I Am Spartacus – Celebrating Living Legend Kirk Douglas

kirk douglas

Kirk Douglas’s personality has always been larger than life; with an incredible presence and life that has spanned these 100 years.

Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch; December 9, 1916) is an American actor, producer, director, and author. He is one of the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

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Young Kirk Douglas

After an impoverished childhood with immigrant parents and six sisters, he had his film debut in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck. Douglas soon developed into a leading box-office star throughout the 1950s and 1960s, known for serious dramas, including westerns and war movies. (Wikipedia)


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During a 64-year acting career, he has appeared in more than 90 movies and in 1960 (through his production company – Bryna Productions) helped end the Hollywood Blacklist by hiring blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to write “Spartacus” (1960) with an official on-screen credit. I gained a lot of respect for Douglas when I learned of this decision.

kirk douglas

Kirk Douglas as Spartacus

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted at the time as one of the Hollywood Ten. The ten writers and directors who were cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted after refusing to answer questions about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party.

Douglas publicly announced that Trumbo was the screenwriter of Spartacus, and President-elect John F. Kennedy crossed American Legion picket lines to view the film, helping to end blacklisting. The author of the novel on which it is based, Howard Fast, was also blacklisted, and originally had to self-publish it. (Wikipedia)


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The film became the biggest moneymaker in Universal Studios’ history until it was surpassed by Airport (1970).

This scene from “Spartacus” is very apropos; rebels standing up for Spartacus the way Douglas stood up for Dalton Trumbo.


I love this cinematic moment reflecting the truth that when we stand together, we are a mighty force!

Douglas’s image as a tough guy and international star were established in his eighth film, “Champion” (1949) after producer Stanley Kramer chose him to play a selfish boxer. He received his first Academy Award nomination and the film earned six nominations in all. Variety magazine called it “a stark, realistic study of the boxing rackets.” (Wikipedia)


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From that film on, Kirk decided that to succeed as a star, he needed to ramp up his intensity, overcome his natural shyness, and choose stronger roles.

Douglas’early films include Young Man with a Horn (1950), playing opposite Lauren Bacall and Doris Day; Ace in the Hole opposite Jan Sterling (1951); and Detective Story (1951). He received a second Oscar nomination for his dramatic role in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), opposite Lana Turner, and his third nomination for portraying Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956). (Wikipedia)


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As an actor and philanthropist, Douglas has received three Academy Award nominations, an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As an author, he has written ten novels and memoirs. Currently, he is No. 17 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest male screen legends of classic Hollywood cinema, and the highest-ranked living person on the list.


kirk douglas 100th birthday

Wife Anne and Kirk Douglas

A birthday gala was held for Douglas in the Sunset Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel on December 9th. In keeping with his larger than life persona, he entered the celebration with the theme from “Rocky” blaring over the speakers.


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Son, Michael Douglas kicked off the proceedings, saying that it’s not just about age, but about the life he’s lived and what he’s accomplished.


Kirk Douglas, seated left, holds hands with his wife Anne Douglas, seated right, as they pose with family members, their son Michael, standing second left with his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, and their children, Carys Zeta Jones, left, and son Dylan

Kirk Douglas, seated left, holds hands with his wife Anne Douglas, seated right, as they pose with family members, their son Michael, standing second left with his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, and their children, Carys Zeta-Jones, left, and son Dylan CREDIT:CHRIS PIZZELLO/INVISION/AP 


As clips from Douglas’ films played in the background, fun and poignant stories were shared about the legend from Don Rickles, Steven Spielberg, friends, and family.

“My wife Anne and I always use these happy occasions to give presents to the institutions we support through our foundation,” he wrote. “Giving is a selfish act, I maintain because it makes you feel so good. I am always asked for advice on living a long and healthy life. I don’t have any. I do believe, however, that we have a purpose for being here. I was spared after a helicopter crash and a stroke to do more good in the world before I leave it.” Kirk Douglas


Happy 100th Birthday, Kirk!

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