Kirk Douglas: Lessons from a legend
- Created on Tuesday, 02 December 2014
- Written by Andrea Mandell
--USA Today December 2, 2014
A big birthday is just around the corner.
"I've written 10 books," says the witty legendary actor, as sharp and impish as ever, despite navigating a speech impediment that remains from a severe stroke suffered in 1996. "But this was the first time I was looking over the things in my life, and I was surprised to know how many poems I've written."Douglas has worked to regain his speech, but he continued writing all the while, and in 2012 published an in-depth account of his most famous film, I am Spartacus: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist. Now, he's reflecting on a life spent in Hollywood, from his first audition with
"Technology frightens me. I don't have a cellphone. I don't even have a watch," says Douglas. "My wife insisted on buying me a computer. I know nothing about computers. But one thing: I love having a place to play solitaire. I play all the time." So who handles his correspondence? "I have a good-looking secretary," he grins. "But really, technology changed the world. People don't write. It's a different world I'm about to leave." Not so fast, a reporter protests. "I'm about to be 98 you think, maybe?" Didn't Moses make it to 120? "Yes, but when they said that he got to 120 nobody has proof of it." And what ofPeople magazine publishing his obituary by mistake online just this past weekend? "The announcement of my death is premature," Douglas said on Monday, via an assistant. "I'm looking forward to turning 98 next week."
On what he watches today
"I watch the news," he says, but not many movies, although he keeps a library of classics in his home. "I have mixed feelings. I feel like for me to watch movies now I would feel like an intruder. Because I don't make any movies (anymore). I thought about making a movie, I was going to have a script written for two people, me and my grandson (Dylan, 14, son of Michael Douglas and
"I have been in love with my wife for 60 years," says Douglas of his second wife, Anne, 84, who is running errands during the interview. "And I wrote a poem about that. I think romance begins at 80. And I ought to know, because I live with a girl who would tell you so!" Does he still romance Anne? "Of course! I send her a note, and put it on her pillow. She likes that." In Life Could be Verse, "I tried to take the poems and put them in the story (of my life). And the story ends with my wife and me."
On fatherhood vs. being a grandfather
Douglas acknowledged he's evolved as a father. "I didn't remain so self-centered. When you're trying to be an actor you're just thinking of yourself," says the star, who was nominated for a best-actor Academy Award three times (1950's Champion, 1953'sThe
On the gridlock on
"We will always have problems that we have to deal with," says Douglas, who fought to credit writer
Kirk Douglas Remembers Lauren Bacall: She Was My "Lucky Charm"
- Created on Wednesday, 20 August 2014
- Written by Kirk Douglas
--Hollywood Reporter August 20, 2014
With the loss of Lauren Bacall, whom we all called “Betty,” a meaningful part of my history has been extinguished.
I met Betty when she was 17 and I was 24. We were both studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I was on my own in New York with meager funds. That winter, Betty saw me shivering in my thin overcoat. She didn't say anything, but she talked her uncle into giving me one of his two thick coats. I wore it for three years. That sort of unassuming kindness was one of her most endearing characteristics. When I had the honor of presenting Betty with her honorary Oscar in 2009, I told the audience: “People said Bacall was ‘tough.' She’s a pussycat with a heart of gold.”
After World War II ended, I was honorably discharged from the Navy in San Diego. Betty had been discovered by Howard Hawks and was now in Hollywood preparing for her first film, in which she was to star opposite none other than Humphrey Bogart. I wanted to see her before flying back to New York, so I called her, and we arranged to meet for dinner. Of course, she was late. When I stood up to greet her, I noticed that she had the script for To Have and Have Not under her arm. We talked about it, and she read me a few lines: “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together – and blow.”
“Betty,” I said, “you will be a star.” My prophecy came true.
Back in New York, I continued the frustrating task of looking for a job, hopefully in a play that would last for more than a few performances. I had a wife and two children to support. I succeeded in getting the lead in The Wind Is Ninety, and I got good notices.
Shortly after the play opened, Betty attended a cocktail party for the famous producer Hal Wallis, who was going to New York the next day. Betty was always a girl who spoke her mind. She said, “Hal, when you are in New York, you must see The Wind Is Ninety. My friend Kirk Douglas is in it and has gotten rave reviews.” He actually listened to her— did I mention she was persuasive—and soon after I was on my way to Hollywood with a meaty role as Barbara Stanwyck’s husband in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.
Over the years, Betty and I never lost touch. We even starred together in a film [1950’s Young Man with a Horn] before she went back to New York to achieve the Broadway success I had always longed for. We tried to see each other whenever we were on each other’s home coast, and we shared many special occasions in each other’s lives, including my 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 2004.
