When I heard the news of the passing of Kirk Douglas at the age of 103, my kids asked what movie they had seen him in. I immediately looked at his filmography and discovered that not only had they not seen any of his films, but I myself had only seen 7 to 8 films of his 74 year film and television career. I found this equally fascinating since I without a doubt consider him a Legend. I always have. He was just one of those faces that was always there, be it award shows or documentary clips from his classics like Spartacus and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
But I can honestly say that I am a fan of the man’s work. This began over twenty years ago when I was devouring every film I ever heard or read about on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) I would set my DVR to catch classics in my blindspot, everything from A Streetcar Named Desire, Detour, Duck Soup and Double Indemnity which led me to the genius of Billy Wilder. I tried to find every movie the man made, and this is where I found Ace in the Hole.
This film has Douglas playing a scummy fame-seeking reporter who stumbles across a town where a man is trapped in a mine. As the cavern is ready to collapse he helps stretch out the rescue in order to keep himself in the spotlight. The build-up along with the conclusion is so engaging and you love to hate Douglas in the film.
Not long after that I saw Detective Story directed by William Wyler where Douglas plays the polar opposite of the character he did in Ace in the Hole. Even though he is equally aggressive in the film, he shows you his range by being the steely eyed calm guy to the intense angry man who let’s his emotions get the better of him. The fact he was able to display both sides of a coin with such nuance and subtlety is a testament to his craft, and I know I will be seeking out more of his films in the future.
I will be starting with his collaboration with a directing Legend in his own right Stanley Kubrick by watching Spartacus and Paths of Glory. And that right there is a true example of what it means to be a true Legend, were you could have a huge fan that has not seen what is considered by most as your greatest work. But it lives on and you will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace Mr. Douglas.