February 5, 2020

"He was born Issur Danielovitch on Dec. 9, 1916... 'the son of illiterate Russian Jewish immigrants in the WASP town of Amsterdam,' one of seven children, six of them sisters."

"By the time he began attending school, the family name had been changed to Demsky and Issur had become Isadore, promptly earning him the nickname Izzy. The town’s mills did not hire Jews, so his father, Herschel (known as Harry), became a ragman, a collector and seller of discarded goods. 'Even on Eagle Street, in the poorest section of town, where all the families were struggling, the ragman was on the lowest rung on the ladder... And I was the ragman’s son.' A powerful man who drank heavily and got into fights, the elder Demsky was often an absentee father, letting his family fend for itself. Money for food was desperately short much of the time, and young Izzy learned that survival meant hard work.... [T]he summer after he graduated from college... he decided to change his name legally to something he thought more befitting an actor than Isadore Demsky. (When he chose Douglas, he wrote, 'I didn’t realize what a Scottish name I was taking.')"

From "Kirk Douglas, a Star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Dies at 103/His rugged good looks and muscular intensity made him a commanding presence in films like 'Lust for Life,' 'Spartacus' and 'Paths of Glory'" (NYT).

55 comments:

art.the.nerd said...

Baruch Dayan Emet.

Johnathan Birks said...

"Paths of Glory" remains the best war movie ever made. RIP.

Big Mike said...

There were giants in the film industry once upon a time.

Josephbleau said...

He was a good Eddington in In Harms Way. He played an evil guy that was pretty nice, funny he didn't look Jewish, right?.

roadgeek said...

My wife reminded me tonight of a cheesy Western Kirk Douglas made back in the late 60's with John Wayne called "The War Wagon". They played two very different characters, but they both seemed like they were having a great time working together. Kirk Douglas wore a hilariously terrible black leather outfit, and showed that he was able to mount a horse from the rear; A great stunt, and he did it himself. I never saw a Kirk Douglas movie I didn't enjoy.

roadgeek said...

"Paths of Glory" remains the best war movie ever made. RIP.

Kino Lorber was having a great sale a few months ago, and I picked it up. Never seen it. Heard it's great. Looking forward to it. You don't necessarily associate Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas in the same sentence, but apparently there was good chemistry between the two.

tcrosse said...

He was fabulous in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).

SDaly said...

Natalie Wood’s sister has written that Kirk Douglas raped Natalie when she was 16.

Yancey Ward said...

That is a full life. We are Spartacus.

William said...

It's not every person who survives a massive stroke in old age and then goes on to live another twenty four years. There really was something elemental in his will to not just live but to prevail. He had a presence that really popped out on the screen.

readering said...

"You don't necessarily associate Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas in the same sentence."

Many do because of both Paths of Glory and Spartacus.

SDaly going for the Kobe Bryant angle.

rcocean said...

We get the antisemitism chip right off the block. Way to go NYT's! I sincerely doubt the mill didn't "hire Jews" - and there would have been no reason for Douglas' Father to move there. According to Douglas, his father was a rag merchant, a small businessman, just like he was in the Ukraine.

Kirk was a good actor and a great star but difficult to work with. Fortunately for him, he outlived everyone else, and usually got the last word in. By the time "Ragman's son" was published in 1988, a lot of the old Hollywood types he'd clashed with were either Dead or didn't care. Supposedly, he snatched a newspaper out of Richard Widmark's hand (the way west) and snarled "That's MY newspaper".

He was great in "Champion" "Bad and the Beautiful" "lonely are the brave" and "spartacus". He also was one helluva Viking.

rcocean said...

People give Kurbrick too much credit for Paths of Glory and Spartacus. Kirk was the Producer on both movies and he called the shots.

mccullough said...

I’d read about Kirk Douglas raping a teenage Natalie Wood as well.

rcocean said...

Did natalie woods press charges? Mention while she was alive?

Nope. Case closed.

mccullough said...

She told her friends about it at the time. Her mother told her not to go to the police.

Hollywood has been chock full of shitty people since forever.

dreams said...

He was 28 years and 1 day older than me.

John henry said...

