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Michael Douglas: A Biography
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2012
I grew up watching Michael Douglas on the big screen. Romancing the Stone, Wall Street, Black Rain, Fatal Attraction, etc. I had no idea that prior to that Michael was an Academy Award winning producer for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Or that he lived on a hippie commune in Santa Barbara. Or that he buddied around with Danny DeVito and was mentored by the great Karl Malden. Or that he was one of the few children of Hollywood stars to successfully live up to his father's legend. In his career Michael seems to have struck gold more than once. Outside of his career his impact has extended from his role as United Nation Messenger of Peace to his recent struggles with cancer.

Mr. Eliot's biography seems to have found the happy balance in telling the story of one of Hollywood's most beloved actors and producers. Eliot also points out that it wasn't always that way and that Douglas' struggle was a bumpy one. The narrative is respectful and informative and I found myself turning the pages one after the next. All in all a great read!

I recommend this book highly!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This book was definitely superior to the last book I read by this author. It is fairly straightforward and appears to be thoroughly researched. The one thing I can say definitely is that I enjoyed it a lot. It kept my interest throughout. It covers not only Douglas' career with the hits and missteps, but also looks at his personal life in detail.
Probably most interesting to me were the early years which had not been documented in the press for the world to see. As the son of a celebrity, what had been covered were photo ops and occasional items which touted family togetherness. What is the contained in this book portrays a much different picture of Kirk Douglas and Michael. While not exactly a hard luck tale about childhood abandonment, it does portray a father who is absent most of the time and a son who longs for reunification and acceptance. In this respect the reader will get a dual bio of Kirk as an actor, husband, father, and womanizer and Michael.
As things often have a way of coming full circle, Michael is also seen in much the same light as his father. He clearly makes the same mistakes as Kirk when it comes to his first wife and son with some fairly unfortunate results.
If there is one thing that I probably don't much like in this book is the author's tendency to project Michael's thoughts and feelings in regard to his dealings with all his children and both of his wives. It is easy to speculate but in the end those thoughts may not be accurate or even realistic.
Ultimately, this is an interesting book and will enhance its author's rep as a biographer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2012
This book is a major disappointment. Those who have given it positive reviews are not regular readers of biographies. I am a fan of Douglas and when I saw the book I thought it would be interesting to read of his life and career. What a waste of money this title is. Just google all the media on Douglas over his career and paste it all together and save yourself the cost of the book. There is no investigative journalism, no exclusive information that one cannot get elsewhere. There is no in depth reporting of Douglas' marriages or his cancer illness. All that is written on his career is stock standard. After a couple of pages I was bored rigid and flicked through the rest of the book - all the same, just jumping from one subject to the next. As one resource ends, so does the subject. Hopefully in the future Douglas will write his own biography. However in the meantime do not bother with this nothing of a book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2012
At the outset, this book appears to be more a biography of Michael's father, rather than Michael! When finishing the last chapter, my knowledge of Michael's work was more extensive than knowing the man, himself; disappointing result of hours invested, in an attempt to learn something about the man as a person - off screen, and away from the tabloids. I would not recommend this book to anyone, unless they are seeking reference material for another book about a celebrity's career accomplishments.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2012
I thought it talked too much about what films he made, who was in them and the reviews and not enough about his personal life, since mine was on a kindle there was about 20% at the end that just gave information about how they got their information. I thought it was a waste of my time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2012
Unbelievably boring account of a rather fascinating man. The writing is so forgettable that I would consistently loose my place and have re-read entire pages. I was unable to complete the book due to total boredom.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2012
Like many Generation X'ers, my list of favorite male actors has always included Michael Douglas, who starred in several of the most commercially successful (as well as culturally significant) Hollywood films of all time. My appreciation of Douglas goes back even further, when he co-starred with Karl Malden in the Streets of San Francisco. As a native Californian, San Francisco, along with CHIPS, was one of those shows I watched religiously, week after week. When the handsome son of Kirk Douglas made the jump to the silver screen, I followed his every move, and have continued to do so for the last thirty years. For me, Douglas had the combination of intelligence, charisma, believability (flaws), and leading man looks. Also, Douglas's performances typically possessed an underlying sense of angst, perhaps anger, which always made his characters even more compelling.

Michael Douglas has never quite achieved the level of critical praise reserved for the rare likes of the DeNiro's and Pacino's--even though he has won multiple Oscars--but he is inarguably one of the most iconic male actors in Hollywood history, thanks to his roles in The China Syndrome, Romancing the Stone, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and of course Wall Street. Perhaps better than any other actor of his generation, Douglas became the on-screen embodiment of the flawed, contemporary American male. He created compelling characters who, despite their quirks and dark sides, gave an audience plenty to root for; and when you weren't rooting for him, as was the case with his unforgettable Gordon Gecko, you were nonetheless fascinated by the complexity of the character.

Let me say this before continuing: the curt, dismissive reviews posted here for Marc Eliot's Michael Douglas: a Biography are in no way an accurate assessment of this work. This is a great book, an astute, descriptive recap of not only the work of Douglas himself, but also the numerous eras in which he thrived as a producer, actor and visionary, starting with the sixties and continuing to the present day. If you are a lover of American films and the tradition of big Hollywood movie-making at its best, you will love this book. Eliot takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the circumstances surrounding the making of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest--almost enough information for a book unto itself--and continues on to describe his subject's involvement in many film projects that would go on to become fixtures of American culture en masse.

