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I Am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist Paperback – June 12, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1453254803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453254806
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“An entertaining and informative look at the troubled gestation of a film of both artistic and social significance.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Kirk Douglas is many things . . . But he is, first and foremost, a man of extraordinary character. The kind that’s formed when the stakes are high. The kind we always look for at our darkest hour.” —George Clooney

"A glorious book . . . Kirk Douglas is a wonderful writer and a courageous one, which should surprise no one. Courage has been his battle cry all his life." —Steven Spielberg

"The making of I Am Spartacus! is a remarkable story told with the wit and charm of a great entertainer. Kirk Douglas revisits the complex political and social context surrounding the production of a cinema classic." —Henry Kissinger

"Hugely entertaining." —Liz Smith, Chicago Tribune

"I Am Spartacus! is a great read." —Bill O'Reilly

"Kirk Douglas is a lion." —Bill Maher

"A lively new memoir about one of [Douglas'] greatest triumphs." —Los Angeles Times

"Carries the power of a self-made man who continues to meet life on his own terms but with grace and aplomb." —Associated Press

Book Description

In his own words, Kirk Douglas tells the story of making the film that broke the blacklist in Hollywood

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Customer Reviews

It is anecdotal in style with his reflections on each story he conveys.
Mr. B
Kirk Douglas has always been my favorite actor, and Spartacus among the best movies of all time.
W. Tweeddale
I don't know how to make a movie but this book helped explain the process.
William Mann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Kirk Douglas is now 95, but in this book he turns his memory back to 1959 when he decided to make the film "Spartacus". This is not simply a film memoir though, as interesting as that might be, because the film had an important and historic event attached to it - the fact a blacklisted writer was given screen credit under their own name for the first time since the fears of McCarthyism.

Dalton Trumbo was one of the most respected writers in Hollywood when he went to jail in 1947 for refusing to incriminate colleagues after he was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee (actually before McCarthy, although that is the name best associated with the witch hunts that followed). While in another prison for similar reasons, author Howard Fast was writing the novel "Spartacus", which was later turned down by seven publishing houses as the author was blacklisted and which he ended up publishing it himself. When Dalton Trumbo was released he went to Mexico and was left having to write under assumed names.

This then is the story of Kirk Douglas discovering Howard Fast's novel and deciding that he wanted to make it into a movie. It is a tale as epic as the movie itself, as he fights a rival production, "The Gladiators", finds his cast (despite a less than enthusiastic Charles Laughton), has problems finding a leading lady, more problems finding a director, fights the censors and deals with the issues that using Dalton Trumbo as his screenplay writer causes. When Douglas decides to use Trumbo's real name on the movie credits he is the first to end the Hollywood blacklist and it is here that the main story of the book is contained.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bridget McKenna on June 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This wonderfully written memoir focuses on the making of an epic film at a crossroads of American history, when the political excesses of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-communist witch hunts destroyed lives and left a dark cloud of secrecy, betrayal, and fear hanging over the film industry.

Dalton Trumbo, who had gone to prison for no real crime, had for ten years been unable to work under his own name, or even for the kind of money his fame and skill should have commanded. He was one of many who suffered similar fates, because in the political climate of the time, to recognize them professionally was to put your own career in danger. Kirk Douglas wanted to produce an epic film from a book by a blacklisted author, Howard Fast (a risky proposition in itself), and wanted Trumbo to write the screenplay. But to acknowledge the screenwriter's work--or even to allow rumors of it--was to risk losing his film, his income, his career.

What happened is no less than a Hollywood legend, told by the man at the center of it. Kirk Douglas is 95 years old, and has been acting, making films, and writing books for most of that time. This book beautifully details a watershed in his extraordinary life and in the life of film.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By diana moses on July 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
That tough guy persona? Not an act. At 95, Kirk Douglas's voice and his intellect are as clear and cogent as ever in this powerful memoir. Douglas, author of The Ragman's Son and My Stroke of Luck and the producer of Spartacus, brings his ferocious wit and keen insight to this book about the making of the film that helped put an end to the Hollywood Blacklist. While he explores the timeless themes of scapegoatism, integrity, and betrayal faced by the Hollywood Ten, he likens the age of McCarthyism to other times of national division in our history, such as our own time of political discord and the Civil War. It is the story of the creative souls that survived, and those who were crushed by, the Communist witchhunt and how the stars and elements aligned to bring the 1960 blockbuster Spartacus to the silver screen, including the author's determination to hire "convicts" Dalton Trumbo and Howard Fast to make it happen. Overall, an enjoyable and invigorating read and a superb addition to any History or Biography collection. Includes illustrations and a foreword by George Clooney.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael OConnor TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
I've never been a big fan of Kirk Douglas although I enjoyed him in movies such as SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, THE VIKINGS and PATHS OF GLORY. I have a dim memory of seeing SPARTACUS but have since realized it was an important film for many reasons. Douglas, the film's producer and star, recounts the fascinating efforts that resulted in the production of that 1960 Universal Studios blockbuster in I AM SPARTACUS, a 2012 Open Road release.

Judging from the barriers and problems Douglas faced in producing SPARTACUS, he probably deserves some sort of medal for persevering. The author of the source material - Howard Fast - turned in an unfilmable script. The scriptwriter Douglas turned to - Dalton Trumbo - was a blacklisted author whose involvement could derail the film's production if revealed in the press. A rival studio was filming a similar flick and its film seemed far ahead in production. Douglas' first director didn't work out and his replacement - Stanley Kubrick - was talented but trouble of another sort. Some of the actors hired for the film were critical of the material or worked to enrich their parts and so on.

Yet Douglas weathered all the problems and produced an award-winning film that was Universal's biggest moneymaker for ten years. And it helped break the blacklist that had denied employment to so many Hollywood talents suspected as being Communists or Communist sympathizers.

I AM SPARTACUS is an informative and insightful insider's guide to the SPARTACUS saga. Not having read any of Douglas' previous books, I was pleasantly surprised by his writing skills. The book is an entertaining and surprisingly quick read on an important American film. Recommended.
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