By Dennis Hartley
Kirk Douglas December 9, 1916-February 5, 2020
This one hurts. Not a shocker at age 103. But still…this one hurts. Beyond a legend…last of a breed. Where do I even begin?
In his 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son, Kirk Douglas wrote:
The biggest lie is the lie we tell ourselves in the distorted visions we have of ourselves, blocking out some sections, enhancing others. What remains are not the cold facts of life, but how we perceive them. That’s really who we are.
An astute and particularly self-aware observation for an actor to make. After all, you could say that actors “lie” for a living, always pretending to be someone they are not; “blocking out some sections, enhancing others” to best serve the character. That said, the best actors are those who can channel this human flaw into a superpower that brings us face-to-face with “the cold facts of life” when necessary and reveal universal truths about “who we are”.
Kirk Douglas could do that with a glance, a gesture, a shrug. He was a very physical actor, but you had a sense there was a carefully calibrated intelligence informing every glance, every gesture, every shrug.
He played heroes and villains with equal elan but injected all of his characters with a relatable humanity. He was one of the last players standing from the echelon of “classic” Hollywood…a true movie star.
I hope the Academy does him justice with a worthy tribute Sunday night. He deserves one. Ru in shlum, Issur Danielovitch Demsky.
Ultimately, the work speaks for itself. There are so many great Douglas films, but here are 15 “must-sees” available right now via cable on-demand and rentals (this is based on my Xfinity package; so depending on your subscriptions, “results may vary”-as they say).
Spartacus (HITZ on demand)
Paths of Glory (ScreenPix on demand)
Ace in the Hole (Paramount PPV)
Lust for Life (Xfinity PPV)
Seven Days in May (Warner Brothers PPV)
Out of the Past (Warner Brothers PPV)
Lonely Are the Brave (Universal PPV)
Detective Story (Paramount PPV)
Gunfight at the OK Corral (STARZ on demand)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (EPIX, Prime Video, tubi)
Young Man With a Horn (Warner Brothers PPV)
The Bad and the Beautiful (Xfinity PPV)
Two Weeks in Another Town (TCM on demand)
I Walk Alone (Paramount PPV)
The Man From Snowy RIver (STARZ on demand)