“Life is like a B-picture script.”
February 5, 2020 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Indomitable Icon of Hollywood's Golden Age Kirk Douglas, an A-Lister if ever there was one, is dead at 103 years old.

The accolades are already hitting the news feeds, with good reason. Goodbye, Mr. Douglas. I've known you my entire life.

*and have to admit that aside from Spartacus, my favorite movie of his was his dual role in e the Disney non wonder, "The Man From Snowy River"
posted by allandsome (73 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by tilde at 4:39 PM on February 5


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posted by Xoebe at 4:42 PM on February 5


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posted by haiku warrior at 4:44 PM on February 5


Paths of Glory in an elective on "America at War" was the porthole view to a much larger world of political critique that has totally changed my life. Good film, unique talent.

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posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 4:46 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]




One of my all-time favourites. Not the most nuanced actor, and sometimes you can see him working too hard at it, but maaaaaan, that guy had star power, star presence, star charisma. He owned a screen in a way few ever have. And in real life, he seemed like a mensch.

Thanks, Kirk.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:52 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


I love The Man From Snowy River and he's a big reason why. Clearly having a lot of fun as Spur.

An army of . for one of the last greats. All always remember him dueling to the death with Tony Curtis in The Vikings. Only plot armor saved Tony from being torn in half, they're on completely different levels the whole time.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:53 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


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posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:54 PM on February 5


He was Spartacus!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:56 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


I love Paths of Glory.

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posted by sallybrown at 4:56 PM on February 5


And now Olivia de Havilland is the last one, and after she dies all the Golden Age of Hollywood actors will be gone. On the other hand, it's kind of amazing that two Hollywood stars from that era made it to be 103.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:57 PM on February 5 [21 favorites]


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posted by kinnakeet at 4:57 PM on February 5


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posted by snuffleupagus at 4:58 PM on February 5


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posted by suelac at 5:03 PM on February 5


103??? I had no idea.

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posted by Thorzdad at 5:04 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


He was one of those actors who really made a meal of every role. One of his first, and maybe most subdued, was in Out of the Past (aka Build My Gallows High), one of the best film noir ever made.
posted by theory at 5:05 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


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posted by lalochezia at 5:11 PM on February 5


🗡🛡
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:11 PM on February 5


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posted by queensissy at 5:11 PM on February 5


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posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:18 PM on February 5


I can close my eyes and see:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Lust for Life (1956)
Paths of Glory (1957)
The Vikings (1958)
Spartacus (1960)
Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
Seven Days in May (1964)
The Heroes of Telemark (1965)
The Man from Snowy River (1982)

On the big (or small) screen, The Dimple will live on.
posted by cenoxo at 5:19 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I did not know about his hiring of Dalton Trumbo, with full writing credits, for Spartacus.

Much respect, and , of course

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posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 5:20 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


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Bravo!
posted by mosk at 5:22 PM on February 5


He was a rapist.

You can remove this comment–and ban me from the site–if you like, but it won't change the fact that he was a rapist.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 5:23 PM on February 5 [37 favorites]


He raped Natalie Wood and told her that telling anyone would be the last thing she ever did. She was not the only actress of that era with that story. I hope they found peace.
posted by Etrigan at 5:31 PM on February 5 [35 favorites]


He was a rapist.

I just read that story today. How awful.
posted by suelac at 5:39 PM on February 5


First I've heard of it as well, but I'm not on Twitter, and follow neither the Golden Globes nor Gawker. But there is this: Democratic Underground, and I did go read the original Gawker post that posited it from 2012.

If it's true, then may the afterlife provide suitable punishment and he's unable to do more harm.

