MCM: Kirk Douglas


Kirk Douglas passed away on February 5, 2020, and at first, this didn’t seem like a frock flicks loss. Sure, he was an iconic Hollywood star, nominated for three Oscars, and known for standing up against Senator McCarthy’s blacklisting in the 1950s. But looking over his work, I realized that, not only was his 1960 epic Spartacus a historical drama, he was featured in many more throughout his long career. So let’s give him a proper frock flicks sendoff…


Peter Niles in Mourning Becomes Electra (1947)

Kirk Douglas, Mourning Becomes Electra (1947)

I forgot he was in this Civil War period piece with Rosalind Russell — someday I’ll give it a full review because I did enjoy this adaption of the (admittedly dark) Eugene O’Neill play.


Tucker Wedge in The Walls of Jericho (1948)

Kirk Douglas, The Walls of Jericho (1948)

With Linda Darnell. And I have to say that ‘Tucker Wedge’ sounds like a drag queen name.


Marshal Len Merrick in Along the Great Divide (1950)

Kirk Douglas, Along the Great Divide (1950)

Douglas made A LOT of westerns.


Jim Fallon in The Big Trees (1952)

Kirk Douglas, The Big Trees (1952)

Per IMDB: “A Quaker colony tries to save the giant sequoias from a timber baron.” HMMM…


Jim Deakins in The Big Sky (1952)

Kirk Douglas, The Big Sky (1952)

Unrelated to the above, but still big.


Ulysses in Ulysses (1954)

Kirk Douglas, Ulysses (1954)

A movie adaptation of Homer’s epic.


Dempsey Rae in Man Without a Star (1955)

Kirk Douglas, Man Without a Star (1955)

Another western, now with banjo!


Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956)

Kirk Douglas, Lust for Life (1956)

Kirk Douglas was nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar, & when filming in Arles, France, locals thought he looked uncannily like the artist.

Kirk Douglas, Lust for Life (1956)

Directed by Vincente Minnelli, the film is beautiful with rich colors like Van Gogh’s paintings come to life. This is one of those ‘sit back and let the art wash over you’ films.


Doc Holliday in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

Kirk Douglas, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

One of the all-time classic westerns.


Col. Dax in Paths of Glory (1957)

Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory (1957)

An early Stanley Kubrick film showing the futility and irony of WWI.


Einar in The Vikings (1958)

Kirk Douglas, The Vikings (1958)

Well, some of it was filmed in Norway, & the ships were based on actual salvaged Viking ships, even if the costumes are wacky.


Richard Dudgeon in The Devil’s Disciple (1959)

Kirk Douglas, The Devil's Disciple (1959)

Per IMDB: “The black sheep of a family and the local minister discover their true vocations during the Revolutionary War.”


Spartacus in Spartacus (1960)

Kirk Douglas, Spartacus (1960)

A hell of a movie! Worth watching at least once.


Senator William J. Tadlock in The Way West (1967)

Kirk Douglas, The Way West (1967)

Ye olde Oregon Trail.


Harrison / Spur in The Man from Snowy River (1982)

Kirk Douglas, The Man from Snowy River (1982)

One of those Disney ’80s things.


David Konig in Queenie (1987)

Kirk Douglas, Queenie (1987)

At the time, I rather liked this fictionalized biopic of Merle Oberon’s early days, but I suspect it doesn’t hold up today.


Matthew Harrison Brady in Inherit the Wind (1988)

Kirk Douglas, Inherit the Wind (1988)

A TV version of the 1920s-set play.


Eduardo Provolone in Oscar (1991)

Kirk Douglas, Oscar (1991)

A Prohibition-era comedy starring Sylvester Stallone.




What’s your favorite of Kirk Douglas’ historical costume movie or TV roles?

22 Responses

  1. Roxana

    I’ve actually seen Lust for Life, Gunfight at the OK Corral and I think Spartacus. I’d like to see The Vikings for the man candy.

  2. Nico

    There is also 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (as a kid it’s how I discovered Kirk!!:). It’s supposed to be set in 1868

  3. Gwyn

    I have to share the love for “Man from Snowy River”, the costumes are pretty darned nice, in my memory (albeit with a woeful lack of hairpins). Sigrid Thornton is amazing in pretty much everything she does.

