best film:  I’m overdue for a Kubrick retrospective and haven’t seen Paths of Glory in years but I think I’m giving the edge here to Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past. Out of the Past is a seminal film for film noir. Perhaps only Double Indemnity is more often listed as both a better work and a clearer architype of the genre. It’s Robert Mitchum’s film from an acting standpoint but Douglas eviscerates the screen when he’s on it. He’s a star. Detective Story is also up there as a contender here as it’s Wyler’s (69th best director of all-time) #1 film!

best performance: Paths of Glory has it all. He’s not a bastard here (which was atypical for a Douglas role) but it has his trademark fury during the courtroom scenes. Kubrick makes it an art film (even more than a war or a courtroom drama film). There’s also the great scenes of Douglas looming and pacing in the trenches. I think most will go with Spartacus as his best or Ace in the Hole and both are fine choices but to me this has everything without being purely a one-man show.

stylistic innovations/traits:  Douglas had the unfortunate position of always being compared to his frequent co-star Burt Lancaster (three archiveable films together) and for peaking at the same time as Marlon Brando (and the rise of Method). Douglas was on absolute fire from 1951 (two of the best 5 performance that year—both in top 5 of the year quality films) to about 1960. He worked with Kubrick, Hawks, Wilder, Hawks, Wyler and Minnelli in this stretch. In fact, during his entire prime- a 20 year stretch (1946-1965) he was in a total of 21 archiveable films—there’s a 15 year stretch in there from 49 to 64 where he’s one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.. It’s a great sign for Douglas’ depth of strong performances that Spartacus and his turn in Out of the Past didn’t make the top 5. He famously said “I made a living playing sons of bitches” and indeed he did. He was great at playing wrath, arrogance, selfishness, and ruthlessness.

directors worked with:   Kubrick (2)- the only actor to lead two Kubrick films, Minnelli (2), John Sturges (2) and then Wilder, Wyler, Hawks and Preminger once

Top 5 Performances:

  1. Paths of Glory
  2. Detective Story
  3. Ace in the Hole
  4. Lust for Life
  5. The Bad and the Beautiful


Archiveable films

1946- The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
1947- Mourning Becomes Electra
1947- Out of the Past
1947- I Walk Alone
1949- A Letter To Three Wives
1949- Champion
1951- Ace in the Hole
1951- Detective Story
1952- The Bad and the Beautiful
1952- The Big Sky
1954- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
1955- The Indian Fighter
1956- Lust For Life
1957- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
1957- Paths of Glory
1958- The Vikings
1959- Last Train from Gun Hill
1960- Spartacus
1962- Lonely Are the Brave
1964- Seven Days in May
1965- In Harm’s Way
1982- The Man From Snowy River