Today is the 100th birthday of actor Kirk Douglas.
With over 90 acting credits on IMDB, Douglas is one of my favorite actors of all time, and one whose films are part of my personal history. The guy’s been Spartacus, he’s been Van Gogh, he’s been Ulysses, Doc Holliday and Ned Land.
So, not knowing how to celebrate the birthday of this icon, I decided to do a post about the five Kirk Douglas movies I like the most.
Nothing fancy – just a trailer and a paragraph with some personal notes.
Ace in the Hole (1951)
Claustrophobic and cynical, Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole brings true noir sensibility to a melodramatic act, and is as cutting and significant today as it was in 1951.
Kirk Douglas is a ruthless journalist in search of his big story, with little care for the people involved. A movie that defines the aggressive media exploitation that we sometimes take for granted.
The Big Sky (1952)
A different western for a kid growing up in Italy in the 1970s, The Big Sky casts Kirk Douglas as a trapper on his way back to civilization, crossing dangerous tribal land with a small army of hunters.
Great adventure directed by all-time favorite Howard Hawks.
Condensed but impressive version of the Odyssey with Douglas in the role that he was born to play, smart and unconventional hero Ulysses, on his ten-years trip back to his hoimeland. Beautiful Silvana Mangano plays both seductress Circe and faithful wife Penelope, while Anthony Quinn is a masterful bad guy as Antinoo.
Shot on location in the Mediterranean, this is an often overlooked fantasy classic, and it was shot in 3D and co-directed by horror master Mario Bava.
20.000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Classic Disney adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel, casts Douglas as harpoon-master Ned Land, and gives him a singing part.
The Vikings (1958)
With all due respect for recent TV shows, these are still the true Vikings for me. Historically dubious but big with adventure, derring-do and sheer cheeky over-the-top acting from Douglas, that does a lot of his own stunts.
Did I say five?
Well, I lied.
Out of the Past (1947)
One of the greatest noirs of all time, and Douglas in a sinister, evil turn.
Cruel, stylish and baffling, they don’t make them like this anymore.
Gunfight at the OK Corrall (1957)
The actual shoot-out took about two minutes, but this huge movie turns it into a Greek-tragedy-style affair, and it’s amazing. All star cast directed by John Sturges and featuring Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Rhonda Fleming, John Ireland and a very young Dennis Hopper.
One of those films my father could watch forever – and how blame him?
Tough Guys (1986)
Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in their old age still pack enough carisma and star power to make this simple movie a true gem.
And this is it.
Happy birthday, mr Douglas!