RIP Kirk Douglas

There is nothing like a movie made during the Golden Age of Hollywood. There is just something about the movies that were made back then that feel different than the movies made today.

We lost one of the last icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood today. Kirk Douglas died at the age of 103.

Born to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Douglas grew up poor and did what he had to do to get by.

He was known for playing tough guys. That tough guy persona was not just for the screen. Off screen, while the Hollywood blacklist was destroying lives and careers, Douglas put his name and and his career on the line. He hired blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay for Oscar nominated film Spartacus.

Though he was raised Jewish, he stepped away from his faith as an adult. In the early 90’s, after he survived a helicopter crash, he returned to the faith.

He is survived by his second wife, his surviving sons and their families.

In Judaism, when we bless someone, one of the blessings is the following:

“May you live to 120.”

He lived to see 103, which is not something to sneeze at. In the words of our mutual ancestors, may his memory be a blessing. Z”l.

Trumbo Review

Sometimes, when the voices of repression are gaining momentum, it takes one person with one voice to stop them.

In the recently released movie, Trumbo,  Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is one of the most respected screenwriters in Hollywood. He has been married for quite a few years to Cleo (Diane Lane), who has given him three children. Their life is settled and happy.

But it is 1947 and Trumbo’s membership in the Communist Party is about throw a whole lot of turmoil his way. The  House Un-American Activities Committee is investigating any citizens who have either an interest or a membership in the communist party. Dalton is one of those caught in the net. He is eventually thrown into jail for contempt of congress. After leaving jail, Trumbo finds that he and the rest of the Hollywood Ten are blacklisted. They must work under pen names to be able to earn a living. While many in Hollywood want to know who is writing these movies, the secret of who is the screenwriter must be kept under wraps.

While this movie is a bit slow at points, it is nothing short of Oscar bait. Cranston’s performance alone is enough to add him to the short list of potential Oscar nominees for best actor. Adding in Helen Mirren as famed gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, David James Elliott as John Wayne, Dean O’Gorman as Kirk Douglas  & Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson (who is sure to win the Oscar for best supporting actor) only makes this cast and this movie that much better. The filmmakers have also done a nice job of mixing footage from the era with the scenes from the film.

The film is also an excellent reminder of the priceless value of the bill of rights and how quickly fear can be used to manipulate and control.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Trumbo is presently in theaters. 

History And Movies

We all remember the history books from our school days. The text was often bland, flat and devoid of the real story behind the facts.

Sometimes we learn more about our history not from a school history book, but from a fictionalized telling of that history.

Two movies are coming out soon that will bring history to life.

The upcoming movie Race (2016) is about Jesse Owens. In 1936, Jesse Owens, an African-American won four Olympic medals for track and field. The games were held in Nazi controlled Germany. He is still remembered today as one of the greatest athletes in Track and Field.

The other movie is Trumbo (2015). Dalton Trumbo was one most respected writers in the 1940’s. Then he was accused of being a communist. Blacklisted because of the accusation, he wrote under a pen name. Two of his films that he wrote while he was blacklisted, Exodus and Spartacus, are still remembered today as timeless classics.

Whether or not these films will be successful, only time will tell. But if the audience learns something, regardless of the box office receipts, then these films have succeeded.

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