I’m ashamed to admit this but looking at his filmography, I’ve only seen 4 of his feature films. FOUR! He’s made over 80 movies and I’ve only seen four. And 2 of them are not highly regarded, like Saturn 3 for instance. Although he did beat the snot out of Harvey Keitel—buck naked—so there’s that. But seriously, the man is a (still) living legend and I’m missing out on probably real bona fide classics.
Reading his short biography on Wikipedia, I’m stunned at how much grit and determination he had to excel as an actor and producer in golden age of Hollywood. Lauren Bacall, who befriended Kirk early in his career, basically had to clothe and feed him because he was so poor. He became a major star by not just his good looks but by actually caring about his roles and the art form of acting. Eschewing a larger paycheck for a lavish role in The Great Sinner, he chose instead to gamble on a little noir boxing flick, The Champion that later went on to garner 6 Academy awards including best actor for Douglas. It was his pride in his work and skills to challenge himself that raises him above the common actor of his time and that pride carried over to his producing duties as well.
I just read a quote from Douglas about filmmaking that I cannot agree with more:
“To me it is the most important art form—it is an art, and it includes all the elements of the modern age.”
I don’t know when he said this or to whom but he’s absolutely right. And because he always has had a high regard for all elements of filmmaking he is considered a true pioneer of the industry. He’s also regarded as the person to end the Hollywood Blacklist when he gave actual credit to Dalton Trumbo for Spartacus.
But getting back to me for a moment, I’m wondering why I’ve only seen 4 of his pictures. I’ve seen dozens of Michael Douglas movies and most of his movies are not that good. I like Michael Douglas, a lot actually, but I will be first to admit that his movies are less to be desired like Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, Disclosure, A Perfect Murder to name a few. So is it possible that Kirk’s filmography is just as mediocre or great flicks are few and far between? I see something called Scalawag that he made in 1973 where he plays a peg-legged pirate. That can’t be that good right? And I see a western called The Villain with the then relative-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a cowboy. That has to be a chore to sit through. Scanning through his early works, especially his westerns and war pictures, they all seem to average around the 5.5 rating scale on imdb. Not saying that they are bad movies, but like his son, maybe just decent products of their time. I can’t imagine too many millennials watching old Michael Douglas flicks other than Wall Street. But my point really being is, sure Kirk Douglas is a damn fine actor but maybe only for the golden age of Hollywood’s time. Just like Michael Douglas is a damn fine actor for the 80s–90s time era. That’s probably why I haven’t seen too many old Kirk Douglas movies, because, well frankly, they aren’t that good to see 50 years later.
But I will admit that some sure do seem interesting, like Scalawag. Surely Kirk Douglas playing a pirate with an actual peg-leg has to be entertaining. I trust Kirk Douglas enough that if I see his name on a poster for an old golden age Hollywood feature I will pique interest. And most of his old movies have great co-stars like John Wayne, James Mason, Anthony Quinn, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Walter Matthau. I can easily sit and try out these golden classics one day when I have free time.
Well anyway, given that we seem to be having a rough year with all the sudden celebrity deaths, at least we still have a very tough and virile centenarian. Here’s to another 100 years Kirk!