The great Kirk Douglas had a face that stood out from other Hollywood stars. The long-creased dimples running up the sides of his face when he smiled. The deep dent in his chin. The million-dollar smile paired with a bright-eyed stare. A voice that could roar louder than any costar. A presence that will live on forever.
On Wednesday, the screen legend passed away at the age of 103. Douglas’ career spanned over six decades, tackling a wide variety of strong, but flawed characters. He was the hard-hitting opportunist boxer Midge Kelly in 1949’s The Boxer, a Hollywood producer with questionable ethics in 1952’s The Bad And The Beautiful, and he excelled as tortured legendary artist Vincent van Gogh in 1956’s Lust For Life. Each of those previous roles earned him an Oscar nomination. However, it was his performance as the slave who revolted against the decadent Roman Empire in 1960’s Spartacus that would become arguably his most recognized work.
While Douglas led a controversial lifestyle behind the scenes, one of his most memorable acts involved the release of this Roman epic. The film’s screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, had been blacklisted during the Red Scare in the mid-20th century. Trumbo, as well as the original novelist of Spartacus Howard Fast, faced harsh criticism and accusations, making it difficult for their work to be seen. Douglas, whose company produced the film, refused to hide Trumbo’s involvement in the creation of the film. His acts attributed the appropriate credit to Trumbo, taking a stance against the propaganda created by McCarthyism.
To live over a century is quite a feat, but in the case of Kirk Douglas, it seems fitting. If anyone in the history of film is deserving of such a reign, it is Douglas. A film legend like no other whose name will forever belong in the annals of the industry. For those who have yet to witness his cinematic greatness, a few of his films are available on Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu. This writer recommends you add them to your queue soon.
Rest in peace, Kirk. And yes, you are Spartacus. Forever.
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