Welcome to the Posts section of the official Kirk Douglas website. Its purpose is to let Kirk share his thoughts and activities with you, and to enable you to share your thoughts with him.
Below you’ll find links to the most recent "Reflections" and "Activities" posts.
Clicking the “Reflections” button to the left, you’ll be taken to a page where Kirk, a best-selling writer as well as a movie star, has posted his most recent thoughts and musings.
Clicking the “Activities” button, you’ll be taken to a page where you can learn about current and past goings-on in which Kirk is involved.
Clicking the "Kirk Douglas Theatre" button, you'll get the latest news about productions at the theatre, named to honor Kirk Douglas and established as the newest and most intimate of the Center Theatre Group's spaces, which include the Ahmanson and Mark Taper Theatres at the Los Angeles Music Center.
By clicking “Fan Mail,” you’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts with Kirk.
Kirk Doulgas's new book, written with his wife Anne, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood is now available. This link will enable you to order a copy, and have part of the proceeds go to the work of The Douglas Foundation.
Film legend Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens, his wife of nearly sixty-three years, look back on a lifetime filled with drama both on and off the screen. Sharing priceless correspondence with each other as well as the celebrities and world leaders they called friends, Kirk and Anne is a candid portrayal of the pleasures and pitfalls of a Hollywood life lived in the public eye.
Compiled from Anne's private archive of letters and photographs, this is an intimate glimpse into the Douglases' courtship and marriage set against the backdrop of Kirk's screen triumphs, including The Vikings, Lust For Life, Paths of Glory, and Spartacus. The letters themselves, as well as Kirk and Anne's vivid descriptions of their experiences, reveal remarkable insight and anecdotes about the legendary figures they knew so well, including Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, the Kennedys, and the Reagans. Filled with photos from film sets, private moments, and public events, Kirk and Anne details the adventurous, oftentimes comic, and poignant reality behind the glamour of a Hollywood life-as only a couple of sixty-two years (and counting) could tell it.
Celebrating 30 Years Of 'Fresh Air': The Kirk Douglas Interview
- Created on Friday, 01 September 2017
- Written by Terry Gross & Kirk Douglas
--Fresh Air August 28, 2017
One of Hollywood's biggest stars of the 1950s and '60s, Douglas went on to run his own production company. His film credits include Spartacus and Lust for Life. Originally broadcast in 1988.
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
In 1988, I also spoke with actor Kirk Douglas, who helped break the Hollywood blacklist when he produced the 1960 film "Spartacus," which he also starred in. Douglas decided to hire a blacklisted writer, Dalton Trumbo, to write the screenplay for "Spartacus."
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GROSS: Dalton Trumbo was writing it under a pseudonym like he was writing all of his screenplays at the time because he was blacklisted. And you insisted that for this movie he actually use his real name. Did you think that the time was right where you could say, this is Dalton Trumbo who wrote the movie and where it would actually be accepted, that the time was right to break the blacklisting and have it be accepted at least in part of Hollywood?
KIRK DOUGLAS: Well, I'm not so sure. I did it rather impulsively. I don't think I was aware until a couple years later as I reflected upon it. And like, you know, I explain in my book, I began to see, you know, the significance of it. What bothered me when I did "Spartacus" was the hypocrisy in Hollywood that these people, some of them who spent a year in jail for a crime that was never very clearly stated, I mean were denied using their talents except behind the scenes. Studio heads would look the other way while a lot of these unfriendly 10 writers would be writing scripts for very little money.
So it was so hypocritical that it annoyed me to the extent that I said, well, what happens - we had a discussion of, whose name are we going to put on the script of - on the screen of "Spartacus"? And suddenly I said, well, what happens if I put Dalton Trumbo's name on? And they said oh, Kirk, you're - they say, oh, you're going to get out of the business and all that. I said no, to hell with it. I'm going to do it.
And the next day I left the past. Dalton Trumbo hadn't been on a set in ten years. I left the past for Dalton Trumbo, no Sam Jackson. Of course even Sam Jackson we wouldn't have allowed on the set. Somebody might've recognized him as Dalton Trumbo.
GROSS: That was his pen name for this movie.
