Kirk Douglas

by Randy Fuller Feb 12, 2020

The life of Kirk Douglas took him from a childhood dominated by a hard-drinking junkman father to adult years in which he lived in a Beverly Hills home with a wine cellar.  He was one of the world’s biggest movie stars and most noted actors, and Trailers From Hell remembers him this week after his passing on February 5, 2020.

In the classic Spartacus, we find wine playing at least a supporting role since nobody wanted to drink the foul water in the century before Christ.  Even though the Roman Empire’s plumbing system was a miracle of its day, the lead pipes that carried the water to citizens would much later be shown as a bigger health hazard that gladiating.

Douglas, as Spartacus, worries that he and his men “look for wine when we should be hunting bread.”  Nick Dennis, as Dionysius, replies that, “When you’ve got wine, you don’t need bread,” which is an interesting take on what may have been the earliest recorded drinking problem.  Eat something, Dionysius!

Australia’s Karrawatta Wines makes a red blend called Spartacus, apparently just because the name is catchy.  Also, as a tip of the hat to the notion that Spartacus hailed from what is now Bulgaria, there’s a Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon named for him.  It appears to be such a great bargain that it is out of stock on the website.

What is the best wine to pair with a movie night featuring Spartacus?  Let him tell it. When his men were arguing over which region produced the best wine, Spartacus ended the squabble by telling them, “You’re all wrong; the best wine comes from home, wherever it is.”  Spartacus said it, I believe it.

For Ace in the Hole, Douglas plays a New York newspaperman whose life comes apart, prompting him to quit drinking and move to Albuquerque.  He might have paraphrased Bugs Bunny to say that he made a wrong turn at Wichita Falls, but his sobriety seems to have robbed him of his sense of humor.  Anyway, he goes on to become Albuquerque’s number one media whore, showing enough heartless conniving to qualify him for a MAGA hat.  He blew into town blustering that he was a $250 newspaperman who could be had for $50. Here’s a $50 Champagne you can have for $250 – Armand de Brignac’s Ace of Spades.  Not a great bargain, but if you need to bribe an elected official in Albuquerque, this might do the trick.

Paths of Glory has Douglas heading up a suicide mission in WWI.  French foot soldiers in the Great War were given a daily ration of a half-liter of wine per day – Pinard, according to the label.  Nowadays pinard is still a French synonym for plonk, or bad wine.

French soldiers attacking the German “Anthill” position make for some lovely pairing possibilities.  Rhône and Riesling? Bordeaux and Blaufrankisch? Beaujolais Nouveau and Blue Nun?  Or, anything from Sonoma County’s Anthill Farms could suffice.

Douglas was directed by Stanley Kubrick in Paths of Glory (and in Spartacus) and the actor told Variety just before his 100th birthday that Kubrick was a bastard, albeit a talented one.  Lift a glass of Fat Bastard wine or a flute of sparkling plonk for this screening.

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