Kirk Douglas: More than just an older guy at the Oscars

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Let me finish tonight with an important figure at last night’s Academy Awards.

Kirk Douglas gave the award last night for supporting actress.  At 94, it was unusual for a fellow his age to be out there on stage on what is always a youth-dominated Oscar night, especially this year when ABC made such an obvious effort with Anne Hathaway and James Franco to get the targeted demographic to watch.

So let me tell you about this fellow Kirk Douglas: First of all, he’s always been a politically involved middle-of-the-road Democrat.  I remember him up there with Lyndon Johnson and Danny Thomas at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.
 
Douglas is the American story.  He grew up poor, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants in the early part of the last century.  He had nothing and made himself an American actor, a big cowboy star in his day in movies like Gunfight at the OK Corral. 
           
Of course, as a kid, I always think of Kirk Douglas in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.”  Douglas played the whaler who saved the Nautilus from the giant squid - one of the great - scarry - action scenes. Down in a submarine, this giant squid takes hold of the entire vessel.  Kirk Douglas goes outside the Nautilus with his harpoon and kills the giant creature.   I loved that movie.

Later, Douglas made his classics - the anti-war “Paths of Glory” and Spartacus, the story of the slave revolt against the Roman empire.  That was the movie where Douglas - personally - decided to break the black list.  He hired the black-listed writer Dalton Trumbo to pen the screenplay and put his name right up there on the credits, no hiding him behind a front. Dalton Trumbo wrote  “Roman Holiday, “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo,”  “Exodus” and a lot of other movies, winning Academy Awards under different names. 
 
“The heads of the studios were hypocrites who went along with it,” Kirk Douglas declared. “My company produced Spartacus written by Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer, under the name Sam Jackson.  Too many people were using false names back then.  I was embarrassed. I was young enough to be impulsive, so even though I was warned against it, I used his real name on the screen.”

Kirk Douglas refused to let a system punish people for their political views. He believed Americans are smart enough to know what they’re watching and can see the message as easily as someone can send it.  They don’t need to be protected from people from writers like Dalton Trumbo. 
           
Last night was about youth.  I wanted to say something important tonight about an older guy who deserves it.

Kirk Douglas: More than just an older guy at the Oscars

Updated