Kirk Douglas, Towering Icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Dies at 103

WNYC 93.9 FM
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So that's from the nineteen sixty film Spartacus it's Kirk Douglas in one of the best known scenes of his long Hollywood career Kirk Douglas died yesterday at the remarkable age of a hundred and three throughout the fifties and sixties he embodied a certain romantic idea of Old World masculinity in his films he often made movies about cowboys and soldiers prize fighters and rebels his most famous movie was Spartacus but the movie that made him a Hollywood star with the nineteen forty nine boxing movie champion the person he was in real life often mirrored the tough man that he portrayed on screen Kirk Douglas had a difficult childhood he grew up in New York in extreme poverty he actually was a wrestler and spent time in the navy before his success on Broadway he later went on to make movies that now define the era of Hollywood classics in nineteen eighty one Kirk Douglas received the presidential medal of freedom and fifteen years later he earned an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement Jason Gorder he's a movie critic and a big fan of Kirk Douglas is work and he's here to reflect on the actors impact on the film world to chase and thanks for being here my pleasure and honor to speak about this giant of talent what do you think when you think Kirk Douglas I think somebody that helped change what we think of of modern cinema frankly he's he bridge is very much the gap between sort of the traditional Hollywood leading man that's sort of you know the beautiful dimple in the middle of his chin the incredible physique a sort of sense that we had of the strong man the strong big actor but is also somebody that brought a great deal sensitivity to his character system the steps two wasn't simply a matinee idol who somebody that sort of brought through his performance a dramatic richness that would we'd be exhibited in many of his contemporaries people like Burt Lancaster but also into people like Marlon Brando who get celebrations and more but he also brought a very political a sophisticated political angle to his films he somebody that absolutely shifted the conversation but what it was like to be a performer not simply studio tool but somebody that could take charge of his own career and shift at and that's when the look of the great things that he did everything that we saw after the fact of of these performers that are able to shape their careers much more explicit way he was a pioneer on that front would you consider that is greatest contribution or what for you just it gleams above all the rest I mean for me my personal connection or to serve master pieces which are the films that he did with Kubrick puzzle glory was a film that nobody wanted to make nobody wanted to make this sort of anti war sophisticated look at World War one it was sort of it was a war that nobody was particularly interested in such a grisly film that about moral ambivalence that wasn't really to be taken up and he and his production company Brina named after his mother foster got the money together now a great deal the budget went towards him but nonetheless he gave a shot to this this quirky New York filmmaker called Stanley Kubrick an fifty seven nineteen sixty while he was doing Spartacus the other our grand collaboration there's another director and after a week Douglas realize this is not going to work and he brought in correct now that the dynamic between the two of them was a little tenuous but none the less he brought this to start the superstar director to one of the sort of last big epic Hollywood cast of thousands films and still injected with the with this real subtlety and real intelligence of performance and finally with Spartacus again the connection Douglas Trumbull is it was Kirk Douglas who unapologetically said this blacklisted armed writer is going to get credit actually John F. Kennedy cross the picket line in order to see Spartacus this is what broke the blacklist the famous arms those that were accused of being communists so in so many ways I Kirk Douglas of star power was used for good he was used to bring stories to screen that would have been brought otherwise he brought directors that otherwise Hollywood didn't think that were I'm sufficiently commercial and you brought to light the hypocrisy of actually bring these writers to to dream if for the if you only watch two forms of Kirk Douglas these are ones actually fully sober in you know a lot of people will be doing that tonight I want to play you a clip from almost thirty years ago no looking back I realize I was much more successful when I forgot about being a hit for years I proclaim loudly that a movie must be good entertainment no messages for me but I've changed it must in some small way touch improve humanity that was Kirk Douglas accepting a lifetime achievement award from the American film institute and you can hear that Douglas was ingesting this chiseled jaw line or a typical Hollywood celebrity of the era is like you say he was a man of principle and you're quite cranky I hear that a lot of people didn't get along with him but is that how he will be remembered do you think is a man of principle was incredibly philanthropic and and again his story is fascinating he has for his father was a smart the dealer a rag command in upstate New York came from nothing I'm dealt with severe anti semitism the sun changes name sort of inculcates himself into Hollywood as a sort of brash fully American leading man from that he saw the the division between high and low and he really took that film trophic spirit that's that moral spirit the moral conviction through his career what a hundred three is a long time to live but he lived a very very full life and I believe when he was getting at AFI award he had just been in a tragic helicopter accident then here he is again I'm coming to the fore because he was called his performance he was there to actually have the signs that he also had a stroke he's kind of had nine lives and his son Michael Douglas was watching all of this and he's an acting icon in his own right do you think that that what is it from Kirk Douglas that you see that Michael Douglas has it has in him I mean I've said the drive the conviction but of the the big deal is that once a problem OR one flew over the cuckoo's nest was a Kirk Douglas production he actually did the stage production he got the rights again he saw this very quirky very politically charged project his son would eventually produce the film in the Afghan Oscar glory because of that so so the the tradition certainly carries along with Michael Douglas but the I mean it's it's for for viewers who are not familiar with this film we just don't really have a Kirk Douglas anymore the system doesn't really work with that but we have certain people the Brad Pitt's of this world who are stars but also bringing in these films after their production so it's quite remarkable thank you so much Jason Jason is a film critic he joins us live in the studio to talk about the death of Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas who died yesterday at the age of a hundred

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