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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars KIRK DOUGLAS - LAST MAN STANDING, 20 July 2012
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My original recollection of Kirk Douglas is a personal one and goes way back to my young childhood. In fact, I'm sure that I was only round about 4 or 5 years of age when my father took me in quick succession to see him in his two classic epics: The Vikings & Spartacus. And through watching entranced at those action packed films, I immediately became a fan for life.
It's very obvious that Kirk Douglas now appears to have outlived and outlasted the majority of his contemporaries. Former co-stars such as Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Anthony Quinn, John Wayne & Robert Mitchum, have all passed on, while Douglas still remains. And then of course he has also initiated a dynasty, with his eldest son Michael triumphing as an actor/producer in his very own right and with an equal amount of success, almost eclipsing the achievements of his father.

The story surrounding the making of Spartacus is politically illuminating and equally fascinating, and one that Douglas himself (at the sprightly age of 95!) has recently put down in print with a book entitled: I Am Spartacus: Making A Movie, Breaking The Blacklist.
During production of the film, he became instrumental in helping to break down the fear and paranoia that was overshadowing the Hollywood community during the McCarthy era, by hiring a blacklisted screenwriter - Dalton Trumbo.
Douglas never set out on a personal moralistic crusade against the blacklist, nor did he see himself with a particular political agenda. He just felt that as an actor, a producer and an American citizen, the entire notion of the blacklist and the fear it engendered - within the artistic community and the film industry - was fundamentally wrong, unjust and un-American. And so he strongly felt that it was the correct thing to do to place screenwriter Trumbo's name on the films opening credits as the true author of the film.
This act may well have been viewed controversial at the time, but he was later widely applauded for his bravery and foresight in helping to remove the political shackles of an unsavoury period in American history. Even today, figures such as George Clooney salute him for his strength of conviction in doing the right thing at the right time.

But if that was not enough, Douglas also had to contend with a potential rival production.
It appeared that there might well have been two Spartacus's emerging onto the screen in 1960. Not only with Douglas himself, but also one with Yul Brynner in a proposed film called The Gladiators.
But Douglas shrewdly and with the skill of a practiced diplomat, outmanoeuvred the rival production, eventually leaving the field free for himself. Brynner retreated amicably and had to console himself with another film about to be made in Mexico called...The Magnificent Seven.

Throughout much of the seventies, eighties and beyond, Kirk Douglas would continue to work prodigiously. But then as age beckoned, he began to slowly step back from acting and take up less strenuous work such as writing, which he greatly enjoyed, as well as immersing himself, with his wife Anne in many philanthropic activities that are close to his heart.
Over the past couple of decades, he has endured a stroke, survived a mid air crash and suffered the tragic loss of his youngest son.
But he is still very much with us in body, in spirit and on screen.
A true original and a man who may well have been both "bad & beautiful" in his prime, but a man who has always been filled with an enormous "lust for life".
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Am Spartacus!, 12 Jun 2012
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S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Am Spartacus, 26 Oct 2013
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Great book on how this film was made or should I say almost not made due to the Hollywood set up at the time and the communist persecutions going on at that time too....Kirk Douglas is a great story teller at the best of times....all his other books back up my statement.
For anyone who wants to know the full insights to this film then this is the book for you or really anyone who likes to know about Hollywood and Kirk Douglas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Memorable, 1 Mar 2013
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Other reviewers have described at length the content of this short book, and so I repeat what has been admirably noted. The book proceeds at a rapid clip, telling an interesting story. I harbour slight doubts about whether Kirk Douglas was single-handedly responsible for "breaking the blacklist" but this isn't really relevant. If I have a real cavil it's that after the scene has been set everything tails off rather. The interesting triumvirate of Olivier, Laughton and Ustinov stand out, and it would be interesting to read more about them, but the subtitle of the book suggests, fairly enough, that the book isn't about them. There are some rare photos (although reproduction is poor). One page that particluarly amused me included four photos of Charles Laughton wearing slightly different expressions of boredom in each. The page is titled "The Many Faces of Charles Laughton" The foreword by George Clooney doesn't seem to have been proof-read very carefully, and on the back cover Henry Kissinger delivers a quote which suggests he thinks that the film was actually called I Am Spartacus, but none of this really matters. The book is an interesting insight into an interesting footnote in Hollywood history, from someone who was there. You can't ask for much more than that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No I AM Spartacus, 2 Jan 2013
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Books about the making of films proliferate today.This has to be one of the best particularly,unlike most of the others,it is written by the film's producer and star.It is an important film on a number of levels.Obviously the most important is the breaking of the blacklist.Then there is the emergence of Stanley Kubrick as a top rank director.Interestingly enough in years to come he would not acknowledge the fact that he directed this film as he was too much of a perfectionist to be satisfied with it.It is still one of the best of the epics made in that period.
Douglas is a fine writer and it is clear that he still feels as passionately about the film as he did when he made it over 50 years ago.Although not a long book in terms of text it is nevertheless an absorbing read and well worth the effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Making of a film and end of a blacklist, 6 Mar 2014
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Very interesting book and well written.anyone who is interested ion how films are made should have a lot of pleasure in reading this book if you have not seen the film or even if you have gives a good insight into the Times and politics well worth reading. Mike london
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5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, 28 Dec 2013
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I really enjoyed this book from start to finish.
Would have loved to have seen the original cut of the film as Kirk Douglas made it
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5.0 out of 5 stars ... of time and it was a gift and they loved it., 3 Aug 2014
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This review is from: I Am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist (Audio CD)
Arrived in plenty of time and it was a gift and they loved it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 28 July 2014
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Enjoyable read ( always been a Kirk Douglas fan) good value.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Am Spartacus!, 14 Feb 2013
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Keith Aitken (Wakefield, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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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.
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