Happy birthday to legendary actor Kirk Douglas, who turns 100 on December 9!
To celebrate his centennial, we’re screening Lonely Are the Brave, a 1962 Western he cites as one of his personal favorites. Here’s a nice bit of trivia: This movie had its world premiere at a theater in Houston!
With a screenplay adapted by legendary writer Dalton Trumbo—a friend Douglas had just collaborated with on Spartacus—Lonely Are the Brave features a strong ensemble cast including Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, and Carroll O’Connor (the All in the Family star in his screen debut!).
In his 1988 autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, Douglas said, “I love the theme that if you try to be an individual, society will crush you.” After successful test screenings, Douglas “pleaded with Universal not to release Lonely Are the Brave as a cheap little Western, which is how they saw it . . . Please release it like an art film . . . put it in one or two theaters and give it a chance to grow, to find its audience by word of mouth.” His request went unheeded, but even so the film eventually became a cult classic.
Among the Houstonians looking forward to our screening of Lonely Are the Brave is Michael A. Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center and acting president of the University of Houston-Downtown. He was kind enough to allow us to share his personal anecdote:
“When I was a boy in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, friends and I would go camping in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, where the film’s outdoor scenes were shot. One day we saw a lot of gear and cameras being set up, about half a mile from us. We rode our bikes there and saw Kirk Douglas getting in a jeep to ride up to the top of a ridge, where he then got onto a horse for one of the escape scenes. Gena Rowlands was nearby, causing in me a lifelong love for her. Kirk Douglas was the first film star I ever met, and the only movie set I ever got to visit is still Lonely Are the Brave.”