Kirk Douglas:  “My greatest achievement in my long career was to help end the blacklists at the movies” 

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Kirk Douglas

At the age of 103, Issur Danielovitch Demsky, on February 5th, 2020 passed away.  He was better known as Kirk Douglas. At the Sarah Lawrence College in Canton, New York. He discovered acting. He was rejected from the fraternities for being Jewish. However, eventually, Douglas became the president of the Student Council, the first time a Jew held that position.  In his career he made over 90 films. He brought a certain air of powerful rebellion in his characters and left a legacy. A part of that legacy is the recognition for his humanitarian sense and “commitment to justice.”

Douglas said that his greatest achievement was in helping to end McCarthyism.  People from the industry were persecuted for their alleged communist affiliation. Artistic creativity was being censured.  Douglas had hired screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to do the screenplay for Spartacus. Trumbo was one of the highest paid screenwriters of his time, accredited with works like Oscar winning The Brave One, Exodus, Spartacus and Roman holiday and many other famous works.  In 1950 Dalton spent 11 months in prison as one of the Hollywood 10. The Junior Senator from Wisconsin Joseph McCarthy wanted to make a name for himself, along with attorney Roy Cohn, Senator (later President) Richard Nixon, and Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.  The committee assured that Blacklisted individuals wouldn’t work for years to come. Hedda Hopper organized a picket line at the opening of the film, urging her 35 million readers to boycott the movie Spartacus.    

Otto Preminger was the first to fight back against Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunt, recognizing the work of Trumbo for Exodus.  In 1955 Kirk Douglas had established his own production company. If Spartacus was boycotted, it would cause financial chaos for Douglas, and after being placed in the blacklist, no one would work with him and Hollywood would ostracize him.

It took a great deal of courage for Mr. Kirk Douglas to stand up for his beliefs and fight to abolish blacklisting and all that it meant.  He joined the ranks with Otto Preminger. One of the first persons to cross Hedda Hopper’s picket line and give his support to Kirk Douglas was President elect John F. Kennedy. 

Undoubtedly, the death of Kirk Douglas serves for us to reflect on our own role in society, and how we can contribute from our spaces, whether from art, film, or music; and in different directions, beyond religion or politics. That sense of justice is the real legacy of Kirk Douglas.  Some articles mention that his already successful son Michael Douglas, who is married to actress Catherine Zeta Jones was left out of the Will. Mr. Kirk Douglas left a vast part of his fortune to charity. His successful son Michael Douglas already is reputed to have a fortune in excess of $300, 000,000 dollars.