There is much here to praise. First, the biographer spends an appropriate amount of time exploring the various phases of the actor's life: his strained relationship with father Kurt, a huge Hollywood icon himself, his early years of hippie/counter-cultural listlessness (Kirk once said Michael was the least ambitious of all his children!), his gradual ascent in Hollywood, first as a producer, and his many artistic and commercial ups and downs through the decades, his struggles to balance the desire to be a family man with his relentless Hollywood ambitions (the latter won the battle for a long, long time), and ultimately, his transition from leading man to aging character actor/cancer survivor.

While many might view Douglas's life and career as highly enviable, Eliot clearly shows the reader that the actor's life was never a picnic; it was, and continues to be, his unwavering energy and passion, not only for moviemaking but also numerous causes, which has kept Michael Douglas in the public eye for so many years.
Even if you are not particularly interested in the life of Michael Douglas--I was, because as mentioned, I have long been a fan--this is still a recommended book, because there is so much great information about the inside deals and machinations that surround the world of filmmaking. It took many years to bring One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to the screen, for example, and while the movie's title immediately conjures up early images of a smiling, conniving Jack Nicholson, the whole project was conceived by Kirk Douglas, who had developed it as a vehicle for himself, first on Broadway, and was resolved to play the lead up until the day the studio refused son Michael's pleas to allow his father to get the role.

This is but one of many, many fascinating insider stories this book offers for the film lover. Furthermore, the Eliot's biography will disabuse the reader of the popular notion that the Hollywood life is filled with glamour and good times. Indeed, as Douglas's storied life and career show, it is a fabulous ride filled with riches, accolades, privileges and famous friends--but there are also great peaks and valleys (you're only as cool as your last movie), disappointments, pressures, setbacks, and frustrating business snags. At points in the story, Douglas, despite his fame and stature in Hollywood, spends the vast majority of his time chasing down money (investors) to finance the projects he believes in. Other times, he cashes in and takes the money, acting in roles he doesn't think much of, only to be surprised when these are the vehicles which propel him to superstardom!

This is simply a great story, with multiple, fascinating elements: the son of a Hollywood giant, struggling to emerge from his father's shadow, a brilliant producer/visionary, who at times is almost prescient in delivering films with relevant, timely messages, a subtle actor who impressively manages to pioneer his own archetype, and a talented but flawed man who lives out his numerous, personal mistakes and failures in the public eye, taking full accountability without apologizing. In other words, a Great American Story.
The Lizard Stays in the Cage: Music, Art, Sex, Screenplays, Booze & Basketball
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2013
I read a lot of bios and I found this one very disappointed. I was surprised how shallow Michael Douglas was and I really didn't think the author pushed into areas of Michael's life as deeply as he should have.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2012
What I got from this book - was an interesting view into the life of an actor whose work I have admired. Nothing too
in depth and the writing style personal. A good easy read for hotel evenings and mid range flights -
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on July 22, 2014
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Aside from my interest in Douglas' career and work as an artist, I have always been curious about the family overall after meeting his youngest brother Eric, who died tragically in 2004. I had seen Eric in a play in West Hollywood where he eerily reminded me of his father, Kirk, dressed in a military uniform. He took a group of us to dinner afterward, anxious to find out what we really thought of his performance. While one would have thought that all he was looking for was praise, it quickly became obvious to me that he really wanted the truth. He came around to each person individually at the table, quietly asking for specifics on what we liked and what we thought could have been done better. With undeniable magnetism, he looked each one of us in the eye, listening intently - obviously taking in and considering our comments. At the end of the evening, we all piled into his father's brown old school Mercedes which was in immaculate condition. Checking the glove compartment, he said "Let's see what daddy has to listen to!!" as he popped out an 8 track of Tony Bennett. The pedigree of Eric and how he was raised was more than evident, even as we raced down the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles at 2 a.m. It turned out to be an unforgettable evening.

I'd forgotten just how ground breaking some of the movies that Michael Douglas has been involved with actually were. I've always liked his work as an actor, but his work as a producer is even more impressive in some ways. The details in the book describe just how he managed to overcome being the son of an iconic actor - by being himself, true to who he is and following his own instincts.

While Michael Douglas' work has never risen to the level of critical appreciation as actors such as Pacino, Hoffman and DeNiro, he has still been acknowledged with multiple awards over the course of his career. More than many actors of his particular generation, Douglas has navigated the challenging landscape of the complex and vulnerable male, managing to create sympathetic characters who, despite their flaws, still appeal to audiences.

The book is a comprehensive and complete exploration of all of the phases of Douglas' life including his very earliest years, relationship with parents, rebel hippie years and the slow but steady connection to Hollywood, beginning as a stage assistant with his father and subsequent ascent to producer and actor. Additionally, his personal relationships with women are also addressed, in a strikingly honest way. Since Douglas himself probably signed off in some way on this book - his willingness to expose the details of his life in this way only speak to his dedication to his art. It is through books like this that up and coming actors and filmmakers can learn the most valuable lessons - about the life and business of being an artist.

Above all, Eliot is a great storyteller who has taken the life of an extraordinary, well known artist and provided a fascinating, multi-faceted perspective for readers.
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