Tuesday, March 17, 2015

TCR on Films -- "Life Could Be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters" by Kirk Douglas

In Life Could Be Verse, a brief and often affecting volume, actor Kirk Douglas, who recently turned ninety-eight years old, shares poems he has written over the course of his long life and recounts the experiences that inspired the verses.

Kirk wrote his first poem -- about a sailing ship, though he had never seen the ocean -- for an English class assignment as a high school student in upstate New York back when he was still Issur Danielovitch, the child of impoverished Russian Jewish immigrants. He discovered that versifying helped him better understand his thoughts. "Throughout my life I have written poems that express my true feelings," Kirk explains in the book's acknowledgments.

The poems are simple but perceptive reflections set in singsong rhyme and might be called wise doggerel. Here are the opening lines from "Luck" -- They call it 'luck'/It can't be taught/It can't be borrowed/It can't be bought'. Kirk's movie stardom, though discussed in the book, takes a back seat to his roles of son, husband, father, and grandfather.
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Kirk Douglas now (photo/Dan MacMedan/USA TODAY)
Kirk Douglas is among the few classic studio-era stars still with us in this second decade of the twenty-first century. Olivia de Havilland, Maureen O'Hara, and Doris Day are others. His trademark thick blond hair has turned thin and white and is worn in a ponytail.

In Life Could Be Verse Kirk quickly runs through the highlights of his acting career which began on the New York stage in the late 1930s. There were a few years of struggle and a stint in the Navy during World War II. The big break came in 1945 when producer Hal Wallis (following a tip from young Lauren Bacall, who Kirk had briefly dated when she was a Manhattan teenager named Betty) caught Douglas's performance in the play The Wind is Ninety and lured him to Hollywood.