2016 will mostly be remembered as a big year for all the wrong reasons (all the people we lost, the election, especially the election…) but it will also be known as the year Kirk Douglas, that legendary actor, turned 100. Earlier this year Olivia de Havilland also hit that milestone, so now two of the few (if not the only) remaining actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood are both centenarians.
From Lust for Life (1956)
Kirk Douglas remains one of my favorite actors; he’s starred in such films as Lust for Life (1956), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and Spartacus (1960). There’s an interesting story I have regarding that last film: the story goes that Kirk Douglas heavily campaigned to land the title role in Ben-Hur (1959) that ultimately went to Charlton Heston. Allegedly, the producers/director/someone up top didn’t want Douglas in the role because they felt he couldn’t carry an epic film on the weight of his star power. Word of this got back to Douglas who, incensed, decided to show everyone he COULD carry an epic film, so having been intrigued by a novel on the life of Spartacus, he purchased the film rights and created the epic film with the help of a then relatively unknown director named Stanley Kubrick (I’m dead serious).
Really though, if you haven’t seen Spartacus, give it a try, it has a cast simply loaded with the greats: Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Peter Ustinov, Jean Simmons and Nina Foch (among others).
Of course in recent years (decades really), Kirk Douglas’ life was marked by a severe stroke (suffered in 1996) that forced him to learn how to talk all over again. That’s why his voice sounds so different now, it’s not just old age. And that’s also why his face looks quite different too.
Aside from his films, one of my favorite Kirk Douglas moments comes from the 2011 Oscars when Douglas helped announce the nominees for Best Supporting Actress (after being introduced by James Franco and Anne Hathaway). There’s a wonderful moment where Kirk Douglas looks over and suddenly “notices” how beautiful Anne is, you have to see this: Kirk Douglas at the 2011 Oscars
Kirk Douglas is a national treasure, and I hope he enjoys this wonderful day. Happy Birthday sir! Thank you for all the wonderful films you’ve made for us!
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