Ethics Hero: Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas: Hero

Amazingly, some bloggers and critics actually called Kirk Douglas’s appearance as an Oscar presenter last night (it was he who announced Melissa Leo’s win, which she instantly turned into an Oscar low-light) hard to watch and even “creepy.” Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder how people’s perception gets so warped.

The 96-year-old stroke victim strode to the stage without vanity, fear or hesitation. He flirted, he joked, he took full advantage of his richly-earned status as a Hollywood legend, the last of the great movie men’s men, and indomitable survivor. And he dared to play with the faux suspense of the event, demonstrating with a wink and grand humor that he, better than most, knows how little awards mean compared to the guts of life.

To anyone capable of seeing what was in front of them, he gloriously symbolized acceptance of life’s inevitable stages, and the refusal to let age diminish spirit. Those Douglas upset and offended with his shuffling walk and slurred speech? Cowards and self-worshipping fools, who can’t recognize what a human being who has squeezed almost every last drop out of a vigorous life looks like, and who don’t have the sense and respect to stand and cheer when cheering is called for.

Kirk Douglas made me proud last night…not just of him, but of human beings and their remarkable capacity to endure. Douglas taught us that we don’t have to fear and battle age, that we can embrace it, and be the better for it. Could there possibly be an audience that needs such a lesson more than the botoxed, insecure, vain and self-absorbed Hollywood elite?

All of Kirk’s heroes and anti-heroes followed him on stage last night: Spartacus, Ned Land, Col. “Jiggs” Casey, Detective Jim McLeod, Vincent Van Gogh, Midge Kelly, Doc Holiday, Jim Deakins, Einar (my favorite, in “The Vikings”), and the rest, and they all took a last curtain call with the bravura actor who gave them life.

Creepy? Not one bit.

It was magnificent!

12 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Kirk Douglas

  1. A young man I was with once referred (out of her hearing, thank goodness) to a passerby as “ugly”. I had to correct him immediately:

    “She’s not ugly, she’s just old. And she’s a beautiful woman.”

    I think his initial reaction was one of fear. The very young are terrified that someday, they, too, will be white-haired, wrinkled, and walk “funny”.

    Sorry, Chollie – it’s the reality.

    • It’s not just the young. My Mom literally refused to look in the mirror, saying that she looked like an old hag. (She was always beautiful, and looked much younger than her 89 years.) In Britain, older actresses look their age; our culture has done a great job of convincing us that elderly equals unattractive. Mom would have almost certainly objected to Kirk’s turn…she hated it when Bette Davis, in her last Oscar appearance, boldly took the stage looking completely ravaged by her recent stroke. So Bette Davis! Such panache! Mom thought it was disgusting. That’s why Kirk’s moment was more than just an Oscar highlight. He was saying, “screw that; I’m still Kirk Douglas, and I’m proud of it. Who knows—maybe Bette inspired him.

      • JM, my mother (1896-1981) was the same way. She had that auburn-haired, grey-eyed beauty so often seen in women of Irish descent. For some reason she could never believe that of herself, sometimes referring to herself as “the old battle-axe.” My Dad, of course, thought she was a stunner ’til the day he died.

        Tho I enjoy living here, I must admit that “Hollywood” has done humanity no favor in convincing it that “Only Youth Has Beauty Or Worth”.

        I see the results so often, riding the bus, seeing women of 50 trying desperately to look 30, thus making themselves look 70.

        • Ginger Rogers. Mae West. Joan Rivers. Faye Dunaway. Priscilla Presley. Dyan Cannon. The horror.

          I have great respect for Candace Bergen, who has fought the trend with dignity.

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. The more I grow into my “advanced middle-age”, the more I come to appreciate the loveliness of women who are over 50, 60, 70………

      The old boy ain’t dead yet.

  2. Kirk Douglas came from the generation of Hollywood where quality of work mattered. That’s why, in his heyday, the Oscar mattered. It no longer does. My only objection was that his appearance was wasted by his having to hand out an award to an “actress” who was the utter antithesis of what made the actors of his generation great… and who then proceeded to prove it with her obscene, rambling acceptance speech. For anyone watching who had any sense of history, it amounted to a condemnation of modern Hollywood. Douglas- infeebled physically as he was by age and his stroke- still stood out amid the “luminaries” like a giant among pygmies.

    • I’m not sure anyone outside of this area (I live a block from Beverly Hills) takes the Oscars seriously any more, but I do think they are fun and entertaining (most of the time)..

      I will admit I was very happy to see Natalie Portman get her prize (besides her baby bump). She worked hard for the Oscar.

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