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Summary

One of the world’s most iconic movie stars, Kirk Douglas has distinguished himself as a producer, philanthropist, and author. Now, more than 50 years after the release of his enduring epic Spartacus, Douglas reveals the riveting drama behind the making of the legendary gladiator film.

Douglas began producing the movie in the midst of the politically charged era when Hollywood’s moguls refused to hire anyone accused of Communist sympathies. In a risky move, Douglas chose Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted screenwriter, to write Spartacus. As both producer and star of the film, Douglas faced explosive moments with young director Stanley Kubrick and struggles with giant personalities, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, and Peter Ustinov.

Writing from his heart and from his own meticulously researched archives, Kirk Douglas, at 95, looks back candidly—and often with self-effacing humor—at his audacious decision to give public credit to Trumbo, thus effectively ending the notorious Hollywood blacklist.

©2012 Kirk Douglas (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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Politics meets Hollywood

The film Spartacus tells the story of a great Roman slave revolt. But its the making of this film in the midst of the Hollywood blacklist and hysterical anti-communism that is the real story here. Kirk Douglas does a great job of weaving together the characters, both contemporary and historical, into a facinating account of how the film was made. And as the lead actor and producer he experienced it all first hand.

Most significant was the scriptwriter, Dalton Trumbo, who had to work anonymously as he had been blacklisted and even imprisoned. There are many more major Hollywood players involved in the making of the film, Stanley Kubrick and Laurence Olivier amongst them. Had never realised what an important film Spartacus was and is.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • A
  • 14-04-16

fascinating

one of the most fascinating books ive ever listened to. I love the film Spartacus one of my top 10 so listening to this was a must. I had no idea about the blacklist and this is a real inside into the history of Hollywood. I also have a new respect for Kirk and it was wonderfully narrated by his son Michael. I loved this book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Quick and entertaining

A fast memoir of the making of the 1960 movie Spartacus. A great, quick read loaded with a significant social history and fun anecdotes, very much enjoyed.

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No crucifixions, but a tough time.

All collaborative projects face challenges but the film industry brings together so many strands that it seems a wonder that many films are completed. Add to the usual tensions the McCarthy blacklisting of writers and you can imagine the difficulties. If you're an IMDb fan, you soon realise that names are 'on board' who are not credited in the film and this raises a familiar feeling of suspense: wondering how they came to disappear. One strength of this book is KD's balanced view of sometimes problematic people: their flaws (often ones of ego) don't blind him to their strengths.
As an aside, let me mention Howard Fast's original novel. He appears in the story here and I was prompted to try the novel: it's really fine writing, although clearly a different thing altogether from the script - no spoilers - I won't mention the name, in case you're not an IMDb addict.

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A lesson for all time

History is best told by those who were there and listening to this excellent book, as read by his talented son, it shines a light on times sadly not to unlike those today where differences of opinion or thinking that goes against the grain can ruin lives.
It is difficult not to inject such political thinking when the very subject, the black list, is mentioned and discussed, but this work is one from the heart, more than just another Hollywood memoir, but one that remembers the making of a film well established today as a cinematic classic, highlighting good times and difficult situations both professional and personal bringing to back to life those involved in the marking of Spartacus in words full of honest integrity.
I cannot recommend this book enough, it is well worth a listen and worth getting in a printed version as well.

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fantastic book!

loved it and if Kirk can't read it to us himself then who better than Michael.

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Surprisingly Good

I really enjoyed this book. It is a good story, well read.

One might say the author is a little self - serving at points, I'm not sure. But overall this is well worth a listen especially for the historical context.

Recommended.

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brilliant and very moving in parts.

loved the narrative by Michael Douglas, never got bored throughout the book . Kirk Douglas comes across has a special human being that has lived an extraordinary life .

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excellent

wasn't sure whether to get this - book is about the making of spartacus - excellent story - MD excellent voice - really like douglas's values and vision

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excellent book on a period of film history

excellent book on a shameful period of hollywood history and delivered brilliantly by m douglas

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  • Jefferson
  • 02-02-18

McCarthyism, Hollywood, Spartacus and Kirk Douglas

Imagine spending a day getting drunk while talking about Spartacus with Laurence ('Larry') Olivier, Dalton Trumbo, and Kirk Douglas--Douglas' memoir I Am Spartacus: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist (2012) is full of such entertaining vignettes.

Lots of appalling details of McCarthyism: 'pompous ass' congressional committee chairmen, contempt of congress prison sentences, black listing, etc. Lots of interesting details on how movies were made in the 1950s: securing funding, securing rights to adapt novels, writing and revising screenplays, casting actors, finding directors, promoting films, worrying about entertainment columnists, costume fittings, table readings, editing, satisfying the Motion Picture Association censors, etc. Lots of snapshots of Hollywood stars: Lauren Bacall, Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra, George Sanders, Jean Simmons, etc. Lots of intriguing pieces of Kirk Douglas' biography: Russian Jewish ancestry, birth name Issur Danielovitch, beloved mother, first movie role, stardom, marriages and children, production company, etc. Lots of apt insights into human nature: why persecuted people like Jews would persecute their fellows; what kind of people name names of friends to save their careers and what kind don't; what kind of religion would be most helpful to the world; etc.

