Monday, June 8, 2009

Favorite Actors, #9: Kirk Douglas

First Movie I Saw Him In: The Fury (1978; probably on cable in 1979)

Three Favorite Movies: Young Man With a Horn (1950); The Bad and the Beautiful (1952); Man Without a Star (1955)

Honorable Mention: Ace In the Hole (1951)

Favorite Performance:
Detective Story (1951)

Why I Like Him: Kirk never came off like a relic from "the old days" when I was a kid, though I always loved old movies and TV shows, but Douglas has a vitality that never dates itself. He's the most intense actor of the pre-Brando era and played nasty S.O.B.s better than anyone, even Robert Ryan. I still try and impersonate Douglas' slow-burning anger routine in his voice just before he explodes in an incandescent rage. He's intense!!! Some of my favorite Kirk Douglas rage moments: Kirk in Young Man With a Horn having a crack up at a bar; his explosion of anger at Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful and then kicking her to the curb; In Harm's Way (1965), when Douglas is leaving the morgue after identifying the body of his trollop of a wife. His look of pure misery (along with Jerry Goldsmith's amazing underscore) brings home that Douglas intensity.

Random Info: Ivy League cesspool Harvard used to bestow a "Kirk Douglas Overacting Award" in the 1950s and 60s.

The Old Lion: Kirk at the Golden Globe Awards, 1986.


  1. Ivy League cesspool Harvard used to bestow a "Kirk Douglas Overacting Award" in the 1950s and 60s.

    Just one of many reasons I find it difficult to trust people with Ivy League degrees.

  2. No mention of Spartacus? That was my first Kirk film - I saw it in school when I was like twelve or so, I was the only one that was sucked into it! (Probably one of my first classic film inspirations, too.)
    I also like him in A Letter to Three Wives, even though his part is quite small. As you say about his intensity - remember when his wife's boss breaks his new record? I believe that's one of those "slow-burning anger routines" you're talking about!

  3. "Intense" was the perfect word to describe Kirk Douglas! Only Burt Lancaster matched him in this respect. My favorite Douglas performance (for which he should have won the Oscar): "Lust for Life." He looked like he was born to play Van Gogh.

  4. He's one of my favorites. I've watched him in countless movies. One of my favorites is "The Vikings."

  5. Out of the Past with Robert Mitchum. Douglas plays a gangster.

  6. So many great films though I agree with R.D. Kirk wasborn to play Van Gogh in Lust for Life and yes he should have won an Oscar for that role.

    Other favorite Kirk's are - The Bad and the Beautiful, Detective Story, Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Ace in the Hole and two with Burt, Seven Days in May and Gunfight at the OK .Corral with

  7. I fleshed out Kirk's entry; gotta give ol' Issur Danielovitch his due.


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