angeles Daily News December 10, 2015
A $35 million care center to be named after screen legend Kirk Douglas will be built at the Motion Picture Television Fund campus in Woodland Hills to help Hollywood industry members struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, officials announced Wednesday.
Construction on the two story Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion will begin next year and will include a garden for 80 industry members struggling with Alzheimer’s as well as those with long-term skilled nursing care needs.
Douglas, who turned 99 on Wednesday, and his wife have donated $15 million toward the project.
“We are grateful to Kirk and Anne for making this leadership gift of $15 million,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chairman of the MPTF Foundation in a statement. “It will kick the design and planning of this incredible new facility into high gear.”
Douglas wanted to formally donate the funds on his birthday, Katzenberg said.
“With their recent commitment to MPTF, Kirk and Anne Douglas are some of the largest donors in the history of MPTF giving, with over $40 million of lifetime philanthropy,” Katzenberg said. “We will never be able to thank them enough for all that they have done.”
The pavilion will allow the Motion Picture Television Fund to expand its services and will house Harry’s Haven, an Alzheimer’s unit that was created by the Douglas family in 1992.
“Kirk was visionary when in 1992 he recognized the implications of dealing with Alzheimer’s not only for those directly impacted but for their family members as well,” Bob Beitcher, MPTF President and CEO, said in a statement. “MPTF is honored to be a part of the legacy of caring for our own that Kirk Douglas embodies by his words and his actions.”
The nonprofit Motion Picture & Television Fund was founded in 1921 by movie pioneers Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. The intention was to provide services to members and family within the film industry. The group has operated several outpatient health centers throughout greater Los Angeles, a children’s center, a retirement community and health plans.
In a statement, Douglas said he and his wife Anne created Harry’s Haven because they wanted to help families in the entertainment community struggling to care for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
“What MPTF has done at Harry’s Haven over the past 25 years never ceases to amaze me,” Douglas said in the statement. “We wanted visitors as well as patients to experience a warm and loving environment, and MPTF has fulfilled our wishes admirably.
“When Jeffrey Katzenberg explained the urgency of enlarging the current facility to accommodate more patients, we had to say yes! Jeffrey knows it is our philosophy to provide funding where it is needed most. The Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion is going to help a lot of families in our community.”
Kirk Douglas Turns 99! See Son Michael Douglas's Sweet Facebook Post
- Created on Thursday, 10 December 2015
- Written by Lindsay Kible
--People December 9, 2015
Storied film actor Kirk Douglas celebrated his 99th birthday on Wednesday, and he marked the occasion with sweet well-wishes from his son.
Michael Douglas shared a red carpet photo with the legendary Spartacus star on Facebook in honor of his father's big day.
In the image, Michael, 71, gives his father a sweet forehead kiss.
"Happy 99th Birthday Dad," Michael wrote. "I love you."
Michael has previously praised his father's illustrious career, while thanking him for letting him forge his own path in the industry.
Although Kirk has clearly lived a long life, the Honorary Academy Award winner recently told PEOPLE about how he nearly was a passenger on Elizabeth Taylor's husband's private plane, which crashed and killed everyone aboard in 1958.
The actor's longtime wife, Anne Buydens, wouldn't let Kirk join on the plane ride – and thankfully so, as the Lucky Liz suffered engine failure,
"Why was I spared? I was so grateful," Kirk told PEOPLE. "My wife has saved my life many times."
Kirk Douglas Reviews 'Trumbo'
- Created on Friday, 20 November 2015
- Written by Andrea Mandell
--USA Today November 20, 2015
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — How odd to watch history replayed on the big screen when it's your own.
That's where Kirk Douglas, 98, found himself when recently viewing Trumbo (in select theaters; opens nationwide Nov. 25), a new biopic of Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston), who was forced to work under a pen name for more than a decade during the McCarthy years when he, along with hundreds of others, was blacklisted as a communist sympathizer.
Douglas' Spartacus plays a key role in the film: It was the first major movie to break the blacklist by putting Trumbo's real name back on the big screen in the credits in 1960. (Exodus, also written by Trumbo, followed suit shortly after.)
Douglas sits in a cardigan and slacks in his sun-drenched living room. "You know, I did a lot of movies with Dalton," he says in good spirits though he speaks slowly (his speech has been impaired since a stroke at age 80). "They were all good." (His favorite is 1962's Lonely Are the Brave.)
An original copy of Trumbo's National Book Award-winning Johnny Got His Gun has been pulled from Douglas' shelf. The author sent it to Douglas as a token of gratitude after the actor pledged to use Trumbo's real name on Spartacus.
