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.

kirkannebook

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 VikingsLust For LifePaths 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.

SPARTACUS: Behind the Scenes of a Stanley Kubrick Classic

A full five decades after its debut, Spartacus is no longer a mere movie. Instead, the strange, flawed, enthralling sword-and-sandal epic long ago entered that thorny realm where unclassifiable cinematic touchstones (Vertigo, Night of the Hunter, Brazil, et al.) reside. Directed by a 32-year-old with only two feature films under his belt, produced by and starring mid-century superstar Kirk Douglas and featuring a galaxy of acting luminaries, the 1960 blockbuster has been exalted, imitated and parodied; honored, derided and dissected; and after all these years, it still achieves what most three-hour, big-budget historical dramas can only dream of: it’s entertaining as hell.

Critics, to absolutely no one’s surprise, were sharply divided over Spartacus when it was first released. TIME magazine called it “a new kind of Hollywood movie: a super-spectacle with spiritual vitality and moral force.” The New York Times‘ long-time film critic, meanwhile, dismissed the movie as “heroic humbug.” Over the years, most reviewers and movie fans, alike, have come around to the view that, while the film has its problems — its pacing alone drives some viewers to distraction — Spartacus remains one the most successful admixtures of action-flick and high-minded drama ever attempted .

The film’s eponymous star, Kirk Douglas, had teamed with Kubrick a few years earlier, in 1957, on one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made — the lean masterpiece, Paths of Glory. Everything about Spartacus was far different, far more complex, far bigger than that first Douglas-Kubrick pairing. (Spartacus was produced by Douglas’ own production company, Bryna Productions, in association with Universal Studios.)

Still, Kubrick’s famously fertile filmmaker’s mind adapted itself to the vast production’s scope . For example, during the filming of one enormous battle scene (see slide #2), Kubrick placed “numbered signs among the ‘corpses’,” LIFE reported, “so that he could holler, ‘You there, next to number 163, move over or look dead or something.’ Otherwise, he would have hollered ‘you there’ and nine guys would have hollered back ‘Who, me?’ When he was ready to shoot they took the numbers away and shot. As a technique it worked fine, but on-screen the scene proved disappointing so they shot it all over again, this time indoors at Universal’s Hollywood studio.”

Along with the photos that offer insights into Kubrick’s method, this gallery also features images that, for film buffs, resonate with far more import than the simple action depicted. For instance, one Eyerman photograph (slide #4) captures one of the most memorable scenes in the entire movie, involving the character of Crassus (Laurence Olivier) attempting to seduce his slave, Antonius (played by Tony Curtis), during a glacially paced bathing scene. In an often-quoted exchange, Crassus quizzes Antonius on the latter’s taste in food — specifically, how the extremely able-bodied slave feels about gastropods and mollusks.

“Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral?” Crassus asks, and then points out that “taste is not the same as appetite, and therefore not a question of morals.” When Antonius replies that such an assertion “could be argued so, master,” Crassus shares what was surely the worst-kept secret of the ancient world: “My taste,” he says, “includes both snails … and oysters.”

Its sheer, occasionally kitschy entertainment value notwithstanding, Spartacus is a movie with a message that today comes across as somehow melodramatic — Slavery Bad, Freedom Good — and politically pointed; in fact, the anti-authoritarian rumblings that inform so much of the film are, in retrospect, utterly unsurprising. The screenplay was written by the great Dalton Trumbo, after all — perhaps the most famous of the men and women blacklisted during the “Red Scare” McCarthy era that rocked Hollywood, splintered friendships and torpedoed promising careers.

Trumbo, a member of the Communist party for five years in the 1940s, was blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and spent 11 months in a federal penitentiary. Many of his later screenplays were written under pseudonyms. But Kirk Douglas insisted that Trumbo’s credit for Spartacus be made public — an act of conscience that is often cited as the beginning of the end for the blacklist era.

“Senator McCarthy was an awful man,” Douglas once said. “He blacklisted the writers who wouldn’t obey his edict. The heads of the studios were hypocrites who went along with it. Too many people were using false names. I was embarrassed. I was young enough to be impulsive, so even though I was warned against it, I used [Trumbo's] real name on the screen.”

