Friday, December 9, 2016

The Kirk Douglas 100th Birthday Blogathon

Olivia de Havilland isn't the only the only legendary actor still around to celebrate their 100th birthday this year. There's also a lad from New York named Issur Danielovitch turning triple digits today. You may know him better by his screen name: Kirk Douglas.

To celebrate, Karen over at Shadows and Satin is hosting a blogathon. Usually for posts like these, I cover (if there are any) the Oscar-nominated performances of said subject. (Douglas himself is a three-time nominee.) But considering it was nigh impossible for me to find a copy of Champion on DVD, I decided instead to focus on a single film from Douglas' extensive career. Which one, you may ask?

(1957, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

While it's the next (and last) collaboration between Douglas and Kubrick that's more well-known, that doesn't render Paths of Glory as a film no one should see. (For Christ's sake, Kubrick is in the director's chair; that alone should warrant some level of interest.)

(More after the jump!)

Of course with this being a Kubrick production, the images and story captured are indelible. Even with this being an early film of his (his fourth to be precise), Kubrick knows how to grab the audience's attention. And it's Georg Krause's cinematography that makes it so as well. (How this stunning imagery -- hell, the whole film, really -- got no awards recognition is hard to grasp.)

With 1957 being a solid year of great non-nominated performances, Douglas' work here is no exception. His Col. Dax speaks with a barely concealed anger during the second half, and for good reason. (He sums it up best during closing arguments: "Gentlemen of the court, there are times when I'm ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.") That steely look in his eyes is enough to strike fear into the hearts of others.

In a way, Paths of Glory is practically the war equivalent of The Ox-Bow Incident. (Coincidentally, I've previously compared The Ox-Bow Incident to 12 Angry Men, another title from 1957.) Three innocent men pay the ultimate price for the misdeeds of someone else, their accusers preferring to have blood on their hands than admit they're the ones that are wrong. And that's a common thread shown in all three of those films: the ugly side of humanity.

As Kubrick would do with Dr. Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket in the years to come, he shows the sheer senselessness of violence as the ultimate solution. And as he would show with his other films, Douglas is a force to be reckoned with. (And apparently the Grim Reaper himself got that memo a long time ago.)


  1. Paths of Glory is Douglas at his finest. Few men could've carried such a bitter message, and Kubrick most certainly lucked out here. Great review of a great film.

  2. Agreed – Kirk Douglas is pitch-perfect in this film. You get the sense he really is completely immersed, and struggling against, the senselessness of war.

    1. God, how he never won a proper Oscar at any point during his career is beyond comprehension.


Comments are appreciated. More so if they are appropriate.