The June 1959 inscription reads:
Here, for what it is and for what I hope I still am, is the only existing copy of this book that's signed with the name to which I was born — and that other name you've enabled me to acquire under circumstances that blessedly permit me to respect and cherish both the new name and the new friend who made it possible.
Affectionately, Sam Jackson/Dalton Trumbo."
In Trumbo, Dean O'Gorman (a startling Douglas lookalike) plays the screen legend. O'Gorman wrote Douglas a letter last September seeking advice.
Douglas' shares his response to the 38-year-old actor seen in The Hobbit franchise (as the dwarf Fili).
It's amusingly spare. "Playing Kirk Douglas, forget him ... just play the part and you will be fine," he wrote.
In his book I Am Spartacus! Making A Film, Breaking the Blacklist, Douglas details how he waited for a majority of the film to be shot as leverage to push Universal to allow Dalton's real name on screen.
"What I never understood, you know, a guy should be able to write something and be paid," Douglas says, pointing out that even President Kennedy supported Spartacus by crossing picket lines to see it.
In the book, Douglas wrote, "When I hired Dalton Trumbo to write Spartacus under the pseudonym Sam Jackson, we all had been employing the blacklisted writers. It was an open secret and an act of hypocrisy, as well as a way to get the best talent at bargain prices. I hated being part of such a system."
Douglas describes Trumbo as an egoless writer who wasn't precious about his work. And Trumbo was fast. "Dalton Trumbo, if you told him, 'I don't like that scene' — 'You don't like it?' " (Douglas mimics the screenwriter crumpling up a paper and tossing it.)
Trumbo's many eccentricities are displayed in the film, aided by Cranston's portrayal, which Douglas praises. "Trumbo was a strange guy," says Douglas, happy that a parrot (nicknamed Sammy) he gifted the writer made the film.
The bird, Douglas recalls, used to sit on Trumbo's shoulder while he worked in the tub, where the prolific writer often held meetings. "He was a nut," Douglas says.
Douglas' overall impression of Trumbo? "It's a very good film," he says, "and its spirit is true to the man I admired."
A centennial year of celebration is in store for the three-time best actor nominee. "I'm going to be 99 years old (on Dec. 9). I don't like it," says Douglas who is working on a new book of letters from his life.
How does he feel? Douglas smiles and squints. "I think I'll make another picture."
‘Trumbo’ gets Kirk Douglas’ stamp of approval
- Created on Friday, 06 November 2015
- Written by Ian Mohr
--pagesix.com November 5, 2015
Bryan Cranston personally delivered a copy of his new film “Trumbo” — in which he stars as the titular blacklisted screenwriter — to show Kirk Douglas, 98, at the icon’s home.
Years ago, Douglas hired Dalton Trumbo to pen his 1960 hit “Spartacus” after Trumbo was banned from Hollywood for a decade and wrote a 1956 Oscar-winner, “The Brave One,” under a pseudonym.
“Cranston brought the film to Kirk’s house,” said a source. “They started at 3 p.m., took a break for dinner, then watched the rest. Kirk loved it. He gave Bryan a big hug, but wondered why [director] Jay Roach didn’t cast him to play himself.”
Michael Douglas has been telling pals that when his dad hits 99 next month, they’ll start a yearlong centennial celebration.
'Trumbo's' Dean O'Gorman plays Kirk Douglas and earns praise from the legend
- Created on Friday, 30 October 2015
- Written by Susan King
--Los Angeles Times October 30, 2015
When Dean O'Gorman was cast in the plum role of Kirk Douglas in "Trumbo," the new biopic about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, he decided to ask the legendary actor if he wouldn't mind offering up a few tips on how to play him.
"I wrote him a letter," said O'Gorman, 38, by phone from his home outside of Auckland, New Zealand.
And Douglas, now 98, wrote him back. "He was very nice," said O'Gorman, best known as the dwarf Fili in Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" trilogy. "He said, 'Don't worry about being me too much, just play the role, play the scene." I thought it was a great answer. I think it was Kirk Douglas' way of saying no one but me is me."
When Douglas enters Trumbo's (Bryan Cranston) life in the late 1950s, the screenwriter had long been forced to churn out screenplays under various pseudonyms. As a young actor and producer, Douglas hired the writer to adapt Howard Fast's novel "Spartacus," the 1960 epic he was producing and starring in as a Roman slave who leads a revolt. Despite threats that publicly using Trumbo would ruin his career, Douglas insisted he get screen credit on the film directed by Stanley Kubrick, helping to break the lengthy blacklist against Trumbo and other writers.