I read his book I am Spartacus a few years back. It was mainly about making the movie and getting Dalton trumbo credit breaking the Hollywood Reporter's 1948 blacklist after 14 years (or so)

OF COURSE he blamed mccarthy for it. OF COURSE there is no basis for that. All in all a very good read, though.

I liked most of the movies I saw him in especially paths of glory.

I already get him mixed up with lloyd bridges, though. No reason in the world i should, I just do.

I also conflate newman and McQueen.

Sorry to see him go but he had the satisfaction of outlive a whole here of assholes.

Godspeed, kirk

mccullough said...

Guy was a drunk and a rapist. Good riddance

Lexington Green said...

Einar, leaping over the most, climbing the axe handles stuck in the drawbridge, somehow lowering the drawbridge, clinging to the chain as it comes rattling down, charging into castle fifty feet ahead of his Viking band, wresting a weapon from the hands of the first man who charges him ... ODIN! That’s the way to take a castle by storm!

Best movie for a ten year old, ever!

Rest In Peace.

Gilbert Pinfold said...

Nothing is new—watch/stream/rent “Ace in the Hole”, a great indictment of the media from 50 + years ago.

Roughcoat said...

Okay I'm going to commit heresy here and say that "Paths of Glory" is not at all a good war movie. And that's all I'll say about that. Except that I'm not a fan of Kubrick's and I think overall he's overrated; however I DO think Dr. Strangelove is a truly great movie and succeeds as both a war movie and a comedy. It is just flat-out belly-laugh hilarious and the cinema verite approach to filming the battle scene at General Ripper's base is quite effective.

Oh, and Dalton Trumbo was a commie bastard.

Hagar said...

He was a good actor, though his style must have been a bit hard on his molars.

effinayright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
readering said...

I think the last KD film I watched, on the small screen, was Lonely Are the Brave. A man out of time in early (19)sixties west.

Roughcoat said...

"The Vikings" was great. Made a big impression on young boys at the time. Young boys like me. I rooted for Einar, he was way cooler than Eric. And Janet Leigh, VA-VA-VOOM!

James K said...

funny he didn't look Jewish,

He rediscovered his Judaism in old age, and became a supporter of Jewish causes and Jewish religious outreach programs.

effinayright said...

rocean said

He also was one helluva Viking.
****************

Agreed.

Back in the day, after seeing Douglas in that movie somehow drunkenly (and successfully) hopping along the extended oar tips of a Viking warship, the guys at beer-soaked UNH fraternity parties would erupt into admiring shouts of "Odin!

ODIN!"

Josephbleau said...

Funny about the rape accusation, in In Harms Way the Douglas character raped a young nurse who killed herself. A little too close to home I would think if he really did it. Or was it an FU I can get away with it?

rcocean said...

"Best movie for a ten year old, ever!"

Agree with that. Loved Ernie Borgnine clutching his sword, and jumping into a pit of hungry wolves. ODIN!!!

Matt said...

He was a Jew? In Hollywood?

Huh. You don't say.

Rory said...

He and Lancaster did a funny movie probably 30 years ago, two ex-cons trying to adapt to the modern world.

Narr said...

POG is a great war movie, not too ambitious, and gets a lot right; Vikings was a mediocre epic but loads of fun as the other boys attest.

Narr
I don't know anything about his sex life. Or care, really

Mark said...

"Paths of Glory" is not at all a good war movie

Maybe. But then again, it's not really a war movie.

It's an anti-war movie.

And one of the most powerful movies showing the utter insanity of World War I.

MadisonMan said...

103 is a long life. How many of his age actors are still around. Is Olivia deHaviland?

Lucien said...

Rory: “Tough Guys”.

mccullough said...

Robert Mitchum was cool and enjoyable to watch. Kirk Douglas was an annoying prick like his son Michael.

Darles Chickens said...

Olivia DeHavilland is still on this side of the sod. Oddly enough, that was the first thing I checked once I heard the news about Kirk Douglas.

whitney said...

Amsterdam was a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant town?

Unknown said...

Temujin said...

He was one of the greats. And apparently also an inspiration for Cory Booker.

Ken B said...