If it's not true, the smear won't matter because he's dead, and whatever judgment or reward (or oblivion) he may face has already been delivered.
posted by allandsome at 5:50 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 5:51 PM on February 5


I sampled several sites, some supporting the rape story, some against it. I didn't see the damning evidence. For example, I read that Natalie told her children. I didn't see Natalie's children confirming this. Is there some site that parses this out? In my mind this is not yet a he said she said. It's she allegedly said, which can dip down into the ugly realms of Hollywood rumor.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:53 PM on February 5


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also

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posted by mwhybark at 6:03 PM on February 5


...

why not


I AM SPARTACUS!
posted by mwhybark at 6:05 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


My understanding is the source of the Natalie Wood allegation was that blogger who heavily implied or at least strongly encouraged people to infer they were Robert Downey Jr. They claimed their source was Wood's daughter Natasha who co-starred with Downey Jr. in Two Girls and a Guy, which was directed by James Fucking Toback who even then had a reputation as a stunning creep (Who made 3 movies with Downey Jr.), which at the time made me think that source was either a clueless loser who wanted to look like an insider or a ginormous hypocrite; either way, there wasn't a lot of credibility there.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:21 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Man Without a Star
posted by ovvl at 6:23 PM on February 5


He bought a grass lawn for my sisters' elementary school, which had only blacktop to play on when I was a student there. My sister said he was the oldest man she'd ever seen and when he came to the dedication of the lawn he did a somersault on it. This would have been at least twenty years ago. I got it in my head to look him up a few months ago, remembering this kind thing he did, and couldn't believe he was still kicking.

I know very little about him beyond that, but that blacktop got SO hot in the summer that our shoes stuck on, and having grass to play on must have been so much nicer. I gather he made similar gifts to a whole bunch of local schools. I have no idea why he did it; I have to imagine he just drove by a school one day and saw how hot and uncomfortable it looked to play on the yard, and decided to use some of his money hoard to fix it. It was good of him to do it.
posted by potrzebie at 6:28 PM on February 5 [21 favorites]


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posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:35 PM on February 5


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posted by jim in austin at 7:16 PM on February 5



My understanding is the source of the Natalie Wood allegation was that blogger who heavily implied or at least strongly encouraged people to infer they were Robert Downey Jr.


what an absolutely wild thing to suggest. the allegation has been around not just since before Twitter and Gawker and the internet existed, but for longer than I've been alive. and just to be very clear, I was not born in 2012.

you can wait for Lana Wood to confirm whether it was really him or some other never-suspected yet somehow super-famous Hollywood legend who was responsible, and that would probably be wise. you can say that just because what everybody knew about Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey turned out to be true, it doesn't mean that what everybody knew about Kirk Douglas is necessarily true. a reasonable person with biases I do not share might reasonably hold that position.

but if this is all recent news to you, fresh this past decade, you do not have an understanding of it to offer.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:17 PM on February 5 [13 favorites]


By a total coincidence I started watching The Bad And The Beautiful this afternoon at about 4:15 pm EST. About midway through, for no reason I can ascertain, I was looking at Kirk Douglas on the screen and thinking "boy, Michael Douglas really ended up looking a lot like his father, didn't he?"

And it was just after the movie ended that the news broke.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:44 PM on February 5


He is one of the last of the golden era.

I recently fell into a wiki wormhole and found myself reading about his family, and learned that he was tragically deceased by one of his sons, Eric, who died in 2004. Kirk’s other three sons have had lengthy careers as film producers and, in the case of Michael, as a very bankable actor. Eric gained minor renown as an actor and also tried a career in standup comedy. I will let his Wikipedia page take up the story:
In the early 1990s, Douglas attempted a career as a stand-up comedian. He performed in New York City comedy clubs with much of his self-deprecating material coming from his status as the black sheep of the Douglas dynasty.

Douglas entered British comedy folklore when, during a stand-up performance at The Comedy Store, London, he was angered by the audience's reaction to his stand-up routine and shouted "You can't do this to me, I'm Kirk Douglas's son!" A member of the audience stood up and shouted "No, I'm Kirk Douglas' son," referring to the iconic "I'm Spartacus" scene of the 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas. This ended up with the majority of the audience standing up and repeating the line.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:58 PM on February 5 [28 favorites]


I've always thought he was too ornery to die and would be around to bury me.

