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.
Sharing biblical stories and 100 years of life lessons with Kirk Douglas
- Created on Friday, 09 December 2016
- Written by Rabbi David Wolpe
--Los Angeles Times December 9, 2016
We were in the middle of the Book of Esther, where the new queen is being prepared by the eunuchs of the court for a fateful meeting with the king. “I’ve got the movie,” Kirk Douglas said, eyes sparkling as he imagined a scene playing out.
“What’s the movie?” I asked.
“Well, I play one the of the court eunuchs,” he said. “I dress her and undress her. Only I’m not really a eunuch!”
For the last 20 years I have studied Bible once a week with Douglas. In those years he lost his youngest son to a drug overdose, endured the heartbreak of seeing his grandson imprisoned for dealing drugs, watched his son Michael win a lifetime achievement award (“What does that make me? Winner of some posthumous prize?”), marked 50 years with his wife, Anne, and struggled with his legacy and mortality. On Friday he turned 100.
It is difficult to imagine what it means to live a century, world-famous for most of it. His relatively modest Beverly Hills house is filled with gifts from other world-famous people. I admired an ornate hand mirror on my first visit. “Oh, Anwar Sadat gave that to me,” he said, offhandedly. Once you’ve partied with Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy, you aren’t easily excited.
I asked him once if he remembered Jackie Robinson. “Do I remember him? Do I remember him?” he scoffed. “Rabbi, I was 4 years old when women got the vote.” When on a hot day I said how much I appreciated air conditioning and guessed that as a kid he’d probably relied on a block of ice and a fan, he fixed me with a half-comic glare and said, “Who had a fan?”
Douglas was a notoriously pugnacious star who projected a burning, internal anger on the screen. I still see glimpses of that smoldering ire as he reads certain sections of the Bible or discusses political events when we meet; it was not entirely acting. A doctor who treated many Hollywood stars confided to me that Douglas was among his toughest patients. “He once punched a hole in my wall because he had a cold,” he told me. “As if germs had some nerve inconveniencing Kirk Douglas.” He could also be openhanded and brave on behalf of the underdog. His orneriness was part of what enabled him to insist that blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo get sole screen credit for “Spartacus” in 1960.
Those sharp edges have softened over time. “I don’t know if studying made him nicer or he was nicer so he studied,” his son Michael told me several years ago. “But you are seeing him at his kindest.”
Several years ago he and Anne sold much of their precious art collection to fund a foundation that has built more than 400 school playgrounds all over California. They have attended, together, the opening of every single one. They have given away tens of millions, notably to schools and the Motion Picture Home for the Aged.
Douglas has survived a heart attack, a stroke and a helicopter crash. He reads the Bible for its stories of struggle, and feels an affinity for the more troubled characters. When my book on King David was optioned by Warner Bros., he lamented being too old to play him in the movie. David, he told me, was his kind of complicated character, noble, strong and sinful. Douglas often recounts something a rabbi told him when he first began to study Judaism: that he loved being Jewish because it was so dramatic.
Facing his mortality, Douglas told me about sitting with his mother at the end of her life some 75 years ago. She held his hand and told him not to be afraid, that everyone dies. He had an extremely contentious relationship with his father, but he adored his mother and she adored him. “When my boy walks,” he remembers her telling her friends, “the earth trembles.”
Now when he walks, he trembles. He complains, but mostly with amazement that he is 100.
Several years ago I asked why he was studying the Bible at this stage of his life. It is the best book of stories in the world, he replied, then added, “At this point it is all about God, people and charity, and I have my doubts about God, but none about charity and people.”
Studying Judaism for years has softened him, but not dampened his drive to know more, and do more. It has turned him outward to the world. That same day as I was leaving he walked me to the door and said, “Come back soon. The sun is setting and there is still a lot to learn.”
Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi at Sinai Temple and the author of eight books, including “David: The Divided Heart,” which is being developed into a movie.
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.
How We Should Remember Kirk Douglas on His 100th Birthday
- Created on Thursday, 08 December 2016
- Written by Neal Gabler
--Forward December 6, 2016
As he approaches his 100th birthday on December 9, Kirk Douglas is both a movie legend and a Hollywood anomaly: a star divided. Most stars lodge in our collective consciousness. Douglas, while a first-magnitude star, was never quite an indelible one, save maybe for the dimple in his chin, never one who seemed to capture the zeitgeist the way some of his contemporaries did. Arriving in Hollywood when it was transitioning from classical acting to the Method, he was part traditional actor, part Method. Handsome but occasionally petulant, he was both pretty boy and thug. He could be cool, but also explosive, both iceberg and volcano. And perhaps above all he was always both outsider and insider — the man who never quite fit comfortably into any peg-hole.
