Kirk Douglas: Before I Forget

(re.Kirk Douglas’s 2009 1-man-performance-art-show)

A very moving autobiographical artifact of his life. He had previously written 3 books about his life in conjunction with what he called his 1996 `stroke of luck`, but this was a filmed recording of his live performance. In his 90s, when this was made, he still had his chops, his positive attitude, his humor, and perspective.

There are many moving anecdotes about his early childhood as the one son of a Jewish ragman, times when there was not much food, when he crossed his father, and his mother`s stories. Along the way, Douglas shows film clips and slides, many unique and unexpected of people he has known and his film accomplishments, as well as more honest, poignant moments such as the drug-related suicide of his son Eric, his own near-gun-in-mouth-suicide averted because of a toothache, and the statue in his yard of what he calls his best friend–the ragman`s horse killed in a deliberately-set fire. One of his oft-forgotten efforts was his fearless ending of the Hollywood-McCarthy blacklist by naming convicted Dalton Trumbo as the screenplay writer of Spartacus.

The anecdotes about his actor-friends–Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, and Ava Gardner– range from pathetic to insightful and amusing. If there`s a symbol for his character, it is the sculpture of Tveye from Fiddler on the Roof, dancing on his house`s rooftop entrance. Douglas seems quite happy with his more limited life and is a model to anyone who has had a near-fatal medical episode or anyone interested in seeing how someone (famous) embraces his handicap and remaining life. (*I would consider the speech impediment element here to be as strongly and positively portrayed as in The King`s Speech.)

Most interesting of all, perhaps, is/was his desire to be loved by his totally self-absorbed father, and Douglas’s own desire to be loved by his children, despite his own neglect and failings as a father.

About the only thing I didn`t like were his two mentions–in conjunction with God–of his success and `money`. Sure, it be nice to have some dough and one should be thankful for whatever luck and good fortune, but the mammon reference tied with divine sanction felt a little strange after so many wonderful moments in this TCM movie channel feature which is well-worth seeing in any case.

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