Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kirk Douglas, The Greatest Hollywood Actor

Here's a drawing I did of Kirk from the frame below, and Bruce Timm rendered it up all beautifully for me.
Kirk Douglas is my all time favorite actor and has been very influential on me and my cartoons.

Thanks to Barbie for the scans from Film Threat! Go to her site for more fun.

Before I discovered him, all my drawn and acting expressions came from standard cartoon acting.

I saw "Detective Story" in the early 80s and it opened the door for me to a much wider range of emotion, emotions I had personally experienced in life, but had never seen translated in cartoons, or even to that extent in live action.

I immediately started using more human expressions and gestures in my cartoon work, much to the horror of my Saturday Morning cartoon bosses at Hanna Barbera and Filmation.Kirk Douglas' talented back.

Kirk Douglas has a presence that makes you feel like he's really there in your living room. Most actors seem to be acting and allowing you to watch, but Kirk is pulsing, surging flesh and blood that commands you to experience his every conflicted emotion. He's not on the screen. He's right there next to you scorching you with his fetid breath. I wanted that in my cartoons.

Not until Ralph Bakshi hired me to direct Mighty Mouse, did anyone encourage my burning need to bring actual human emotion to cartoons.


More joy to come today....



Adam said...

Kirk Douglas' best roles are when his character is in moral conflict with the rest of the world. Well that's when I like him best anyways.

He gives the most complete expression to the anger you get when you have to deal with people who are lemmings, or status seekers, rather than truly brave manly men who always do what they think is right. He lives that anger right in front of you.

He does it in Spartacus.

And as Commander Dax in 'Paths of Glory'.

He played Vincent VanGogh in 'Lust for Life' and was amazing. He has these extended monologues about artistic integrity where he throws over tables and shakes people violently. It's incredible.

Oh and one other thing. I love how in Spartacus he doesn't smile for the first half of the movie, until he escapes the gladiator camp and sees Varinia in the forest and he smiles for the first time and his face just changes completely. He's almost unrecognizable except for his chin. He gets dimples and his eyes light up and sparkle. I laughed when I saw it but it wasn't because it was cheesy... I may have been a bit frightened.

katzenjammer studios said...

Awesome. Detective Story is the movie of the weekend.

Anonymous said...

ive never seen detective story, or much kirk douglas, but one thing i definitely recognize from clips: kirk was a huge influence on how mr horse acts/talks.

Ape Lad said...

Ace in the Hole just came out on dvd. It's really cynical and really great.

Zam3d said...

The sad thing is that a lot of modern animation looks inspired from Jim Carrey... >_<

tuttle said...

Three Kirk Douglas'

Mitch said...

Great post!

Can you show a example from a bad actor? Because I find it hard to describe why I don't like an actor when I see a bad one. Like a feeling I can't discribe.

RyRy said...

why is that a sad thing? i'm not a huge fan of jim carrey or anything, but i think he is one of few actors that can express extreme emotions and positions just like a cartoon character

The Butcher said...

My favorite manly actor is Gregory Peck, but Kirk Douglas is up there.

Trevour said...


I always loved the Douglas-like mannerisms of RIP!

The Butcher said...

"why is that a sad thing? i'm not a huge fan of jim carrey or anything, but i think he is one of few actors that can express extreme emotions and positions just like a cartoon character"

I dunno, I find his goofy faces too forced. They're expressions that don't occur naturally, you'd have to go out of your way to make them.

C. A. M. Thompson said...

We're not hitch hiking anymore!

I saw that Kirk Douglas movie where he's a boxer and I couldn't believe how much dialog from Space Madness came from it.

Andreas said...

Hooray for Kirk! All my favorite actors are dead, or nearly so. My favorite foreign actor is Toshio Mifune. From the moment I saw Mifune, I knew he was someone special. He portrayed a range of emotions and was without a doubt, often in the role of a real man. I think I will watch me some Kirk Douglas this weekend.

Dume3 said...

"Hooray for Kirk! All my favorite actors are dead, or nearly so. My favorite foreign actor is Toshio Mifune."

Mifune is awesome! Look at how tough he is Yojimbo or Throne of Blood. He was cooler than Clint Eastwood could ever imagine. And the strange thing is that he could play buffoons just as well as warlords.

Ted said...

KIrk Douglas is in Lust for Life (life of Van Gogh) tonight on Turner Classic Movies (10:30Eastern).

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Boy, you deserve a lot of credit for re-discovering Kirk Douglas. i don't know how the rest of us could have overlooked him. He's a great dramatic actor and a cartoonist's dream.

Jim Rockford said...

Detective Story and Young Man with a Horn are two of my all time favorite films along with "a face in the crowd" and "soldier in the rain"
I first saw detective story when I was a kid,and was immeadiatly drawn into it.I couldnt believe how powerful that film was,I had never seen acting so dynamic and intense before.
He really brought the character of Det.McLeod to life and portrayed the inner agony and phsycological turmoil McLeod was going through trying to reconcile his rigid beliefs with the reality that surrounded him with such conviction that it was scary.
I must have watched the movie 30 times or so since I first saw it and have shown it to others who dont normally watch old films to show them what a real actor is!
(I think they're extinct now)
I also liked William Bendix's portrayal of Det. Brody as well.
He saw the dark road McLeod was heading down and tried to get him to "bend" before he snapped.
He wanted him to get him to go easy on the kid who stole from his boss to keep a girl who was out of his league,and get him to realize that he had lost his humanity,
That not all the people were evil heartless criminals,some were just decent people who got in over their head made bad descisions.
Whats your opinion of "falling down"?,thats one of the few "new" movies I like.Mike Douglas did a hell of a job with that character.

Kristen McCabe said...

during a random trip to the local antique store I came across an old photo of manly army guy who kinda looks like he could be related to Kirk.

you think so?

Bluedog said...

Kirk's perfromance in "Lonely are the Brave" really moved me when I finally saw it as a 10 year old in the late sixties on TV. Only later was it apparent that Kirk's acting style was blowing the scenery out of all his movies, thus becoming a symbol for hamball actors everywhere. Using his voice (imitation) in Ripping Friends kind of bears that out.