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posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:51 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


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I had to check out the age of his almost equally iconic son Michael Douglas, who is "only" 75.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:35 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Please watch his 1991 episode of Tales from the Crypt titled: Yellow
posted by Beholder at 9:41 PM on February 5


Baruch dayan haemet.

According to the following article he lit Shabbat candles at home until 2003, when his wife converted to Judaism - after fifty years of marriage. A complicated person.
How 100-year-old Kirk Douglas found true love
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:00 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


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posted by Pendragon at 11:39 PM on February 5


Ace in the Hole

That's the Kirk Douglas film.
posted by chavenet at 1:01 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


I'm rather fond of The Fury (Brian de Palma, 1978) where Douglas is searching for his psychic son. It's up there with Scanners for its 'using psychic powers to explode a dude' scene.
posted by leibniz at 1:35 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


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I think “I’m Spartacus” was the first on-screen example of solidarity I remember seeing. I mean, yes, the Rebellion in Star Wars, and there must have been others, but that scene struck a new chord.
posted by cupcakeninja at 2:52 AM on February 6


Lonely Are the Brave
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posted by Mister Bijou at 3:32 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I'll always remember him for the greatest deathbed scene on film.
posted by basalganglia at 4:03 AM on February 6


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posted by detachd at 4:53 AM on February 6


And now Olivia de Havilland is the last one, and after she dies all the Golden Age of Hollywood actors will be gone.

She is one of the more glamorous names left, but there are still a few old stars alive.
posted by pracowity at 5:50 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


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posted by MythMaker at 5:53 AM on February 6


NPR's obit said his movie Spartacus by publishing the screen writer's name broke the Hollywood blacklisting of people suspected of commie leanings, so that's a chalkmark in his favor.

I hadn't heard of him being a rapist. Good doesn't cancel bad but he did do good.

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posted by anadem at 6:58 AM on February 6


He probably raped Natalie Wood. He almost certainly raped Natalie Wood. But he still allegedly raped Natalie Wood. Sadly we can never prove now that he did or did not. Oherwise we have judge and jury via rumour and internet forum and we surely don't want to go there.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:00 AM on February 6




Oherwise we have judge and jury via rumour and internet forum and we surely don't want to go there.

No one's suggesting that we imprison his bones or confiscate his estates or engage in literally any sanction against him whatsoever, so feel free to take your "BUT DUE PROCESS" banner to some other issue where you regretfully wring your hands about how you absolutely hashtagbelievewomen, but in this case you'll just never know the real truth so you're forced to take the side that it didn't really happen.
posted by Etrigan at 7:18 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


If you know women who have been raped, then you know the men who rape them.

We like to believe we've never been buddies with a rapist or friendly with a rapist or admired one for his skills. But we have.

That's who rapes the women you know: the men you know. You have been buddies with a guy who assaulted someone. We all have. Even if we did not know it. Even if we would never have thought it. Even if he was ashamed and never did it again.

When you refuse to think someone you know, or someone successful, or someone who had no trouble finding willing partners could--or did--rape someone, you are displaying such willful ignorance, such magical thinking, and some arrogance as well. And it starts to look like a weird or gross unwillingness to understand how and where rapes are perpetrated. And by whom.

I have nothing invested in Kirk Douglas as a human, as an actor, or an icon. He pretty much means nothing to me. But rape is a constant in our culture, partly because we can't conceive we'd ever be friendly with a guy who raped some body because we refuse to recognize who does.
posted by crush at 7:29 AM on February 6 [20 favorites]


What's the opposite of "."

