Lust for Life [1956]

The life of Kirk Douglas is as gripping as any he's played onscreen. It's got high drama: the son of Jewish peasants, he changed his name from Isadore Demsky to become more accepted by mainstream America; he stands up against the powers-that-be in Hollywood--twice--and wins; he is credited as being the first actor to buck the studio system by forming his own production company, and he helped break the studio blacklist by giving writer Dalton Trumbo a screen credit for Spartacus. It's got personal turmoil: philandering ends his first marriage, and his present wife tacitly acknowledges, on camera, that affairs were part of his second. Sons have substance-abuse problems; Douglas is battered in a 1991 helicopter crash; and after having a stroke, the onetime screen god speaks haltingly as he accepts an Oscar for lifetime achievement. It has plenty of onscreen drama, too: footage of his many roles, from his 1946 debut with Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers to Lust for Life, in which he played the tortured Vincent Van Gogh. This arresting Biography shows him leaving his famous chin print in the Hollywood cement and deftly explains how he left a far-reaching imprint on the movies. --Valerie J. Nelson

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