Just yesterday, we featured Olivia De Havilland, who celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1.
The latest to join her in the highly select Hollywood centenarian club is a star of equal magnitude, Kirk Douglas, who is by any measure a survivor and who received his admission-free card on Dec. 9.
Yes, the former Issur Danielovich Demsky is still here after a spectacular career consisting of almost 100 film and tv credits stretching over 62 years.
And we mean enduring. As author-film critic David Thomson notes, he has survived various physical exigencies in his films.
He left a finger in (Howard) Hawk’s “The Big Sky” (1952), an ear in “Lust For Life” (1956), and an eye in “The Vikings” (1958), was beaten up in “Champion” (1949) , stuck in the belly with scissors in Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” (1951), rolled in barbed wire in King Vidor’s “Man Without A Star” (1955), crucified in “Spartacus” (1960), whipped by his own servant (at his own order) in “The Way West” (1967), and generally harassed in several other films.
Among his movies is Richard Quine’s Strangers When We Meet (1960) in which Kim Novak explores the cleft in his chin, as if wondering in which film he got that wound.
This physical and hyper-intense actor has also survived his share of off-camera near misses.
He was very nearly on the same plane that crashed and took the life of producer Michael Todd in 1958. He made a narrow escape from a helicopter crash in 1991 that left him with a nasty back injury. And, in 1995, he suffered a massive stroke that for a long period left him without the ability to speak. (He is pretty much operational these days.)
His first movie, 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, is one of his best along with Spartacus and Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957). For razzledazzle Douglas in a “prestige” production, try Vincente Minnelli’s Vincent Van Gogh biopic, Lust For Life.
And don’t miss his showy, effective performance as movie producer Jonathan Shields in Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). But if you choose to skip Douglas’ narcissistic turn as a washed up actor suffering in Roman splendor in Minnelli’s Two Weeks In Another Town (1962), be our guest.
Also, don’t forget the seven pictures that Douglas made with Burt Lancaster, his equal in the suffering intensity department. A favorite is John Sturges‘ the 1957 western, Gunfight at the OK Corral. (By the way, Lancaster died in 1994 at age 80.)
As one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Douglas used his clout to form a production company and hire — and publicly credit — the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for Spartacus. Douglas was during his career something of a restless, intellectually inclined actor who at the same time was immensely popular.
And now to our second centenarian: actor, producer, director Norman Lloyd.
We note with special pleasure that Loyd is over 102! Born Norman Perlmutter on Nov. 8, 1914, in Jersey City, N.J., he is not only still kicking but still working.
He is best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock (see below). He was in Saboteur and Spellbound among other pictures, and worked with Hitch on his TV show as both an actor and director.
We have a special place in our hearts for Lloyd’s portrayal of a buck private in one of our favorite World War II movies, 1945’s A Walk In The Sun. If you haven’t seen it, we urge you to do so immediately.