February 11th, 2020

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas was one of the uber-males of the post-war period. Muscles, teeth, attitude. His particular schtick was that he wasn't altogether very nice. Mitchum was sublimely cool, Wayne was rock solid, but Douglas had something wolfish about him- which is a politer way of saying priapic. A good percentage of his standout roles were villainous. He had a vast amount of energy- and energy is morally neutral and can jump either way.

He wore less well than most of his peers. Wolfishness becomes creepiness as a man ages- and he became difficult to cast- too off-centre to convince as a patriarch. His era of supremacy lasted for about twenty years- between the end of the war and the mid-sixties. His dream role (he'd played it on stage) was McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest but by the time the money had been drummed up to put it on film the producer, who happened to be his son, had the parricidal job of telling him, "Dad, you're too old"- and the part went to the equally wolfish, less ruggedly masculine but crucially younger Jack Nicholson.

He was in some great movies. Spartacus is deeply flawed but imperishable, Paths of Glory is a masterpiece, Ace in the Hole is a masterpiece too. Lust for Life showed he was capable of stepping well outside his comfort zone. The one I haven't seen but am told I must is Lonely Are The Brave.