Throughout our friendship, I wrote her letters, mostly typed because I have bad handwriting. She always penned her replies, and they were almost illegible—handwriting worse than mine! My latest note wasn’t answered, which was unlike her. I wondered why. Then, on Aug. 12, like the rest of the world, I found out.
It’s hard to lose a friend, especially one with whom you have shared your dreams and your journey. In the case of Betty Bacall, I also lost my lucky charm—the girl who believed in me enough to talk Hal Wallis into giving me a Hollywood career. That was my first lesson in helping others without looking for thanks. I will continue to think about her whenever I put it into practice.
Hollywood Legend Kirk Douglas, His Wife Delve Into Their 60-Year Love Affair
- Created on Saturday, 26 July 2014
- Written by KCBSLA.com
Please note: The interview is preceded by a commercial.
--July 25, 2014
Correction: The Douglases did meet in Paris but it was during the film ACT OF LOVE rather than LUST FOR LIFE.
Kirk Douglas looks back at 60 years of marriage
- Created on Friday, 20 June 2014
- Written by Kirk Douglas
--Los Angeles Times June 20, 2014
In 1953, I was a successful movie star arriving in Paris for the first time. I knew no one and spoke no French. It wouldn't be a problem. Beautiful Parisians might love to be seen with Kirk Douglas, the Hollywood leading man, even though they never would have looked twice at Issur Danielovitch, the ragman's son from Amsterdam, N.Y. The way I figured it, we both got pleasure from these fleeting entanglements.
So it was a big blow to my theory when I met Anne Buydens. She came in to help me with press and translation during the filming of "Act of Love." I offered her a job, and she said, "No, I can recommend someone else, but I will be going to New York soon." OK, I thought, I'll take this young beauty to dinner at the most romantic (and expensive) restaurant in Paris, La Tour d'Argent. She's sure to approve of my taste and my ability to get a last-minute reservation. Once again, she turned me down. "No, I think I'll stay in and have some scrambled eggs," she said.
The fact that I didn't impress her certainly impressed me, and I was determined to win her over. Anyone who knows my story knows the rest. She did join the production, and we courted in France and Italy. After I returned to the States, I invited her to come for a visit.
We had a wonderful time together. And then she announced she was going back to Paris. I'm not proud that it took me until then to realize how much I didn't want to lose her, and I'm not proud that I put so little thought into our wedding. I was making "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" for Walt Disney, working six days a week. I left the studio on a Saturday afternoon and picked up Anne, my lawyer and my publicist, and we flew to Las Vegas. Anne and I joined our lives before a hastily summoned justice of the peace. I was eager to get the vows over with so I could take everyone to my pal Frank Sinatra's show at the Desert Inn.
I don't know why Anne stuck with me through those early decades. If anyone I worked with is still alive, they will attest that I wasn't Mr. Popularity. I had a lot of anger matched by a lot of arrogance. Some people put up with me, I think, simply because I had such a wonderful wife. Everyone loved her, including my first wife and my two eldest sons, Michael and Joel.
Anne never tried to change me, but she never hesitated to speak her mind — usually gently and often with great humor and subtlety. But she did change me and very much for the better. I began to see my native land through the eyes of a naturalized American who had lived through Nazi occupation and the terrors of war. I learned not to take our rights and privileges for granted. Anne joined me as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S. Information Agency, and we traveled to more than 40 countries, paying our own way. I received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but she should have received one too.
Over the years, Anne has run my production company, raised our sons and encouraged me to join her in good works. We rebuilt 401 Los Angeles Unified School District playgrounds. Through the Anne Douglas Center at the Los Angeles Mission, we have seen hundreds of women turn around their lives. There is Harry's Haven (named after my father) for Alzheimer patients at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills and, of course, the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
Anne has saved my life more than a few times. With uncanny intuition, she refused to let me join Mike Todd on his fateful flight east. We stopped speaking over that one until we heard the news the next morning. Elizabeth Taylor became a widow, but not my Anne. When I had my stroke 17 years ago, she drove me to the hospital like a Formula One racer. And when I wallowed in self-pity because of my impaired speech, she made me get up and work with a speech therapist. To this day, I write her love poems; to this day, she continues to give me tough love.
On our golden anniversary in 2004, I finally gave Anne the wedding she never had at Greystone Manor in Beverly Hills, with some 300 guests sharing our happiness. She surprised me by converting to Judaism before the ceremony, which was held under the traditional wedding canopy with our friend Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple officiating.
This year, I was superstitious about planning a celebration too far in advance of our May 29 diamond anniversary. After all, I am only three years shy of my personal centennial, and my Spartacus days are well behind me. But my son Michael and his wife, Catherine, were determined to help us celebrate our 60th anniversary in style.
