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#124. Douglas Dynasty

In the film world, occasionally you’ll see a set of people who have made acting a family profession. Many times, these are merely an actor and actress who have gotten married, but occasionally you’ll see a whole set of children dedicated to acting. Such last names as Baldwin and Estevez are associated to more than one actor. However, of note are the families who have passed down the acting bug from parent to child. The aforementioned Estevez family is just such a family (with Martin Sheen being the father of Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez (among others)). What’s more impressive is the Barrymore family line which can be traced back from the current Barrymore (Drew) all the way to Lionel Barrymore, who started his film career back in 1911. However, this week’s two films will focus on the film dynasty of the Douglas family.

SpartacusSpartacus
Year: 1960
Rating: G
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

To understand the legend of Kirk Douglas’ acting career, we need to look at some of his accolades. Of the 25 legendary actors designated by the American Film Institute, Kirk is at #17. And even though he didn’t win an Oscar for any of his roles, he did receive an Honorary one “for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.” Performing mostly in Hollywood’s “golden age”, Kirk Douglas has also starred in many other films, including Ace in the Hole, The Bad and the Beautiful, Lust for Life (where he portrays Vincent Van Gough, earning him another Oscar nomination (his third and final)), and Paths of Glory (a Stanley Kubrick film). Of course, one of his final films happened to be with his son, Michael Douglas in the 2003 movie It Runs in the Family (which also included Michael’s mother / Kirk’s ex-wife).

Yet another Stanley Kubrick classic that recently made the American Film Institute’s top 100 at #81. Kirk Douglas plays Spartacus, a slave during the reign of the Roman Empire. Fed up with being forced to fight fellow slaves as a gladiator, Spartacus leads the slaves in a revolt, thereby gaining their freedom. Word spreads quickly as other slaves are forcefully freed by the newly formed military force. Eventually, the full force of the Roman Empire comes crashing down on the ex-slaves, sending these men back into slavery. Spartacus escapes a tragic death due to the loyalty of his men, who are willing to die in his place because of the freedom he gave them (this is the famous “I am Spartacus” scene). With his moral integrity and endless courage, Spartacus remains as one of the great leaders of the cinema.

Wall StreetWall Street
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

Michael Douglas, in the aforementioned film It Runs in the Family, acted with his father, Kirk, as well as his son, Cameron. The film features three generations of Douglas acting talent, but Michael has definitely held his own when compared to his father. Of course, this fact comes through in the two Oscars he has won, one for producing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (a Best Picture Oscar) and one for his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (a Best Actor Oscar). And yet, both Kirk and Michael have accepted the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, the former being awarded in 1991 and Michael’s being accepted 18 years later in 2009. Of course, Wall Street has always been Michael Douglas’ best role, but the film also features another father-son acting duo: Martin and Charlie Sheen (who I have already mentioned in the intro for this weeks’ post).

Gordon Gekko is the most ruthless man on Wall Street. His philosophy is that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” This mindset and his do-anything-to-get-ahead attitude are probably the main contributors for why AFI placed Gordon at #24 on their “Best Villains” list. And yet, when young stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is taken under Gordon’s wing, Bud learns the “tricks of the trade”, in the most literal sense of the phrase. Even though Gekko’s advice on insider trading goes against a lot of what Bud was taught by his father Carl (Martin Sheen), the money makes Bud blind to the repercussions. That is, until the Securities and Exchange Commission starts looking into Bud’s activities. After finally regaining his conscience, Bud is set to appear in court, but not without first confronting his mentor one last time in Central Park.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 displays of Douglas acting

Bacon #2: (It Runs in the Family / Kirk & Michael Douglas -> Oliver Stone: Inside Out / Kevin Bacon)

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One response to “#124. Douglas Dynasty

  1. Pingback: End of Act Three | Cinema Connections

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