on 1 March 2013
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.
on 2 January 2013
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.
on 15 March 2015
I've been a Kirk Douglas fan since 1949 after seeing Champion, Spartacus has been my favourite movie since 1960, I also love to read about the making of movies, and every movie has a a story on it, so naturally I was going to love this book. I first saw Spartacus as a road show movie in Newcastle, then many years later I saw the restored version in London at a cinema with the largest screen in Europe, certainly my best night ever at the movies. I was lucky enough to meet Mr Douglas in NYC some years back. He did give the making of Spartacus an entire chapter, but this goes into much more, and I enjoyed every page.
on 20 July 2012
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".