April Barbe

We've seen him as a cowboy, a war hero, a lover, a fighter and (of course) a spartan, but now legendary actor Kirk Douglas can add centenarian to his list of titles.

Douglas turned 100 years old on December 9. He celebrated with a party with friends and family at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He and his wife, Anne Douglas, have been married for more than 62 years.

Douglas is father to veteran actor Michael Douglas, as well.

For a famous Hollywood actor, all of these things are true accomplishments. The film business is full of sharp-tongued businessmen and women who can put a huge strain on an actor and their personal relationships.

Douglas has risen above the Tinsletown drama and proven himself a true man of truth and values.

Douglas began his illustrious career in 1946 with the film “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.” He was 30 years old and played opposite actress Barbara Stanwyck, along with Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Judith Anderson.

According to Douglas' biography, his ex-classmate Lauren Bacall convinced movie producer Hal B. Wallis to screen test Douglas and cast him in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.” His performance received rave reviews.

Douglas, known for his “cleft chin and steely eyes,” went on to star in movies with Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Ava Gardner, Anthony Quinn, Lana Turner and Tony Curtis. He also worked with legendary directors John Huston, Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks.

Huston also directed Bogart in several films, including “The Maltese Falcon.”

Hawks directed my favorite film of all time, “The Big Sleep” starring another film icon, Humphrey Bogart. Wilder, a former journalist, directed classics “Some Like It Hot,” “Sunset Boulevard” and “Double Indemnity.”

Douglas certainly ranks as one of the last surviving great actors of his time. Of course, he is likely most famous for the original “Spartacus” in 1960. He starred opposite actor Laurence Olivier in the movie that has stood the test of time about a slave named Spartacus who leads a violent revolt against the Roman Republic.

However, the first movie I remember seeing Douglas in was 1954's “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” I believe I was in middle school the first time the movie was played in one of my classes. I had no idea at the time that I was watching a legend on screen. All I can really remember is that the class was happy because the movie was sort of long, so it took more than one class period to watch it.

It's about a ship sent to investigate a wave of mysterious encounters. It was an adventure, for sure! It may still remain my favorite Douglas film.

But I admit that I have not watched a lot of his films, since most were made before my time. Douglas went on to accrue 91 credits, according to his www.imdb.com page. His last offering, a TV movie, “Empire State Building Murders” was in 2008.

Douglas is the son of Jewish immigrants, and he grew up poor. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and joined the U.S. Navy in 1941. Returning in 1945, he returned to theater and radio. After his success in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,” Douglas worked with Lancaster in

“I Walk Alone.” In 1949, Douglas garnered his first Oscar nomination for his role as boxer “Midge Kelly” in 1949's “Champion.” He continued to appear in films, beginning the 60's with the debut of “Spartacus.”

Douglas has received three Academy Award nominations, an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement and the Medal of Freedom. He is also an author and has written 10 novels and memoirs.

Currently, he is listed as No. 17 on the American Film Institute's list of greatest screen legends of classic Hollywood cinema and the highest ranked living person on the list!

So, happy birthday, Mr. Douglas ... thank you for sharing your talents with us! May your films live on another 100 years!

April Barbe is the editor of the Progress; however, she is also a part-time screenwriter.

She has written and directed three short films and served as

a casting director.

April has also worked as a production assistant, co-producer and publicist on feature films in Texas.

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