They surprised us with a magical night with family and friends. Once again, we were at Greystone Manor, now transformed into an alfresco Cocoanut Grove-style nightclub. Anne looked as glamorous as she had the day she walked into my life in Paris, and I was proud to be by her side. A newly engaged friend asked, "Kirk, why did your marriage last so long?"
"That's easy," I replied. "I just told my wife, if you ever leave me, I'm going with you!"
Douglas, an actor-producer and the author of 10 books, lives in Beverly Hills. He recently completed a book of original poems titled "Life Could Be Verse."
Ace in the Hole – Philip French on Billy Wilder's masterly newspaper film noir
- Created on Sunday, 08 June 2014
- Written by Philip French
--The Guardian (U.K.) 7 June 2014
Billy Wilder worked as a hard-nosed newspaperman on tabloids in Vienna and Berlin during the 1920s and brought this experience to bear on Ace in the Hole. Made immediately after the corrosive Sunset Boulevard, it was his first film as producer-director following the dissolution of his longtime partnership with the older, relatively conservative Charles Brackett, with whom he'd worked since arriving in California as an exile from Nazi Germany. Now regarded as an uncompromising masterpiece, it was a major box-office and critical failure in the States at the height of McCarthyism, despite a memorable performance by Kirk Douglas, who is at his most uningratiatingly forceful in virtually every scene.
Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, a flamboyant reporter fired from big city papers for his unscrupulous conduct, drinking and lechery, trying to make a comeback in small-town New Mexico, working for a dull, honest editor whose motto, embroidered on framed samplers in his office, is "Tell the Truth". After a year of $60-a-week tedium, Chuck suddenly finds his ace in the hole by exploiting the plight of a sad loser, Leo Mimosa, who's managing a run-down diner and filling station in the desert with his disillusioned young wife Lorraine (a tough, vulnerable Jan Sterling). Leo is trapped underground in an ancient Indian cave dwelling, and Chuck manipulates Lorraine and a local sheriff into helping him protract the rescue so he can transform the incident into a national news story that will attract sightseers and catapult him back into the big time. "I've met a lotta hard-boiled eggs in my life, but you, you're 20 minutes," Lorraine tells Chuck, half admiringly.
Like the tarnished heroes of Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend,Sunset Boulevard and The Apartment, Tatum is a characteristic Wilder protagonist, a self-loathing anti-hero on his way down and eventually finding redemption or salvation as he approaches rock bottom. Shot in a stark, tabloid black-and-white by Charles B Lang (the interior darkness contrasted with the blinding desert light), the film is closely based on a sensational real event from the 1920s that also inspired Robert Penn Warren's 1959 novel The Cave, and is morally gripping and unsentimental in its refusal to give the audience an easy point of sympathetic identification.
Why Billy Wilder's 'Ace in the Hole' Is Still Relevant Today
- Created on Wednesday, 07 May 2014
- Written by Alexander Huls
--from filmschoolrejects.com May 6, 2014
The Battle of Content Styles
Our Love of Viral Sensations
The Dangers of Journalistic Overreaching
“Everybody in This Game Has to Make Up Their Own Mind”
What’s News Today is Ancient Tomorrow
Pope Francis Is a Good Man for All Religions
- Created on Saturday, 11 January 2014
- Written by Kirk Douglas
--Huffington Post January 9, 2014
I am a Jew who loves the Pope. I have always said, "don't be too religious." However, Pope Francis is a good man for all religions. He is a humble person who identifies with the poor.
Fiddler on my Roof
- Created on Monday, 04 November 2013
- Written by Kirk Douglas
--Jerusalem Post November 3, 2013
My old friend Chaim Topol recently came to Los Angeles for the day. We had lunch and reminisced about 1966.
At that time, I was making the motion picture Cast a Giant Shadow in Israel. I gave the young Israeli actor a job.
From then on, we kept our friendship alive with visits to London and New York. I think the most impressive thing about Chaim Topol was his portrayal of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. I saw him play it three times.
Of course, Fiddler on the Roof was a tremendous hit. The last time I saw Chaim in the play was a few years ago. He drew a wonderful portrait of me. I thought a long time about how I could pay him back.
Finally, it came to me – everyone talks about Fiddler on the Roof, but did they ever see a fiddler on the roof? I had the sculptor Aris Demetrios make a sculpture of a fiddler, and I placed it on top of my roof. At night the lights make it visible to everyone. Finally, fiddler on the roof is on the roof! Chaim Topol always makes me think of the many times I have been to Israel. I am unable to travel so far now, but I have wonderful memories of Israel. And it was satisfying to discuss them with my friend Chaim.