Douglas, said O'Gorman, has admitted that had he been older at the time he may have been more hesitant to use Trumbo's real name in the credits. But being so young, O'Gorman added, he was a little more headstrong. "One thing he has said is that he hated being told what to do. He was really inspired by the injustice of it. He could have lost a lot, and he was really nervous about the outcome of it."
O'Gorman had long been a fan of Douglas. "I read his autobiography, 'The Ragman's Son,' when I was a teenager," he said. "I always thought he was a fascinating force of nature."
Though he was aware of the Hollywood blacklist, O'Gorman didn't know the full story until he began work on the film. "It was quite shocking to find out these people who were deemed to be a threat to the nation were — only two years prior — sort of being revered as these incredible artists. And they were pushed aside."
O'Gorman, who looks strikingly like the young Douglas, heeded the advice of the veteran actor and "Trumbo" director Jay Roach not to do an impression. So there is no muscular posturing or "I'm KIRK DOUGLAS!" proclamations.
In an email interview, Roach noted, "Dean's interpretation of Mr. Douglas required more overlap of Dean's own heart and soul with the essence of Kirk Douglas. If Dean had tried to mimic Douglas, the iconic mask might have gone more opaque. What Dean did is much more like channeling Douglas through his own face and body."
One of the most difficult aspects of playing Douglas was having to wear the form-fitting "Spartacus" duds. "It took a while to get used to wearing little leather undies," O'Gorman said with a laugh.
Douglas, noted Roach, has seen "Trumbo" and went out of his way to compliment O'Gorman's performance. "He said the only guy who could have done better at playing Kirk than Dean was ... Kirk himself," said Roach. "Douglas said he was upset we didn't ask him!"
L.A. Mission gets another $5M from Kirk and Anne Douglas
- Created on Friday, 23 October 2015
- Written by mynewsla.com
--October 22, 2015
Actor Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne, pledged another $5 million to the Los Angeles Mission’s women’s center, boosting their support of the mission to $15 million over the last three years, officials said Thursday.
“Anne and Kirk Douglas are the gold standard for giving to the mission and our L.A. community,” Los Angeles Mission President Herb Smith said. “They are doers and role models of service for us all. They have been very involved in every aspect of the Anne Douglas Center and the center’s substantial work to help desperate women who are out of options.”
Anne Douglas announced the donation during the mission’s Legacy of Vision Gala Tuesday night.
“We always say, ‘Caring is sharing,’” Anne Douglas said. “You really only own what you give away. It sounds like a contradiction, but it really is true. Our joy comes from what we have given away. To see women’s lives turned completely around means everything to us.”
Freida "Fritzi" Demsky Becker, sister of actor Kirk Douglas, dies
- Created on Tuesday, 29 September 2015
- Written by Albany Times Union
--September 23, 2015
Photo: Fritzi Becker, left, with twin sister Ida Sahr in 2008.
ALBANY - Freida "Fritzi" Demsky Becker, the sister of actor Kirk Douglas, died on Sunday, according to an obituary published in the Times Union.
Becker, like her brother, was born in Amsterdam. She spent most of her life in Albany.
According to her obituary, she retired as the manager of the former David's Clothing Stores which had locations in Albany and Niskayuna.
She was predeceased by her husband, Harold "Hunky" Becker, who died in 1992.
In addition to her brother and his wife, Anne, Becker is survived by her sister, Ida Sahr of Schenectady. The obituary said she was also the loving mother of Gary Becker and his partner, Jack Cadalso Jr. of Albany, David Becker and his wife, Judy Coyne- Becker, also of Albany, and Barbara Becker of Chicago.
Service were held Tuesday at the Levine Memorial Chapel in Albany.
A memorial contribution can be made in her memory to the Harold J. Becker Fund at Temple Israel in Albany, 600 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY 12208.
Who Broke the Blacklist? ‘Trumbo’ Splits the Difference in Battle for Credit
- Created on Saturday, 05 September 2015
- Written by James Rainey
--Variety September 1, 2015
Kirk Douglas has insisted for more than a quarter century that he is the man who “broke the blacklist.” By demanding Dalton Trumbo get credit in 1960 for writing “Spartacus,” the screen icon asserts he struck a death blow to a system that forced creatives out of Hollywood, or left them to work in its shadows.
For almost as many years, Trumbo’s family has charged that Douglas — while admirable for disagreeing with the anticommunist witch hunts of the 1940s and ’50s — awarded himself too much credit for a victory that belongs to many people. They have advocated for more recognition of “Exodus” director Otto Preminger, who first called for an onscreen credit for the blacklisted writer.