Long before his noble gesture came to light, however, there was still a movie to be made from Trumbo’s script, and not everyone was certain that the hugely ambitious, expensive effort would bear fruit.

“Douglas,” wrote David Zeitlin in notes to his editors at LIFE, a year before the film’s release, “I am sure will once again be old blood and guts, gnashing teeth, and Big Hero. [But] I still have considerable respect for director Stanley Kubrick. We shall see.”

Fifty years later, the verdict is in: as cinematic landmark and popular entertainment, Spartacus still delivers.

Fox Releases MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER on Blu-Ray

THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER is one of four family films released on Blu-ray for the first time March 6 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER

Featuring Kirk Douglas in a dual role, highlighted by a climactic chase involving 40 horsemen and 90 wild stallions thundering across snow-covered peaks, and set during the 1880's, when the Australian frontier was as wild and dangerous as the American West, the film follows the exploits of a handsome youth (Tom Burlinson) who sets out to tame a wild herd of horses. Taking on a challenge many men had attempted before him, he rides deep into the treacherous and untamed wilderness of his native timberlands where boys become men fast - or die trying.

AMERICAN NIGHT Opens 3/11 at Kirk Douglas Theatre

“American Night: The Ballad of Juan José,” written by Richard Montoya, developed by Culture Clash and Jo Bonney, and directed by Bonney, opens Sunday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre. Performances begin March 9 and continue through April 1, 2012. 

The cast includes (in alphabetical order) Stephanie Beatriz, Rodney Gardiner, David Kelly, Terri McMahon, René Millán, Richard Montoya, Kimberly Scott, Herbert Siguenza and Daisuke Tsuji.

The choreography is by Ken Roht, scenic design by Neil Patel, costume design by ESosa, lighting design by David Weiner, sound design by Darron L West, projection design by Shawn Sagady. The production stage manager is Randall K. Lum. 

“American Night,” a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse, tells the story of Juan José, a resident alien on the night before his U.S. citizenship test.  As Juan crams for his exam he finds himself transported through history into some of the chapters left out of the history books. Filtered through Culture Clash’s unique satirical sensibility, the American Dream morphs into an exhaustion-fueled flight of fantasy through the darker nooks and crannies of Juan José’s chosen homeland.“American Night” premiered in June 2010 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where it was the inaugural production in “American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle.” 

Tickets for “American Night” are available online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, by calling (213) 628-2772, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre or two hours prior to performances at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office. The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232.  

Kirk Douglas on Trumbo

--the following letter to the editor appeared in the New York Times on December 28, 2011

To the Editor:

It was with great pleasure that I read “Trumbo Gets His Due for ‘Roman Holiday’ ” (ArtsBeat, Dec. 21). Although it has been said that justice delayed is justice denied, in this case that maxim does not apply.

Dalton Trumbo was my friend and one of the finest screenwriters of the 20th century. He told me that because he was blacklisted, he couldn’t sell “Roman Holiday” under his own name.

In 1959, when I broke the blacklist and gave Dalton Trumbo screen credit for writing “Spartacus,” it was one of the proudest decisions of my life.

I congratulate the Writers Guild of America, West; Tim Hunter, son of the screenwriter who received the credit for “Roman Holiday”; and the late Christopher Trumbo, Dalton’s son, for working tirelessly to see that justice was finally done.

KIRK DOUGLAS
Beverly Hills, Calif., Dec. 22, 2011

Speaking Up: Kirk Douglas responds

--from Kirk Douglas, December 20, 2011

Here's a letter I wrote that was printed by Vanity Fair last September. I'm reminded of it because Christopher Hitchens, who inspired the letter, died of his esophageal cancer just this week:

I was very moved by Christopher Hitchens’s article on his bout with esophageal cancer, which caused him to lose his voice.

Fifteen years ago, I suffered a stroke, which caused me to lose my speech. Now, what does an actor who can’t talk do? Wait for silent pictures to come back? I work with a speech therapist twice a week. Open your mouth wide—stick out your tongue as far as you can and hold it. Massage your cheeks and lips, etc. I do my exercises daily, usually in the morning while my wife, Anne, is driving me to the office. Once, we stopped at a red light, and I had my tongue stuck out as far as I could. Over my shoulder, I could see a driver sticking his tongue out at me. We both maintained our positions until the light turned green.

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