  4. Katie

    Thanks for including Oscar. It’s a wonderful farce, (with surprisingly good costumes) and doesn’t get a lot of attention.

  5. Northcountry gal

    I love The Big Sky, an very underrated Howard Hawks film. Kirk is so charming and fun in this movie, which includes a strong Native American woman, (actually played by Elizabeth Threatt, who was Cherokee on her father’s side) and a great speech by Arthur Hunnicutt, playing a mountain man : ”Blackfeet… proud injuns. They ain’t gonna let no white man spile their country. The only thing they’a feared of is a white man’s sickness.
    Boone Cardell: What’s that?
    Zeb Calloway: Grabs. White men don’t see nothing pretty unless they want to grab it. The more they grab, the more they want to grab. It’s like a fever and they can’t get cured. The only thing for them to do is to keep on grabbin’ until everything belongs to white men and then start grabbin’ from each other. I reckon injuns got no reason to love nothing white.”

  6. thedementedfairy

    Just watched that iconic ‘I’m Spartacus’ clip and for the first time realised what a bunch of dickheads they all were…he says ‘identify THE BODY or the living person of Spartacus’ you morons, pick some corpse with its face conveniently hacked off, and DON’T get crucified! Bloody men mumble mutter moan

    • M.E. Lawrence

      On the other hand, it inspired some fine moments in “Life of Brian” (as in, approximately, “Welease Woger!” “I’m Woger!” “No, I’m Woger!”).

  7. Susan Pola Staples

    Lust for Life. His van Gogh was magnificent. Also Inherit the Wind is excellent.

  8. Rose de la Tombes

    This is kind of disgusting and harrowing on the day that Harvey Weinstein is found guilty of the same kind of crimes…

    • Trystan L. Bass

      AFAIK, there was one unsubstantiated rumor connected to Kirk Douglas vs. many, many corroborated direct accusations against Weinstein. Very different. Believe the victims, but belive them when they actually accuse someone of something.

      • Tatiana

        I really don’t get this either. One woman’s life destroyed is okay? Because there’s more evil monsters out there? There are good reasons that miss Wood didn’t (and couldn’t) sue Mr Douglas in her days, which makes it even more tragic that this site chooses to openly celebrate what a great and sexy actor her abuser was. History has been very unkind to women – you of all people should know that!

        • Elsie

          Thank you, Tatiana. Your thoughts are basically mine, as well.

      • Elsie

        So, basically, we have returned to not believing women who come out against famous men. Remember, the Weinstein accusations were also “unsubstantiated ” before a few years ago – any accuser was laughed at, their careers ruined. Let’s cut the misogyny (internal or otherwise) and call it like it is. It’s one thing to enjoy Kirk’s films, and I admit to liking a few myself. But we need to properly acknowledge the victims, separate the art from the artist, and (most importantly in this thread) not vilify those who choose to speak their valid disgust regarding this matter.

  9. Saraquill

    Of the above, I’m only familiar with clips of “Spartacus” my teachers showed us. As such, I’m more interested in Saul Bass’ directing for the final battle. (Organic looking for Spartacus’ side, geometric and lifeless on the other.)

    The only Kirk Douglas movie I remember seeing all the way is “It Runs in the Family,” a very bland contemporary flick.

  10. Nzie

    Oh I’d forgotten about Lust for Life. Been ages but I remember really liking it. Also Spartacus is a classic. What’s interesting is Douglas basically picked Kubrick to direct it based on Paths of Glory…but wasn’t happy with the end result. So if a lot of the romantic scenes look like they were filmed on a sound stage, it’s because they were–Douglas shot a bunch more and added things in. Still a great film but I wish we could see Kubrick’s original vision.

  11. Melanie

    Did Man from Snowy River really just get dismissed like that? It’s a beautiful Australian movie with a fantastic score. While the costumes aren’t anything to get excited about, you at least get to watch Tom Burlinson be angsty and pretty and Kirk Douglas seemed to have a lot of fun with his dual role.

  12. Jose

    My Favorite should be Lust for Life or Ulysses or Spartacus but it’s not an easy choice so I’ll let it on those three even if I think I like very much Mourning he’s a plus to Roz Russell and Katina Paxinou they both rock as mother and daughter rivals I really hope that you review it because more than getting decent costumes and hair that’s definitely one Roz top 5 best performances