Too bad.
Olivia de Havilland is the last big star from the 30s left.
I think Baby Peggy, from the *silents* is still alive, and she was briefly a very big star.
Lloyd Nolan was never a big star but he is older and last I heard was still working!

daskol said...

It seems like just last year he was doing push-ups at the Oscars.

Otto said...

Now why did Ann chose that headline for this post.Here we have a great actor and she could have made an intro that referenced his abilities but she chose to highlight the article's ant-semitism reference.As far as i can tell it had no big impact on his life. Maybe that was Ann's point. Spit it out Ann, your a rockin feminist.

Quaestor said...

By some strange Jungian synchronicity, I watched an early Kirk Douglas film just before bedtime. (I retired at 1:30 am today.)

The film was Out of the Past, one of the very best film noirs of the genre. Douglas co-stars with Robert Mitchum as a professional gambler with a runaway (and homicidal) girlfriend. He plays his role with the same smooth bonhomie cloaking menace that served him well in later roles.

daskol said...

Out of the Past, with a hat tip to Pickup on South Street, made me like old movies when I saw them in a film survey class.

Daniel said...

Kirk Douglas was my father’s understudy in the play “Kiss and Tell” in 1943.
My father is the David Conlin referenced in this newspaper https://books.google.com/books?id=eAwEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PT3&lpg=PT3&dq=kirk+douglas+david+conlin&source=bl&ots=8o92L6Ss60&sig=ACfU3U0ZugCxVeF9ZdiFApvT2HYa__reXg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi8nvqigLznAhWcJTQIHa80Av4Q6AEwDHoECAEQAQ#v=onepage&q=kirk%20douglas%20david%20conlin&f=false

*** Note to David Begley, my girlfriend just returned from Cloisters on the Platte and is over the moon about it. I am definitely going to go next winter if I can get a spot.

Narr said...

Maybe we can talk about PoG, that great/notgreat war/antiwar movie tomorrow, but I'm going to bed now.

Except to say, that IMHO it's a little gem, Kubrick at his starkest. Watch the way the French generals maneuver, bluff, and feint in their chats, and how the mechanism of war traps and grinds men both on and off the front--all visualized so well.

It's almost a pre-Catch-22 in some ways: the audience might think, "If only officers like Dax were promoted, it would be so much better," only to realize that officers like Dax don't get promoted.

Narr
Not often enough, anyway

Johnathan Birks said...

People give Kurbrick too much credit for Paths of Glory and Spartacus. Kirk was the Producer on both movies and he called the shots.

First of all, it's Kubrick. Second, Spartacus wasn't a Kubrick movie, it was a Tony Mann movie. Kubrick was brought in after Mann was fired one week into filming, by Douglas, based on his work with PoG. That film was Kubrick's baby from soup to nuts.

Yancey Ward said...

"He and Lancaster did a funny movie probably 30 years ago, two ex-cons trying to adapt to the modern world."

"Tough Guys". A very charming movie. Directed by the same guy who did "Revenge of the Nerds", and the long forgotten movie "Gotcha" that had the actress who played the pathologist in "Men in Black", Linda Fiorentino.

rcocean said...

"Second, Spartacus wasn't a Kubrick movie,"

Yeah. that's what I said. That's for repeating it. The "correction" of nothing.

rcocean said...

Amsterdam NY was not a "Wasp" town. Bizarre.

rcocean said...

Top Ten Kirk movies:

01. Young Man with a Horn
02. Champion
03. Bad and the Beautiful
04. Lust for Life
05. Vikings
06. Spartacus
07. Paths of Glory
08. War Wagon
09. There was a Crooked Man
10. Lonely are the Brave

wendybar said...

My husband grew up in Amsterdam, his parents did before him. They were proud of Kirk Douglas, he left Amsterdam, and never looked back. It used to be a BEAUTIFUL city full of factories with plenty of work. Now it is like an old run down ghost town. Businesses moved out leaving run down houses, and hardly any jobs unless you go to Albany.

stephen cooper said...

Top ten "Kirk Douglas" rapes -

well there is probably the Natalie Wood one, and probably at least nine others we do not know about.

Stop idolizing bad people simply because they are rich and famous. Your own life, and your appreciation for those you love, will be all the better for it.