DOUGLAS: Yes. And from then on - I'll never forget when Dalton Trumbo walked on the set, came over me and says Kirk, thanks for giving me back my name. There were people who - I got letters from different organizations. Hedda Hopper attacked me. But the sky didn't fall in. And after that - a few months after that, Otto Preminger announced that Dalton Trumbo was going to be writing this script, and the blacklist was broken.
GROSS: We'll hear more of my interview with Kirk Douglas, and we'll hear my 1988 interview with director Sidney Lumet in the second half of the show as we continue the FRESH AIR 30th anniversary retrospective. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF ALEX NORTH'S "MAIN TITLE")
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to our 30th anniversary retrospective featuring some of our favorite interviews from our early days. We'll pick up where we left off with my 1988 interview with actor and producer Kirk Douglas. He was one of Hollywood's biggest stars of the 1950s and '60s and was also one of the first actors to run his own production company. He's also the father of actor and producer Michael Douglas.
Kirk Douglas made about 75 films, including "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea," "Paths Of Glory," "Spartacus," "Lonely Are The Brave," "Gunfight At The O.K. Corral" and "Lust For Life," in which he played painter Vincent Van Gogh. Douglas is the son of poor, illiterate Russian-Jewish immigrants. Our interview was recorded when his autobiography was published.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GROSS: You had starred in "The Vikings." And you write in your new autobiography, "The Rag Man's Son," that, after starring in "The Vikings," you thought, that's it - no more epics for me. And then you go and turn around, and actually produce one of the real big epics, "Spartacus." Why did you want to make an epic?
DOUGLAS: Well, I didn't want to make an epic. And one of the first things I said to my group - I said, look, if we do this picture "Spartacus," let's make it as if it were a small picture. And to me, if you look at "Spartacus" again, you will find that the characters dominate the background. Most pictures, "Ben-Hur" and all that, the background is so enormous.
But in "Spartacus," Olivier, Laughton, Ustinov, Jean Simmons - the characters are stronger than the background. And that's what I tried to do. In spite of the fact that it was an epic picture, I wanted the characters to be - for them to be larger than life.
GROSS: You mentioned the characters and some of the actors. You ended up casting Jean Simmons in the role of Spartacus' lover and the woman who he has a baby with. And initially, you didn't want to cast her because she's British, and you thought that that would ruin the linguistic pattern of the movie. And I'd love for you to explain what you meant by that.
DOUGLAS: Well, I have a very simple - for example, when I did "The Vikings," all the Vikings are Americans. We have a rougher pattern of speech. The English have a more elegant pattern of speech. So that makes it work. In Spartacus, you'll notice that all the aristocratic Romans are English.
GROSS: That's right. They're great...
DOUGLAS: The slaves...
GROSS: ...Stage actors (laughter), great British stage actors.
DOUGLAS: The slaves, like myself, were Americans.
GROSS: Not only that, ethnic - right? - Jewish, Italian. You, Jewish, Tony Curtis, Italian - no, Tony Curtis is Jewish, too, actually. Isn't he?
DOUGLAS: That's right.
GROSS: Yeah, that's right. (Laughter) I always forget that (laughter).
DOUGLAS: But it doesn't matter, you see. It's just that Americans have a rougher speech pattern. For example, I often think that Shakespeare very often is better played in - when it's done in the United States because those beautiful lines take on a rougher quality that I think Shakespeare really intended it to...
GROSS: So the slaves have the rough quality.
DOUGLAS: That's right.
GROSS: And the Romans have the more genteel, educated, refined sound.
DOUGLAS: Exactly. Of course, "Spartacus" - you picked on a picture that plays a big - is a big section in my book because so much happened during the making of "Spartacus." The most historical event was the breaking of the blacklist.
GROSS: Since we're talking about "Spartacus," let me play a clip from the movie. And this was toward the end of the first half of the film. Remember, this movie had an intermission (laughter). And Spartacus and many other slaves have escaped from slavery. And after they've escaped, many of the slaves are just drinking wine. They're having Romans fight each other as if the Romans were slaves. And Spartacus is saying, what are you doing with your lives? You should be doing something more productive. And he suggests that they actually fight the Roman Empire.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPARTACUS")
DOUGLAS: (As Spartacus) Have we learned nothing? What's happening to us? We look for wine when we should be hunting bread.
NICK DENNIS: (As Dionysius) When you've got wine, you don't need bread.