What is the simple equivalent for when someone bad has passed and you want to express negative feelings towards the person's passing existence?
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:49 AM on February 6


There's a detailed description of the violent rape incident Natalie Wood suffered starting on page 172 of Suzanne Finstad's 2001 book Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood. You can read it by searching the book for "rape" at Google Books. I understand why folks who haven't looked into this might question the thin evidence of a fake Robert Downey Jr. account, but there's a reason why Kirk Douglas' name has for decades been associated with this case:

She went to Jackie [Estes, a close high school friend] the morning after it happened, in hysterics; that afternoon she showed up, berserk, at Dennis Hopper's apartment. The following year Natalie would confide the secret to actor Scott Marlowe, her then-boyfriend. At least several other people knew about it from Natalie,including Mary Ann [another high school friend] and Faye Nuell, a friend from Rebel. She revealed the star's identity to each of them.

Natalie's sister Lana also knows the rapist's identity; she was interviewed in 2018 for a podcast about Natalie's death and talks about being 8 years old in the back seat of the car when their mother drove Natalie to the Chateau Marmont for the interview where she was raped, while they waited in the car for hours. Starts at 10:00 here.

She never says "Kirk Douglas," but my assumption (and I'm comfortable making it) is that the long-standing rumors that Douglas is the man responsible stem from the many witnesses at the time who knew or quickly heard who was involved. I've read that Lana Wood has said she'll wait to reveal the name until after the rapist has died, so perhaps we'll know soon. There's apparently an updated version of Finstad's book, including a chapter on the re-opened investigation into her death, due out on March 10, so maybe that will finally name Douglas.
posted by mediareport at 8:50 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


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posted by Splunge at 9:11 AM on February 6


Thank you for posting the twitter thread, Halloween Jack.
posted by winesong at 9:54 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


How Kirk Douglas Overstated His Role in Breaking the Hollywood Blacklist (The Atlantic, July 5, 2012)

For years, those close to Spartacus—the film's sole producer, Edward Lewis, and the family of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo—have quietly disputed Douglas's "breaking the blacklist" story. [...]

"The blacklist is breaking so very fast that we may wake up one of these fine mornings and discover it isn't here at all," Trumbo himself wrote to his lawyer in 1957.

Douglas was using blacklisted writers, too, even before Spartacus. In our conversation with him, he recounted this era to us and said Trumbo was already on the payroll of his production company at the time of the Spartacus project. What he didn't disclose in our interview or his book is that his company was employing blacklisted writers exclusively, benefiting from their discounted rates. Records for Douglas's company, now housed in archives at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, show that in March 1959 he was paying at least four communist writers. "Kirk Douglas was paying my father only a small fraction of what his salary would have been had he not been blacklisted," said Melissa Trumbo. "Producers got terrific deals back then when they hired blacklisted writers—great scripts for very little money."
[...]
In Douglas's account it's his intrepid backroom machinations that finally achieve screen credit for Trumbo. Those we interviewed say that scenario isn't true and, according to Lewis, Douglas had to be prodded to act on Trumbo's behalf. In fact, it was Lewis who directly commissioned Trumbo to write the script. The young producer became Trumbo's "front" and Lewis's byline, instead of Trumbo's, appeared on the script cover. At that point, there was no plan to give Trumbo credit for writing the movie. But as time went on, Lewis said the subterfuge began to gnaw at his conscience. He told us that when it became impossible for the studio to cancel the picture, "I said, 'Take my name off the script.'" Lewis secured for Trumbo a unique financial package: a salary of more than $50,000 plus 4 percent of net producer profits.

posted by Iris Gambol at 10:56 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


So, I posted a dot earlier, knowing nothing about any rape allegations...

Now I'm posting a dot for his rape victim.

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posted by Pendragon at 11:16 AM on February 6


He probably raped Natalie Wood. He almost certainly raped Natalie Wood. But he still allegedly raped Natalie Wood. Sadly we can never prove now that he did or did not. Oherwise we have judge and jury via rumour and internet forum and we surely don't want to go there.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:00 AM on February 6 [+] [!]


