In 1955, Kirk Douglas successfully launched his own film production company, Bryna Productions, after breaking contracts with Hal B. Wallis and Warner Bros. He began to produce and star in his films, starting with “The Indian Fighter.” But the true jewel in Byrna’s crown was “Paths of Glory” (1957) – a powerful anti-war film directed by Stanley Kubrick starring Douglas. Despite its commercial failure then, “Paths of Glory” is today regarded as an iconic anti-war film.
It tells the story of a compassionate World War I French officer who fights against a callous system that treats soldiers as pawns. Kubrick depicts a system where senior officers are vain and self-serving, using missions as obedience tests. Kirk, who spoke French fluently, delivered one of his most compelling performances as the officer trying to save three soldiers from execution.
Anne Was His Guardian Angel in More Ways Than One
Anne would become the most influential person in his life, often proving to be his guardian angel. In 1958, producer Michael Todd invited Douglas to fly on his private plane to New York. Douglas was thrilled, but Anne had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. She begged him not to go.
They had a heated argument, but eventually, Douglas decided not to board the plane. Later, while driving and still not speaking to each other after the argument, they heard on the radio that the plane had crashed. Douglas realized he could have died on that plane and was grateful to Anne for saving his life.
The Success of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea
Kirk Douglas proved his versatility as an actor in the 1954 film "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." While he was known for playing intense roles, Douglas showed he could also handle characters requiring a lighter, more comedic touch. In this adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel, Douglas played a carefree sailor - a brilliant foil to the brooding and intense Captain Nemo, portrayed by James Mason.
The film was a major box-office hit and is considered one of Disney's most successful live-action movies. The movie received praise for its groundbreaking special effects, which brought the underwater world to life in a way never seen before on film.
He Delivers a Masterful Performance in Seven Days of May
Through Byrna productions, Kirk Douglas also starred and produced in “Seven Days of May” (1964). The film's plot explores the possibility of extremists attempting to overthrow the government. Burt Lancaster gave a powerful performance as Gen. James M. Scott, who seeks to protect the country from the perceived dangers of a nuclear pact with Russia.
Playing his loyal aide, Kirk Douglas becomes suspicious of Scott's plan and goes to the President with vital information to verify in just seven days. Douglas' portrayal of the character was masterful - a calm and collected officer loyal to his superior until he has reason to doubt him.
The Time He Played Vincent van Gogh to Perfection
In “Lust for Life” (1956), Kirk Douglas delivered an exceptional performance as Vincent van Gogh, a tortured artist seeking solace through his work. The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli and shot primarily on location in France. Douglas was impeccable as van Gogh, displaying a profound ability to convey the artist’s inner turmoil.
Many critics also appreciated how Douglas captured the physicality and emotion of painting as a process. He won a Golden Globe Award for the role, while his co-star Anthony Quinn won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Paul Gauguin. “Lust for Life” is still regarded as one of the finest cinematic portrayals of artists and their creative processes.