DOUGLAS: (As Spartacus) We can't just be a gang of drunken raiders.
DENNIS: (As Dionysius) What else can we be?
DOUGLAS: (As Spartacus) Gladiators - an army of gladiators. There's never been an army like that. One gladiator's worth any two Roman soldiers that ever lived.
JOHN IRELAND: (As Crixus) We beat the Roman guards here, but a Roman army is a different thing. They fight different than we do, too.
DOUGLAS: (As Spartacus) We can beat anything they send against us if we really want to.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) It takes a big army for that, Spartacus.
DOUGLAS: (As Spartacus) We'll have a big army. Once we're on the march, we'll free every slave in every town and village. Can anybody get a bigger army than that?
DENNIS: (As Dionysius) That's right. Once we cross the Alps, we're safe.
IRELAND: (As Crixus) Nobody can cross the Alps. Every pass is defended by its own legion.
DOUGLAS: (As Spartacus) There's only one way to get out of this country - the sea.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) What good is the sea if you have no ships?
DOUGLAS: (As Spartacus) The Cilician pirates have ships. They're at war with Rome. Every Roman galley that sails out of Brundisium pays tribute to them.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) They've got the biggest fleet in the world. I was a galley slave with them. Give them enough gold, they'll take you anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) We haven't got enough gold.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Take every Roman we capture and warm his back a little. We'll have gold, all right.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Spartacus is right. Let's hire these pirates and march straight to Brundisium.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, screaming).
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: Well, they get their army. And you, as Spartacus, lead them against the Roman army. There is a scene at the end that is a mass crucifixion. And you are one of the many actors on the cross (laughter) at the end of the movie. And I'd really like to know how you were attached to the cross so that you could hang there without really hurting yourself.
DOUGLAS: Well, as a matter of fact, playing that scene, we learned an awful lot about crucifixion. We learned that it would be impossible to be crucified the way, very often, you see the crucifixion. You know, the body would sag right down. But to make our scenes effective, it was very easy. Every cross had a bicycle seat. It just kept the body up high enough so that you wouldn't be sagging down in a very unattractive position.
GROSS: OK, so that's the secret. You started off in your first movie playing someone who was pretty weak in the film "The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers."
DOUGLAS: That's right.
GROSS: And you went on to become a character who was seen as very strong. In fact, you were - mentioned that Elia Kazan refers to you in his autobiography. And I'd like to read one of the things that he says when he was making the film "The Arrangement," based on his best-selling novel. You wanted to be in the film. And he cast you in it, although he says he - there was something about the role that he thought Marlon Brando would've been better for.
And Elia Kazan writes, there was one problem with Kirk. Eddie, the character, has to start defeated in every personal way. The film rests on how basic and painful his initial despair is. Kirk has developed a professional front, a man who can overcome any obstacle. He radiates indomitability. Marlon, on the other hand, with all his success and fame, was still unsure of his worth and of himself. Acting had little to do with it. It was all a matter of personality.
Did you ever think of yourself that way, as just radiating indomitability, and that affecting the kind of roles that you could or could not do well?
DOUGLAS: Working with Kazan in "The Arrangement" was a wonderful experience. He's a great director. But I disagree with him completely. When I did "Lust For Life," which I consider one of the most intriguing roles that I've played, I played a man completely unsure of himself. As a matter of fact, I sometimes tell my fellow actors that no one can play weakness better than I, starting with the very first movie that I did, "The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers."
And then when you go to a character like "Lust For Life," I remember the first time we showed that - and I described this incident in my book where John Wayne was drinking at a party after a showing. He was very annoyed. He motioned me, brought me out on the balcony and said he was very annoyed. He said, Kirk, how can you play such a sniveling, weak character? I said, well, John - I said, well, you know, I'm an actor. It was an interesting role. I wanted to play it. No, no, he says. Kirk, we've got to play tough, macho guys. And he was really upset that I would be playing such a weak character, although most people, I think, think of me - the last movie I did with Burt Lancaster was called "Tough Guys" - as sort of a tough guy.
But I loved to play parts or try to find parts with different dimensions. You see, Terry, if I play a strong man in the film, I look for the moments where he's weak. And if I play a weak character, I look for the moments where he's strong because that's what drama's all about - chiaroscuro, light and shade.