By now most Jews know that Douglas was born Issur Danielovich to two illiterate Russian Jewish immigrant parents, in Amsterdam, New York, not far from Albany. He grew up destitute, a “nobody,” as he later put it, and he grew up resentful. First out of survival and then out of professional necessity, he tried to hide his roots, as he edged from Issur Danielovich to Izzy Demsky and finally to Kirk Douglas, a name he chose for himself after graduating from St. Lawrence University and embarking on his acting career. He moved to New York, got a scholarship to the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, found himself on Broadway, and then was lured to Hollywood when a friend and fellow Jew, Lauren Bacall, who had preceded him there, passed his name to producer Hal Wallis.
From poor first-generation Eastern European Jew to Hollywood star — Douglas’s was an assimilationist fairy tale. But the assimilation was never complete, which may have been a Jewish actor’s occupational hazard. There wasn’t much room for Jewish actors in Hollywood unless they foresook their Jewishness. Paul Muni, born Muni Weisenfreund, buried himself in make-up and other ethnic identities; it was said he answered the door in costume. Edward G. Robinson, born Emanuel Goldenberg, made his career playing Italians. Swarthy Jeff Chandler, born Ira Grossel, played Cochise in “Broken Arrow.” And John Garfield, born Julius Garfinkel, affected an average American Joe.
Douglas’ accommodation was one of the most unusual. His Jewishness was too stubborn to shake, even if he wanted to shake it, and in any case, he was extremely ambivalent about doing so. Virtually alone among Jewish stars, he played Jews, including a Holocaust victim in “The Juggler” and Israeli colonel Mickey Marcus in “Cast a Giant Shadow.” Issur was like a second self — or, maybe, a first self. And of all the divisions that roiled in him, this seemed the most significant: the division between Issur and Kirk. It gnawed at him, haunted him, rebuked him. In his autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son,” he frequently recalls episodes of anti-Semitism as Issur/Izzy and others, later, as Kirk, when gentiles thought he was one of them and could talk openly about their Jew hatred. And what emerged then, in the man and in the performances, was rage — rage at his childhood poverty, rage at his shiftless father, and rage at the anti-Semitism that surrounded him and taunted him. “There was an awful lot of rage churning around inside of me,” he confessed in “The Ragman’s Son.” Kirk Douglas was the virtuoso of rage. A lot of that was Jewish rage.
Other stars of that era, the late 1940s and 50s, brooded and seethed. It was almost de rigeur for a character to be writhing in psychological turmoil. Montgomery Clift, James Dean, and, of course, Marlon Brando were all tortured souls — misunderstood rebels, chafing against the culture and challenging the mores and aesthetics of button-down 50s America. While they did erupt under pressure — Brando’s eruptions were historic — these were always veiled cri de coeurs of men in anguish lashing out at their hurts and pleading for help.
And then there was Douglas. Douglas didn’t convey that sense of woundedness — of a man wronged by an implacable world. Douglas was just plain angry, and his characters were closer to derangement than those of any other major star. His face was often clenched, which is how impressionist Frank Gorshin would imitate him, and his famously affable grin could, and often did, instantly turn into a snarl. There is a scene in William Wyler’s “Detective Story” where Douglas, playing a cop on the trail of an abortionist, discovers that his beloved wife has had an abortion. The volcano erupts. “I would rather go to jail for twenty years,” he yells viciously, “than to find out my wife is a tramp.” It erupts again in “Lust for Life” where Douglas plays Vincent Van Gogh crossing the line into madness. It erupts in Champion where Douglas plays a hell-bent boxer who uses and discards everyone on his way to the top, and again in “Young Man With a Horn” where he turns on his mentor then descends into an alcoholic hell. Indeed, Douglas is scarcely in control of himself in many of his most famous roles.