Of course the book is full of interesting details about how the classic historical epic Spartacus was made: the involvement of the author of the novel, Howard Fast; the race to beat a rival studio before they could make their similarly themed epic; the efforts of Douglas to find another studio to back his movie; and the chaotic making of the picture, including the director and the female lead actress getting fired after filming had begun, Douglas breaking the jaw of another actor during a fight scene, and Tony Curtis splitting his Achilles tendon while playing tennis with Douglas, the recording of 73,000 college football fans at an MSU game shouting 'I am Spartacus' in unison, and the purchase from Franco of the Spanish army to play clashing armies in the climactic battle filmed at the last second. Douglas' depictions of the large personalities involved are entertaining: Laurence Olivier suffering the break up of his marriage to Vivien Leigh; Charles Laughton throwing temper tantrums; Peter Ustinov stealing scenes; Tony Curtis greeting Douglas, 'Hail Spartacus!' Not to mention Kubrick, the young director, rubbing everyone the wrong way with his perfectionist genius, deficient empathy, and refusal to change his clothes, and Dalton Trumbo, the Oscar-winning black listed writer, chafing at having to write yet another screenplay under yet another pseudonym, a screenplay plagued by constant requests for changes.

Although the book is mostly about the making of Spartacus and the raising of the Hollywood blacklist, part of its appeal concerns the struggles of Douglass at 95 to recall his 1950s' self, not only because it's difficult to remember events from long ago but especially because it's painful to remember the man he was then: cocky, energetic, and at times possessed of an anger that pains him to realize resembled that of his 'cruel' father (as when he threw a chair at Kubrick in a rage over the scene of Spartacus on the cross being cut without prior discussion). Without pride, Douglas, mentions that Tony Curtis' description of him back then was spot on: 'A panther with a thorn in his side.'

Douglas writes a lot of witty lines, like these:
--'I didn't enjoy firing people. I'm not Donald Trump.'
--'Nobody wrote outrage better than Dalton even in a telegram.'
--'Eddie was a man of conviction. Stanley was a man of calculation.'
--'His sighs and grunts and soft reproaches somewhat unhinged me at close quarters.'

Michael Douglas gives a fine reading of the audiobook, his gravelly voice a nostalgic echo of his father's.

Fans of Spartacus or Kirk Douglas or people curious about McCarthyism or Hollywood of the 1950s should like this book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • kym
  • 12-07-12

Great personal account

This is a great personal account of a film that I loved when I was a kid and still love today. I love the fact that it is read by his son, although it is hard to believe he is an actor as his diction is sometimes unclear. For a man who is 95yo it feels like it just happened to him a decade ago and there are often personal reflections from his past and present that make this an enjoyable listen.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Hatcher
  • 19-07-13

Top-notch listening experience

Would you consider the audio edition of I Am Spartacus! to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version, but would imagine it is as entertaining as the audio version.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I was enthralled by many characters, like Charles Laughton, Laurence Olivier, Dalton Trumbo and Douglas himself.

What about Michael Douglas’s performance did you like?

I enjoyed being able to trust that Michael was giving us an authentic interpretation of his father's words, attitudes and manner.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was brought close to tears on many occasions. How can you listen to a 95-year-old man reflect on his many decades and not be moved?

Any additional comments?

I listened to this on long drives, and was always amazed at how quickly those miles passed. I cannot recommend this book more highly.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • BG853
  • 08-10-14

McCarthyism and its Effects in Hollywood

Kirk Douglas gives us a fascinating memoir on the making of an epic movie during the shameful era of Hollywood blacklists. Spartacus had some of the biggest stars of the day Kirk, Lawrence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis and Jeanne Simmons. Listening to the interplay among this outsized egos was fascinating.

But more importantly, the book reminds us of the damage the blacklists had on the careers of those who stood up for their rights in the face of the House on Unamerican Activities and Kirk Douglas's courage in helping to break the blacklist. Recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Shining Rainbow
  • 04-06-14

Heroic, sincere, human, moving

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

A great window on a part of recent american history and a very human self-portrait of a fighting man read by his son

What did you like best about this story?

Kirk's Douglas unabashed fighting spirit

What about Michael Douglas’s performance did you like?

You can't but think that while he was reading his father's biography, he was moved by it and there was a lot of self-identification in his father, too. Touching.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Never give up!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicholas
  • 16-03-13

All Hail Mr. Douglas!

What did you love best about I Am Spartacus!?

It's an important story that needed to be told by a man who was not only there, but helped end the stigma of the Hollywood Blacklist.

What did you like best about this story?

Michael Douglas does a masterful job (as usual) and he sounds so much like his dad, it's as if Kirk himself was there telling you the story.

Any additional comments?

I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in this part of Hollywood/American history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-08-17

A little disappointing.

While I can appreciate his many accomplishments and admire his talent, why must he make snarky comments about anyone that is not of his political leaning? He names someone on the right as being divisive, yet fails to mention ALL those in Hollywood who are divisive on the left. Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin, Jimmy Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. I enjoyed the history of the making of this film, but it was marred by the authors irrisitable urge to take a swipe at modern men who had nothing to do with the politics of the 50's. Shame.

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  • Zack Myers
  • 09-03-17

Incredible Journey inside Hollywood

What did you love best about I Am Spartacus!?

The honesty of Kirk Douglas and his courage to stand up for what is morally right.

What other book might you compare I Am Spartacus! to and why?

Leonard, by William Shatner.

What about Michael Douglas’s performance did you like?

He has a very smooth voice and the fact he sounds a lot like his father.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Toward the end when he talked about Trumbo, who really deserved a break and Kirk Douglas gave it to him.

Any additional comments?

One of the best audio books I've listened to, the combo of Kirk Douglas writing and Michael Douglas reading it was just the best. Really an incredible story.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 09-02-17

Trombone from the man who made it posdible

Having Michael Douglas read his father's words was a rare treat. Fascinating history lesson that doubles as entertainment

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  • mosadiq
  • 08-05-16

amazing story and a great performance by micheal

amazing story and wiuld make an amazing movie.some one should turn this book into a movie.