Jewish Journal


April 27, 2011

S.F. film festival to honor Kirk Douglas


Kirk Douglas in Big Trees (1952)

Kirk Douglas in Big Trees (1952)

Kirk Douglas will be honored at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival this summer.

Douglas, 94, is expected to attend the July 23 festival to receive the Freedom of Expression award at a special 50th anniversary showing of “Spartacus.”

The actor, born Issur Danielovitch, insisted on giving a screen credit to blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for the Stanley Kubrick-directed drama of a legendary gladiator rebellion against the Roman Empire.

The act has been credited with helping to end the notorious Hollywood blacklist, one of the last vestiges of the McCarthy era. One of the film’s final scenes, where captured gladiators refuse to name the real Spartacus, was widely understood as support for those who refused to name communists for the House Un-American Activities Committee.

“We feel that Kirk Douglas is the ideal recipient for this year’s award, and we can think of no better film to present in the context of freedom of expression,” said the festival’s program director, Jay Rosenblatt, who received the same award in 2005.

“It will also be an interesting experience for our audience to view ‘Spartacus’ within the context of a Jewish film festival. Spartacus is the story of slaves freeing themselves from the Romans. That has particular reverberations for Jews familiar with the Passover story of deliverance from slavery in Egypt.”

Douglas has made a well-publicized return to Judaism following a helicopter crash in 1991 and a stroke in 1996. At 83 he had a second bar mitzvah in Los Angeles.

The San Francisco festival, founded in 1980, is the nation’s oldest and largest Jewish film festival.

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