And that is the other thing about Kirk Douglas. Though he played his share of straight arrows and men of conviction — see “Paths of Glory” or “Seven Days in May” or “Spartacus” — he specialized in unlikable characters, users and heels and no-accounts, to the point where, if no actor was ever as angry as Douglas, no actor flirted with unlikability as much as Douglas did either. He began his film career in the noir “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” as the titular heroine’s drunken, emasculated husband and continued down that road. Think of his ambitious down-at-the-heels reporter in Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” who manages to stage a media extravaganza out of a man trapped in a mountain cave, and prolongs the rescue to prolong the show, until the man dies. Or think of him in one of his three Academy Award nominated roles, Vincente Minnelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful,” in which he plays a ruthless film producer who uses people as rungs on his ladder to success, and practically defines the role of snake. This was Douglas’s preference. “Virtue is not photogenic,” he once said. Villainy clearly was.
Even on those occasions when he played a relatively conventional hero, he was usually challenging authority. Again, “Paths of Glory” and “Spartacus” come to mind. The role he had always coveted — to the point of buying the rights to the book — was Randle McMurphy in Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which speaks to how well Douglas understood his persona. McMurphy was strong, iconoclastic, a bit addled, and angry — a pretty good description of Douglas’ screen image, though McMurphy had less malice than Douglas. Unfortunately, Douglas could never get the financing, so he turned the rights over to his actor/producer son Michael, who did, and who then cast Jack Nicholson because, he said, his dad was too old. Nicholson made a great McMurphy. It may be his signature role. You have a feeling, though, that Douglas would have brought more menace and heat to the character and more of that derangement.
The film in which he said it did come together for him was a modern Western, “Lonely Are the Brave,” in which he plays an itinerant ranch hand who tries to spring a friend from jail (where he is being held for having helped illegal immigrants) by getting himself incarcerated and then, when the friend won’t budge, beats up a deputy and escapes into the hills. A long pursuit ensues, pitting Douglas and his horse against the incursions of modernity. The film is an elegy for a way of life as well as a celebration of it. Douglas obviously identified with the doomed cowboy — with his rage, his loneliness, his anguish, his anti-authoritarianism and his anachronistic sense of selfhood in a conformist world. Douglas seemed to feel that way too, his stardom notwithstanding.
Douglas was always something of a lone wolf. While other stars had the security and support of the studio, even as the studio system was crumbling, Douglas preferred to be a free lancer. When the system finally fell, he was one of the first to form his own production company, Bryna, named for his mother, and along with commercial fare like The Vikings and Seven Days in May, he produced unusual projects, like Paths of Glory and Lonely Are the Brave, that were not obvious box office attractions. One of the accomplishments of which he was proudest was not something he did as an actor but as a producer when he claimed to have broken the Hollywood blacklist against suspected communists by hiring writer blacklistee Dalton Trumbo to pen “Spartacus” and then giving him screen credit. (Trumbo would also write “Lonely Are the Brave.”)
There are disputations over whether Douglas really deserves that credit. Trumbo’s family later said that Trumbo himself deserved it, and the film’s hands-on producer, Eddie Lewis, has said he was the one who got Trumbo. But the point is that Douglas did buck the authorities and did put himself on the line, even if the communist stigma had already begun to fade. It was certainly in character for him to do so, not least because so many of those blacklistees, though not Trumbo, were fellow Jews. It may be odd to say of an actor whose stage name was Scottish and who didn’t emit any apparent ethnicity, that as well as being one of the angriest stars and often one of the most unlikable, he may also have been the most Jewish of stars in the 50s and 60s before ethnicity became voguish. I think that is because just as Barbra Streisand would transform Jewish otherness into a generalized otherness for her audience, Douglas transformed Jewish resentment into a generalized resentment for his audience.
That is how we may remember him on his 100th birthday: as the man who never forgot who he was or how hard it was to maintain his identity in a society that was not receptive to it, and yet who never stopped fighting to be himself.
Neal Gabler’s most recent book is “Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity and Power.”
Warren Beatty to be honored by Santa Barbara International Film Festival
- Created on Wednesday, 07 December 2016
- Written by Vicky Nguyen
--KEYT.COM December 1, 2016
GOLETA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will honor Warren Beatty with the 11th annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film on Thursday.
A gala to honor Beatty will be held at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta at 6:00 p.m.
Since 2006, the annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film has been awarded to a lifelong contributor to cinema through their work in front of the camera, behind or both. Past honorees include Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Forest Whitaker, Robert DeNiro and Michael Douglas.
Beatty is known for his iconic roles in "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Dick Tracy." He's returning to the big screen in a new film called "Rules Don't Apply."
This celebration coincides with Kirk Douglas' 100th birthday.
Funds raised at the event will go to support many educational and community programs.
The 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place from Wednesday, February 1st through Saturday, February 11th.