Kirk Douglas is now 95, but in this book he turns his memory back to 1959 when he decided to make the film "Spartacus". This is not simply a film memoir though, as interesting as that might be, because the film had an important and historic event attached to it - the fact a blacklisted writer was given screen credit under their own name for the first time since the fears of McCarthyism.
Dalton Trumbo was one of the most respected writers in Hollywood when he went to jail in 1947 for refusing to incriminate colleagues after he was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee (actually before McCarthy, although that is the name best associated with the witch hunts that followed). While in another prison for similar reasons, author Howard Fast was writing the novel "Spartacus", which was later turned down by seven publishing houses as the author was blacklisted and which he ended up publishing it himself. When Dalton Trumbo was released he went to Mexico and was left having to write under assumed names.
This then is the story of Kirk Douglas discovering Howard Fast's novel and deciding that he wanted to make it into a movie. It is a tale as epic as the movie itself, as he fights a rival production, "The Gladiators", finds his cast (despite a less than enthusiastic Charles Laughton), has problems finding a leading lady, more problems finding a director, fights the censors and deals with the issues that using Dalton Trumbo as his screenplay writer causes. When Douglas decides to use Trumbo's real name on the movie credits he is the first to end the Hollywood blacklist and it is here that the main story of the book is contained. This is a very interesting read by a man who has kindly shared his memories with us and whose brave actions gave back more than one person their career. It was personally important to Dalton Trumbo, but it was an event that changed Hollywood and the film industry, which had been mired in a time of fear of paranoia since the 1940's. Lastly, I read the kindle edition of this book and it contained the illustrations.
on 14 February 2013
This was always one of my favourite films,the action,the music,everything comes together. But it makes me sad when music has been forgotten,script;how often does a film like Heat with Andy MacNab supervising the fight scenes,actors,all of them on fire, Tombstone,the script burning off the screen,so you can see the actors revelling in their roles. Oh how i hate cgi.,music that doesnt send tingles down your spine. I dont even follow actors or directors anymore. Anyway as a free Brit the American political witch-hunts are very hard to understand. Its much more mixed here, with left wing politics trying to control all State organisations,partic media like BBC.Anyway an interesting book on film-making.