In the beginning of his legendary career, Kirk Douglas (1916 – ) b. Issur Danielovitch, was almost typecast as a well-meaning but ineffectual husband in two fine films, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1946, and A Letter to Three Wives, 1949. But his career ascended into mega-stardom when he played cynical heroes motivated by rage: Champion, 1949, Ace in the Hole, 1951, The Bad and the Beautiful, 1952, Paths of Glory, 1957, Spartacus, 1960, and his favorite picture, Lonely Are the Brave, 1962,
Douglas was never a conventional leading man. Though handsome as a fairy tale prince, he wielded his masculine beauty like a weapon. There was none of the gruff, working class charm that made Gable the King. Douglas was not an urbane gentleman like William Powell, nor a witty charmer like Cary Grant.
Kirk Douglas excelled at playing, in his own words, “sons of bitches.”
We continue our series of the Twenty Greatest Movies of each decade. Here are our our picks for the last five great movies of the 1940’s.
16. Notorious, 1946. No American actor has tampered with his own charming image more successfully than Cary Grant. In Only Angels Have Wings (1939) he is the tough boss of a suicidal jungle mail service. In Suspicion (1941) one is forced to ask: Is Grant playing his usually charming self but capable of cold-blooded murder? In None But the Lonely Heart (1944) a film I loathe, Grant convincingly plays a Cockney tough with mother issues. And in Notorious, Hitchcock, who understood Grant’s image better than any other director, cast Grant as a sexually repressed government agent who recruits bad girl Ingrid Bergman, daughter of a convicted Nazi spy. Grant’s dark side is brilliantly exploited as his character initially treats Bergman with contempt but gradually falls in love with the damaged, vulnerable beauty. Notorious succeeds, not because of the plot—tedious spy stuff—but because the love story is central and brilliantly convincing.