“Trumbo’s” Toronto Film Festival premiere seemed like an occasion that might renew the long-running feud. Instead, the biopic, starring Bryan Cranston and directed by Jay Roach, uses artful creative license to give Douglas his due, but not in excess — a compromise likely to defuse the kind of furor that has dogged recent historical pictures like “Selma” and “The Imitation Game” for taking too many liberties with history.
“Trumbo” goes to Toronto and a Nov. 6 opening with the blessing of both Trumbo’s daughters and Douglas. “I think the movie gets it right,” says daughter Mitzi. Douglas screened the film at his home last week and was “very, very pleased,” says Fred Specktor, the actor’s agent for three decades.
While peace may be at hand in the Douglas-Trumbo dispute, the historic re-creation, from Groundswell Prods. and ShivHans Pictures, and released by Bleecker Street, could reignite other seven decades-old political fires. The John Wayne character is portrayed as a simpleminded accomplice of ruthless right-wing columnist Hedda Hopper. And a brief newsreel glimpse of actor Ronald Reagan positions the actor as another tool of a government recklessly targeting its own citizens. It’s hard to imagine that conservative commentators won’t offer a rebuttal to the accounts, scripted by John McNamara.
The Douglas case proves that Cold War-era emotions sometimes remain very raw. The 98-year-old Douglas will go to his grave insisting he broke the blacklist. But a good body of evidence will say he played his part, but did not act first, or alone.
Some of the facts now seem clear: In 1947, Trumbo was held in contempt of Congress, blacklisted and later imprisoned when the self-avowed communist declined to identify other leftists to the House Un-American Activities Committee. For more than a decade, the writer continued to scratch out a living by churning out mostly B-movies under a series of pen names. (That period is a centerpiece of “Trumbo,” and daughter Mitzi says Cranston has captured the screenwriter’s essence to the point that “he just seems like my father to me.”)
By the late 1950s, studios quietly had begun to hire Trumbo again. In January 1960, Preminger told the New York Times that he had hired the still-blacklisted writer to author the screen version of Leon Uris’ novel “Exodus,” and that he “naturally will get the credit on the screen that he amply deserves.” The Times also revealed Trumbo had worked on the script for “Spartacus.”
Douglas disliked Preminger, and depicted the director as jumping on the anti-blacklist bandwagon, according to “Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical,” by Larry Ceplair and Trumbo’s son, Christopher Trumbo. Douglas reportedly told his wife that Preminger had “jumped into the front car and claimed to be the engineer” of the push to recognize blacklisted screenwriters.
Eight months after Preminger restored Trumbo to the public domain, Universal acknowledged him as the screenwriter of “Spartacus.” The classic paean to human liberty was released in October 1960, the first film in more than a dozen years in which Trumbo received an onscreen credit. When “Exodus” debuted in December, true to Preminger’s word, it also carried Trumbo’s name.
In 1991, Trumbo’s widow, Cleo, declined to attend a Writers Guild event honoring Douglas for his actions during the blacklist era, because the group declined to also give an award to Preminger. In 2002, Motion Picture Producers of America boss Jack Valenti chastised the Los Angeles Times for not giving Douglas enough credit as a blacklist nemesis. Cleo responded with a letter to the editor calling Preminger and Douglas both “men of principle and courage,” but reiterating that it was the director who first publicly said he would give credit to her husband. Douglas did not waver. According to Ceplair’s Trumbo biography, the actor wrote to Cleo Trumbo: “Your letter to the L.A. Times made me very sad … I’m very proud of the fact that I was the first one to break the blacklist.” His lawyer makes the same assertion after seeing the new movie, and says Douglas enjoyed the way the story unfolds in the film, with his character played by actor Dean O’Gorman.
In his 2012 book, “I Am Spartacus!” Douglas further alienated the Trumbo clan by claiming that he, not Dalton Trumbo, had conceived the iconic “I am Spartacus!” scene. Ceplair, after reviewing draft’s of Trumbo’s script, says the screenwriter clearly conceived the notion of other slaves adopting their hero’s name.
Mitzi Trumbo, a now-retired 69-year-old photographer, once decried the “inflated” role Douglas gave himself. But today, she and her sister, Niki, appear to have come to peace with the new screen version of Douglas. “It’s hard to find a way to do justice to both Otto Preminger and to Kirk Douglas,” says Mitzi Trumbo. “They both did very brave things, and my father was always grateful and so close to both of them.”
Most importantly, she feels “Trumbo” will remind Americans about the danger of persecuting citizens for their political beliefs. “My father never expected this kind of attention,” she adds. “He would be stunned, just stunned. And I think it’s important this film is out there, and this story is being told.”