Tag Archives: Kirk Douglas

Classic Hollywood Birthdays


Emmett Kelly, circus performer (1898-1979)

Berton Churchill, actor (1876-1940)
Hermione Gingold, actress (1897-1987)
Carol Dempster, actress (1901-1991)
Lawrence Edward Watkin, writer & producer (1901-1981)
Margaret Hamilton, actress (1902-1985)
Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter & novelist (1905-1976)
Douglas Fairbanks Jr., actor (1909-2000)
Broderick Crawford, actor (1911-1986)
Joyce Redman, actress (1915-2012)
Kirk Douglas, actor, producer & author (1916- )
Dina Merrill, actress (1925- )
Dick Van Patten, actor, businessman & animal welfare advocate (1928-2015)
John Cassavetes, actor, director & screenwriter (1929-1989)
Beau Bridges, actor (1941- )

Classic Movie Night Recommendation

Ben-Hur (1959)

Tuesday, February 17th

8:00PM (ET)


Ben-Hur_2Set around the birth and life of Christ, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) through a series of brief encounters is an observer of Christ’s life and death. However, this is not about the life of Christ, rather an epic centered on a man seeking revenge. Judah Ben-Hur’s life has been one of privilege, as a Jewish trader he has connections to Romans who occupy Judea. One such being his childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) who has returned to Judea as commander of the Roman garrison. Messala believes in the power of Rome and attempts his friendship with Ben-Hur to gain information about the Jewish inhabitants. Ben-Hur refuses to be disloyal to his people and his faith. Thus, setting up these two old friends to become bitter rivals both fighting for their own beliefs and loyalties.

Ben-Hur_3During the parade for the new governor of Judea, Valerius Gratus (Mino Doro), a loose tile falls frightening the governors horse and killing him. In protecting his sister, Ben-Hur is accused of the crime and it is his old friend Messala who sends Ben-Hur to a miserable existence as a galley-slave, a fate which ensures his certain death. But this is not the end of Ben-Hur who in another series of events, saves the Roman consol Quintus Artius (Jack Hawkins). Artius adopts Ben-Hur as his son, giving him all the rights and privileges or a Roman citizen. Ben-Hur now travels back to Judea to confront the man who ruined his life and his family, all culminating into one of the largest action sequences on film, a great chariot race.

Ben-Hur_4Ben-Hur (1959) would not only be known for the great chariot race sequence, but also for the fact that it saved MGM from bankruptcy. MGM needed a way to pull movie goers away from their television sets at home. MGM also had reserves of funds in the way of movie profits in foreign countries that could only be spent in the respective countries. MGM decided to use some of these profits to film a grand epic set in the time of ancient Rome, Quo Vadis (1951). It was then decided that they would reuse the sets and costumes from Quo Vadis for another Roman epic, a remake of MGM’s 1925 epic film, Ben-Hur. Even prior to 1925, Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ was a popular book written by Lew Wallace and published in 1880. Until this point, Wallace had been a lawyer, a general in the United States Army, and a judge at the trial of the assassins of Abraham Lincoln. He had dreamed of becoming a writer, and wrote Ben-Hur while serving as governor of New Mexico. The book was later turned into a stage play which ran from 1899-1921 consisting of a water battle and chariot race.

Ben-Hur_5Charlton Heston was the not the first choice for the role of Judah Ben-Hur, the role was originally offered to an array of Hollywood lead actors including: Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson, Geoffrey Horne, Leslie Nielsen, and Kirk Douglass. However, Heston at this point was no stranger to epic films starring in Cecil B. DeMille’s final two films, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and The Ten Commandments (1956). The later probably providing him sufficient background and insight that would benefit him in his Academy Award winning role of Ben-Hur.

Ben-Hur_6Ben-Hur was the highest grossing film of 1959 and the second highest grossing film of all-time behind Gone with the Wind (1939). It is the perfect picture to watch in honor of Oscar season. The film though nominated for 12 awards, would win 11 awards at the 32nd Academy Awards in 1960 a record that would be matched later by Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003):

  • Best Picture- Sam Zimbalist
  • Best Director- William Wyler
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role- Charlton Heston
  • Best Actor in a supporting Role- Hugh Griffith
  • Best Art Direction- Set Direction, Color- Edward C. Carfagno & William A Horning, Hugh Hunt
  • Best Cinematography, Color- Robert L. Surtees
  • Best Special Effects- Arnold Gillespie, Robert Macdonald & Milo Lory
  • Best Film Editing- John D. Dunning & Robert E. Winters
  • Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture- Miklós Rózsa
  • Best Sound Recording- Franklin Milton

The Bad and the Beautiful (1953)

The Bad and The Beautiful

Classic Movie Night Recommendation:

The Bad and the Beautiful (1953)

Saturday, January 4th

8:00PM (ET)

The Bad and The Beautiful_1

The Bad and The Beautiful_7

Top: Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas)
Below: James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), and Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan)

Over the course of eighteen years producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) has shamelessly used people in his quest for success in Hollywood.  Actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), and director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) are three of Shields’ victims.  However, despite their encounters with Shields, they found success in Hollywood mostly through their start with him.  Shields now has called the three of them together to work on a new project in an attempt recapture some of his former success.

The Bad and The Beautiful takes a scathing look at Hollywood and the Hollywood system.  The story was originally set around Broadway.  However, it was director, Vincente Minnelli, and producer, John Houseman that insisted the film would be more powerful if set in Hollywood.  Like other films that have held an introspective mirror to Hollywood, the film takes licenses with elements of the story that are reminiscent of the real Hollywood itself.  Jonathan Shields draws comparisons to great producers/directors who were at times known to be dictatorial such as David O. Selznick, Orson Welles, and Val Lewton.  The Shields-Amiel production of Doom of the Cat Men seems to have been inspired by Lewton’s Cat People.  One only has to hear them discuss the fact that the audience will not see the cat to still feel terrified, and you are instantly taken to the Lewton film.  Turner’s character Georgia Lorrison lives in the shadow of her father’s memory, memories that are very much like those of John Barrymore.  However some have also drawn parallels between Lorrison and Minnelli’s ex-wife Judy Garland.  Lorrison’s insecurity in her acting and reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressures of life are similar to the struggles that plagued Judy Garland.

The Bad and The Beautiful_8

Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) is able to nurture Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner) into a great actress, much like Minnelli was able to direct Judy Garland to some of her best performances.

The Bad and The Beautiful_9

Gloria Grahame would win an Oscar for her performance in The Bad and the Beautiful.

The film holds the record for most Oscar wins without being nominated for best picture.  The Bad and The Beautiful received Academy Awards in the categories for Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design.  Gloria Grahame would win her only Academy Award for her supporting role in this film.  Typically known for film noir, it’s refreshing to see Grahame play a sociable Southern wife who is just a little too friendly upon arriving in Hollywood.  Kirk Douglas would receive his second of three Academy Award nominations in the Best Actor category.  The award would elude him till 1996 he was presented with an Honorary Award.

Follow the link for more images from The Bad and the Beautiful.  Pinterest Board: Classic Movie Night Recommendation

Images from: The Bad and the Beautiful Dir. Vincente Minnelli.  MGM, 1952.  DVD.

Kirk Douglas: TCM Summer Under the Stars


Classic Hollywood Birthdays


Arthur Rosson is credited as Unit Director in this Howard Hawks film.

Arthur Rosson, director (1886-1960)
See the work of Arthur Rosson in The Big Sky (1952) on August 30th as part of TCM Summer under the Stars featuring the films of Kirk Douglas

Gil Perkins, actor (1907-1999)


Mark Your Calendars!!! TCM Summer Under the Stars









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