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

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.

--------

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"