Kirk and Michael: Like Father, Like Son
With advance apologies to Lloyd and Jeff Bridges, Henry and Peter Fonda, Martin and Charlie Sheen, both Lon Chaney and Douglas Fairbanks (Senior and Junior), it’s hard to argue against Kirk and Michael Douglas as the most successful father/son movie stars in Hollywood history.
With both men still in our midst, it seems particularly fitting to pay tribute to Douglas pere et fils, each of whom- in their own way and time- managed to scale the summit of the movie business. And what a steep, tricky climb that can be.
I always admired Kirk’s raw, lit-fuse quality on-screen. He was just one generation removed from Eastern Europe’s struggling immigrant class, and somehow you could sense it. Projecting a smoother, subtler persona than his Dad, Michael could be just as strong an actor, and unlike his Dad, he’s got the Oscar to prove it.
Both men also produced motion pictures. Indeed Kirk was a pioneer among actors in seizing control of his career as the studios’ clout declined, via his own production company. Michael would go on to show considerable flair in this capacity as well, notching up producing credits on “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), “Romancing The Stone” (1984), and “The Rainmaker” (1997), among other high-profile pictures.
On "Cuckoo's Nest," Michael could thank his father for locking up the theatrical and film rights to Ken Kesey's novel; the elder Douglas had played the starring role of Randle McMurphy on-stage, and had hoped to do it on film. By the time the opportunity arose, he realized he was too old for the part, and passed the property on to his up-and-coming eldest son. And, oh, what Michael did with it: five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Finally, Kirk will always be remembered for sweeping away the last vestiges of the Hollywood Blacklist by hiring banished writer Dalton Trumbo for his classic “Spartacus” (1960). It was a bold move that reflected both this man's innate sense of justice and his clout in the industry.
Unquestionably, both father and son have left their own outsize imprints on Hollywood. Here’s our pictorial salute to Kirk and Michael Douglas, one unbeatable father/son combination.
Starting out strong: Kirk's film debut, opposite Barbara Stanwyck in 1946's "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers."
Chili and a beer: Michael in the early '70s, about the time he broke through in TV's "The Streets of San Francisco."
Punch drunk: Kirk, down but not out in "Champion" (1949).
A scruffy looking Michael as an irascible but principled cameraman in "The China Syndrome" (1979).
Kirk immersed in thought, likely on the set of 1951's "Ace In The Hole."
Michael in a New York state of mind, circa 1980s.
Did Lloyd's of London actually insure that dimple in his chin?
Michael looks intrigued — and intriguing — in denim.
Kirk in his signature role, doing battle in Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" (1960).
"Greed is good": Michael's Oscar in Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" (1987).
Kirk sporting a 'stache in Paris, 1967.
Wedding bells: Michael marries actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, 2000.
Kirk mellowing nicely in his sixties.
Michael doing the same thing. Like father, like son.