First Annual Kirk Douglas
Film Festival 2016
Why Kirk Douglas?
Kirk Douglas is the highest ranked actor still living on the American Film Institute’s list of Screen Legends. He was born Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York in 1916. In his 1988 autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, he describes a life of hardship as a son of a Jewish Russian immigrant reseller of used rags. His older sister read Issur Horatio Alger novels for inspiration. He hustled snacks to mill workers and held 40 jobs before he became an actor. Issur lived and grew up at the bottom of Eagle Street in the Amsterdam’s East End. He was a 1934 graduate of Amsterdam High School, and 1939 graduate of St. Lawrence University. He attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts, and after Pearl Harbor joined the Navy. He married Diana Dill in 1943 and had two sons Michael (also a Hollywood icon) and Joel ( a producer). They divorced in 1951. Kirk started on Broadway and in 1945 played the lead opposite Barbara Stanwyck in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”. His first Oscar nomination came in his eighth film “Champion” in 1949. In 1953, he married Anne Buydens and they had two sons, Peter (a producer) and Eric (an actor who died in 2004). Kirk suffered a stroke in 1996 and lost his voice. “Anne refused to let me wallow in self-pity when I was depressed and suicidal” he said “She gave me tough love to get out of bed and work with the speech therapist”. He maintains a program of walking every day to stay healthy. He spends an hour a week studying with his rabbi. “God….. He wants us to develop our talents and help others, as my mother taught me”, he said. Kirk Douglas has become what is called in Yiddish a mensch-a good man.
How did the Film Festival start?
Emil Suda, local movie aficionado, lives on Eagle Street. John Naple, library volunteer and trustee also grew up on Eagle Street. Emil and John decided to learn more about their famous former neighbor by sharing with the public, at the library, the films of Kirk Douglas. Emil has often been heard on the radio speaking about classic and modern movies. In this first year of the “Kirk Douglas Film Festival” it was decided to show some Kirk’s early and lesser known movies and John’s favorite movie.
Thursday, January 28, 2016 6 – 8 pm
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Many think that Kirk Douglas made his debut in the film “Champion”, as it was the premier film to open the new Tryon Theatre. However, Kirk really began his film career in 1946 in “The strange Love of Martha Ivers”. Producer Hal B. Wallis gave Kirk the chance in a supporting role as the husband of Barbara Stanwyck.
Thursday, February 4, 2016 6:00 – 8:00 pm
My Dear Secretary
“My Dear Secretary” from 1948 was the fifth movie for Kirk after the 1946 “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”. This was a change from his previous pictures as all were somber roles. With this script he was eager to show his talent in a comedy. The producers were comedy specialists, brothers Harry and Leo Popkin. Kirk plays a bestselling book author, who hires a secretary played by Laraine Day. Keenan Wynn keeps the pace going as Kirk’s pal Ronnie Hastings with his sardonic humor, which steals many of the scenes. Irene Ryan as Douglas’ housekeeper later became Granny on Beverly Hillbillies tv show. So, from 1948, enjoy a farce with sparkle.
Thursday, February 11, 2016 6:00-8:00 pm
The Last Sunset
This is the second film Kirk did from Universal Pictures,which did “Spartacus” in 1960. The film was produced by Kirk Douglas under the name Bryna Productions, a company Kirk made using his mother’s name. The name is repeated in the movie. As “Spartacus” was written by blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, Kirk had him for this screenplay. The story is about a lawman, Rock Hudson, meeting up with the outlaw, Kirk Douglas, on a cattle drive in Mexico. An old romance is rekindled with Dorothy Malone who has a daughter Carol Lynly.
Thursday, February 25, 2016 6:00-8:00 pm
The Man from Snowy River
This is John’s favorite movie. It is an old fashioned Western saga, but is an Australian Western filmed on location in Victoria High Country of Mansfield, Victoria. The film is based on a poem by Banjo Paterson. There are references in the film to Banjo Paterson and his song “Waltzing Matilda” can be heard as the film closes. Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum were considered for the roles of the two brothers, Harrison and Spur, before going to Kirk Douglas who played both parts. Actor Tom Burlinson did the actual stunt ride of going down the mountain slope on the horse! He had never rode a horse prior to the movie, and the shot was done in one long take. There is a clue in the movie- a scene- that gives the idea of how the river got to be named Snowy River. Keep an eye open for it. So from 1982, enjoy a movie with great scenery, great horses and a strong script.