Go where? What, exactly, is going to happen to this dead man if we have a discussion about how his power and sex provided him with the means in order to rape a woman and get away with it? A judge and a jury sentence people. Its been proven, again and again and again, that rape "accusations" do not ruin a man's career.
So please, I mean this genuinely, tell me exactly why its a bad idea to vocally support rape victims? Who are you protecting? What are you trying to help? Rapists already have enough people in their corner.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:22 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Wow, Iris Gambol, just read your link about Douglas' claims to have ended the blacklist and it provides compelling evidence that not only was Douglas far from being ahead of the curve, but he also probably knew that he was revising history by claiming to be in the vanguard. Wow.

An excerpt, keeping in mind Spartacus was released in 1960:

"The blacklist is breaking so very fast that we may wake up one of these fine mornings and discover it isn't here at all," Trumbo himself wrote to his lawyer in 1957...

By 1959 Time magazine headlined: "Blacklist Fadeout." Paramount Pictures announced distribution of Chance Meeting, an English drama written and directed by American communists. It was enough to cause actor Ward Bond, a leading anticommunist, to remark, "They're all working now, all these Fifth Amendment communists, and I don't think that anything I say about it will make much difference." Speaking on behalf of his fellow anticommunists, Bond said, "We've lost the fight and it's as simple as that."

Finally, in January 1960, almost a year before Spartacus was released, director Otto Preminger told the press he would be giving Trumbo writing credit for his next film, Exodus. This news report was carried in papers throughout the world. According to the New York Times' obituary of Trumbo, it was "a move that went relatively unopposed in the film community after years of pressures and hand-wringing." That August, news accounts appeared reporting that Trumbo would also be receiving screen credit for Spartacus.


[eta: removed wrong paragraph in the long quote, replaced]
posted by mediareport at 11:20 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Yup. From the same piece: With this view of history still prevailing in Hollywood, it makes sense that Douglas wants to claim credit for breaking the blacklist—it makes him look like a hero, ahead of his time. He's worked hard to keep that story alive. But it wasn't always like this. As described in a 1977 biography of Trumbo and a 2008 memoir by producer Walter Mirisch, the year after Spartacus, Douglas worked to distance himself from Dalton Trumbo. When the screenwriter said that he wanted credit for re-writing Douglas's next picture, Town Without Pity, Douglas feared continued association with Trumbo might hurt his career. Douglas objected to Trumbo having his name on the screen. "I have yielded to Kirk's wishes in this matter," Trumbo wrote to Edward Lewis in 1961, in a letter released to us this week by Trumbo biographer Larry Ceplair.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:12 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Okay, there is so much wrong about the notion that the Hollywood blacklist faded out in the late 1950s. Regardless of the Trumbo quote in 1957, which was wishful (desperate?) thinking, he didn't get a movie credit until 1960 with Spartacus. Preminger announced that Trumbo would be credited on the film Exodus before the Spartacus debut, but Exodus came out after Spartacus.

Others on the Hollywood Ten?
Alvah Bessie had credit for films until 1948. The next one was 1968.
Herbert Biberman, a film a year to 1947. His next screenplay? 1969. (He directed one film in the middle of the blacklist period, Salt of the Earth, 1954)
Lester Cole. Had 40-some credits up to 1947. Two films under other names until 1965.
Edward Dmytryk, a director, didn't seem much affected by the blacklist. Directed many movies throughout the fifties including The Caine Mutiny, 1954.
Ring Lardner, Jr. went uncredited through the 1950s until 1965.
John Howard Larson went uncredited thereafter, with the exception of a teleplay.
Albert Maltz went uncredited in Hollywood films until 1970.
Samuel Ornitz died in 1957 and never had a credit after the HUAC.
Adrian Scott wrote under an assumed name in the 1950s and 60s. He had a television credit (I believe) with his name in 1972.

Other than Dmytryk, a director, Trumbo was far ahead of the others in getting off the blacklist in 1960.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:30 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Apologies if that appeared to be the takeaway, dances_with_sneetches; Mr. Douglas's actions before and after Spartacus w/r/t Mr. Trumbo and the latter's career is the focus of the Atlantic article.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:01 PM on February 7


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