GROSS: I want to ask you something about you physically, in terms of your acting. People think of you. They think of your voice. Physically, they really think of the dimple in your chin. And when you started acting, was there ever a time where that was seen as a disadvantage? Did anyone ever try to cover that up with makeup?
DOUGLAS: Oh, yeah. The first time I came to Hollywood, you know, and they're looking at this Broadway actor - and they did. They filled it up with putty.
GROSS: Oh, really?
DOUGLAS: Yeah. It had to be an awful lot of putty because I don't have a dimple in my chin. I have a hole in my chin. And it annoyed me. I said, look. I just pushed the putty out. I said, look; this is what you get if you want it. I'm not going to change it. So let me know if this is what you want, or I'm going back to New York. And since then, I've never - you know, it's a part of me.
GROSS: So you never let them actually shoot you with the putty in your chin?
DOUGLAS: Oh, I would do that if there was a real reason where I wanted someone to have, like, a big, lantern jaw and covering up this dimple on my chin would give me that effect. I would do it if the reason was to play a certain character or it's covered up when you have a beard. I mean I do whatever I feel you have to do to play the character, not for, you know, vanity sake. I am what I am. I can't change that.
GROSS: My interview with Kirk Douglas was recorded in 1988. He turned 100 in December.
Dear Trump: I’ve Lived Through The Nazi Regime. Don’t Let History Repeat Itself.
- Created on Thursday, 24 August 2017
- Written by Anne Douglas
--Huffinfron Post August 23, 2017
I was living in occupied Paris under the Nazis in 1941 when President Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address to Congress. He talked with passion about bedrock American values, the “four freedoms”―freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. In my native Germany and in France―as well as all other countries Hitler conquered―each of these fundamental freedoms of a democratic society had completely disappeared. You cannot imagine the joy and sense of rebirth in Paris when the Americans liberated us in 1944.
A decade later, I became a naturalized American after I married Kirk Douglas. My husband believes, because I lived for so long under fascism, I love my adopted homeland with a ferocity that few native-born citizens can imagine.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” said John F. Kennedy when he became the 35th President of the United States. Soon after, he created many opportunities for citizen participation like forming the Peace Corps and suggesting to my husband that an American movie star, representing the U.S. as a goodwill ambassador, could enhance our understanding among nations.
Kirk solidified the arrangement with the State Department and for the next 20 years―under both Democratic and Republican presidents―Kirk and I traveled to more than 40 countries at our own expense to talk about America. Some of the countries had totalitarian or military regimes. We always came home relieved to report that, even behind the Iron Curtain, there was affection and respect for America.
Kirk is now 100, and there’s little he hasn’t experienced during his lifetime. He’s eternally grateful his parents escaped the anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia so that all of their children could be born in America. He’s seen the greatness of our country, but also its dark side of discrimination against minorities, immigrants, and its Native American populations.
He helped to break the blacklist that grew out of Congressional hearings that destroyed lives of those who had once belonged to the Communist Party, a party whose existence was never made illegal. He knew people who were terrified that their sexual orientation would be exposed. He saw how easy it was for people in power like Senator Joseph McCarthy to persecute with impunity until a courageous lawyer for the Army named Joseph Welch destroyed him with these damning words, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency.”
Those are words I wish our congressional leaders would have quoted to the current inhabitant of the White House when he blamed “both sides” for the tragic events at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The American-bred racists and neo-Nazis who gathered there have never experienced firsthand what a totalitarian regime inflicts upon its people when it takes power. I have. They have lived all their lives in a country which protects their free speech even when it is hateful.
As a child in Germany, I had to join Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) where we were indoctrinated with Nazi beliefs and encouraged to spy on our parents and neighbors. Later, when I was surviving in Paris by writing German subtitles for films, my maid denounced me to the Gestapo, eager to report the strange phrases on the work I brought home. I was picked up at 5:00 a.m. and interrogated for hours. I finally convinced the officer I was not a spy, but only because I could speak German. It was the most terrifying moment of many for me during World War II.
Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan seem convinced that President Trump is their friend. He has said little to dissuade them. His first wife Ivana said her husband kept a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, so I wonder where his sympathies lie.
Movements like these openly share their goals of taking over the government. Our president, our elected representatives, and our military and law-enforcement leaders must tell them in no uncertain terms that there is no place for hate groups in America.
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