The List: Kirk Douglas’ best movies

Kirk Douglas stars in "Spartacus" (Courtesy Universal Studios Home Entertainment) Kirk Douglas stars in “Spartacus” (Courtesy Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

American actor Kirk Douglas celebrates his 95th birthday on Dec. 9. His film credits include “Spartacus,” “Paths of Glory” and “Champion.” He was presented with an honorary Oscar in 1996 to celebrate his career. Actor Michael Douglas is his son. This week, the List looks at Kirk Douglas‘ top 10 movies.

  • 10. Lust for Life (1956)Mr. Douglas‘ portrayal of the life of brilliant but tortured artist Vincent van Gogh won him an Oscar nomination. He also earned the New York Film Critics Award.
  • 9. Champion (1949) — In this prestige and breakthrough performance, Mr. Douglas plays the ruthless prizefighter Midge Kelly, who rides roughshod over hopelessly smitten leading ladies Ruth Roman and Lola Albright and overmatched rivals. This boxing melodrama won him an Oscar nomination.
  • 8. Ace in the Hole (1951)Mr. Douglas plays the hard-bitten, manipulative and unscrupulous reporter Chuck Tatum, who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper. Directed by Billy Wilder, the film milks the suspense and human interest. Tatum sets himself up for a fall by brazenly making a careerist spectacle of the effort to rescue a man trapped in a New Mexico cavern while searching for Indian relics.
  • 7. Seven Days in May (1964) — This gripping political suspense thriller, shot in black and white, was produced by Mr. Douglas‘ company Joel Productions and director John Frankenheimer. Mr. Douglas got his friend and frequent co-star Burt Lancaster to star in the film as well.
  • 6. The Vikings (1958) — This film is the definitive Kirk Douglas costume adventure. The film used natural locations in Norway. Other actors included Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Ernest Borgnine and Frank Thring.
  • 5. The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) Mr. Douglas plays ruthless film producer Jonathan Shields in this behind-the-scenes look at the tawdry nature of Hollywood. The role won him an Oscar nomination. The film holds the record for most Oscars won (five) by a movie that was not nominated for best picture.
  • 4. Detective Story (1951)Mr. Douglas plays an embittered cop, Detective Jim McLeod, in this remarkably powerful and stirring movie, not to mention a forgotten major influence on every seriously aspiring police series from “Dragnet” to “NYPD Blue.”
  • 3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) — This adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic tale received positive reviews from critics and was the second-highest-grossing film of the year, behind “White Christmas.” Mr. Douglas‘ performance helped make the film a notable classic. This was Mr. Douglas‘ biggest box-office hit, earning $356 million in 2011 inflated dollars.
  • 2. Paths of Glory (1957) Mr. Douglas plays Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers in this pictorially stunning adaptation of Humphrey Cobb’s polemical novel about a suicide mission demanded of French soldiers on the western front in 1916.
  • 1. Spartacus (1960) Mr. Douglas is a revelation in this awesome landmark film. He looks stunningly fit as the brooding hero in this epic melodrama of the slave Spartacus as he leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Empire. The supporting cast includes Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis and John Gavin. The film was marred by controversy. Original director Anthony Mann was fired for allowing Mr. Ustinov to write his own lines and direct his own scenes and was replaced by Stanley Kubrick.

Bonus material: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) Mr. Douglas plays Dr. John “Doc” Holliday in this classic adaptation of the famous gunbattle in the frontier town of Tombstone, Ariz., which left three men dead and ensured Wyatt Earp’s and Doc Holliday’s place in Wild West folklore. It was one of seven movies in which he starred with Burt Lancaster.

Compiled by John Haydon

Sources: Wikipedia, Gary Arnold, The Washington Times, the Daily Telegraph and cogerson.hubpages.com.

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