My movies one of the movies' leading men traces his path to screen glory

By David Everitt
Updated September 09, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

During his 48-year moviemaking career, three-time Academy Award nominee Kirk Douglas has proved himself to be one of Hollywood’s most dynamic and durable leading men. With the video release of his 81st movie, the ensemble comedy Greedy, the 77-year-old actor (and author of the recent novel Last Tango in Brooklyn) looks back at the best of his film work.

*Champion (1949, Republic) Champion was the movie that propelled me into stardom, if you will, and it’s funny because it was a movie that my agent fought against my doing. Nobody ever heard of the producer, Stanley Kramer, or the writer, Carl Foreman. They had no money, and at that time, my agent had me set to do an all-star MGM picture with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner called The Great Sinner. They thought I was crazy when I said, ”I don’t want to do that; I want to do this little boxing picture.” And Champion turned out to be very successful. So, you don’t know.

*The Bad and the Beautiful (1952, MGM/UA) This is one of the rare movies about the movie industry that seems to work. I thought director Vincente Minnelli assembled a very interesting cast and made a movie that was believable. The character I played (a filmmaker) had some good qualities; he had a lot of bad qualities. The movie showed the warts of Hollywood. It didn’t try to paint a gilded picture.

*Lust For Life (1956, MGM/UA) I was always intrigued by the story of Vincent Van Gogh. Think of the talent-yet he died never knowing what a great artist he was. I found that so tragic. And in making Lust for Life, we went to all the locations (that figured in his life), so I felt like I was sort of living his life. It was a very painful life and (making the movie was) a very painful experience.

*Paths Of Glory (1957, MGM/UA) A movie that was banned in France for around 20 years, which sort of surprised me. The movie was based in France but it was not anti-French, it was antiwar. (Before this) Stanley Kubrick had made a little picture, The Killing—hardly anyone knew about it, but I thought it was very good. And I asked him if he had any scripts. He had Paths of Glory, written with Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson, and I loved it. He had trouble setting it up. I said, ”I don’t know if it’ll ever make a nickel, but we have to make this movie.” Kubrick did such a wonderful job of directing it. He gave it such an immediacy—you thought you were really there.

*Spartacus (1960, MCA/ Universal) It’s interesting, there are so many interpretations of Spartacus. In Russia, they think it’s their fight for freedom. Someone else thinks of it as the fight of the underdog. Someone else might say, ”Well, it’s any slave revolt.” Dalton Trumbo-I (helped break) the blacklist (as executive producer) by using him-wrote such a wonderful script, and it had a very unusual cast. You think of Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas-you have a hell of a good cast.

*Lonely Are The Brave (1962, MCA/Universal) My favorite film. It was a wonderful little picture-done on a very modest budget-which has become a cult film, and deservedly so. It’s such an interesting theme (authorities use recent technology to track down an escaped-con cowboy) and Jack Burns was really a fascinating character. He had the philosophy of the early West. It’s a modern story, but I always wanted to call it The Last Cowboy. You see, Jack had that wonderful free spirit that doesn’t exist much now. Here he is bucking against the complications of modern society.

Lust for Life

  • Movie
  • 122 minutes
  • Vincente Minneli