Five must-see movies starring Kirk Douglas

Five must-see movies starring Kirk Douglas

LOS ANGELES - From swinging a sword in "Spartacus" to wielding the paintbrush of troubled artist Vincent van Gogh, Kirk Douglas has starred in some of the most iconic roles in cinema history.

He earned three Oscar nominations - finally being given a lifetime achievement award by the Academy in 1996 - in a six-decade career that has established him in the firmament of Hollywood's very biggest stars.

Here are five of his most noteworthy roles: .

Douglas punched his way to his first best actor nomination from the Academy for his role as Midge Kelly, a double-crossing and womanizing boxer who battles his demons as he climbs to the top of his sport.

Shot in 23 days for $600,000, the movie ended up being a cash cow for director Mark Robson, who used a recut version of Douglas's workout montage nearly 20 years later in "Valley of the Dolls." .

Co-starring screen legend Lana Turner, "The Bad and the Beautiful" cast Douglas as ambitious but ruthless movie producer Jonathan Shields, who unscrupulously uses friends and colleagues in his scramble to the top.

Douglas missed out after a second Oscar nomination. But Gloria Grahame's performance broke the record for the shortest ever to win best supporting actress, at just nine minutes and 32 seconds.

Adapted from Jules Verne's 19th Century novel of the same name, the first sci-fi movie shot in Cinemascope saw Douglas assume the role of whaler Ned Land opposite James Mason's Captain Nemo.

More than 60 years after its release, the movie holds an 89 per cent approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, where the critical consensus describes it as "one of Disney's finest live-action adventures." In his autobiography, Douglas recalls how - keen to preserve his reputation as a macho ladies' man - he insisted that Disney add a scene in which he strolls up with a beautiful woman on each arm before getting into a punch-up with a sailor.

Douglas's third best actor Oscar nomination came for Vincente Minnelli's biopic of tortured genius Vincent Van Gogh, who descends into mental illness and a string of unhappy relationships.

Legend has it that a very young Michael Douglas ran screaming from the theatre during the scene where Van Gogh cuts off his ear, believing his father had actually gone through with it in real life.

Film critic Emmanuel Levy described the movie as "one of Minnelli's best pictures, a visually stunning portrait of Van Gogh, splendidly played by Kirk Douglas." .

Without doubt Douglas's best known role, his portrayal of the rebellious slave turned gladiator cemented his place in the history of cinema, not to mention modern day popular culture.

At the time the biggest money-maker in Universal's history, Stanley Kubrick's historical epic effectively ended the "Hollywood Ten" blacklist of suspected Communists.

Douglas, whose company produced the movie, gave writer Dalton Trumbo a screen credit, prompting President-elect John F. Kennedy to cross picket lines formed by veterans' organisation American Legion to view the film.

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