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SPARTACUS – Alex North

July 31, 2017 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Kirk Douglas’ pride was wounded when director William Wyler selected Charlton Heston over him for the titular role in Ben-Hur. He resolved to show Wyler and Hollywood that he could carry a Roman epic film. Fortune smiled when Edward Lewis, a studio executive in Douglas’ production company, came upon the novel Spartacus (1951) by Howard Fast. Its heroic story telling of a man who rises up to challenge the might of the Roman Empire offered a perfect opportunity for Douglas to showcase his talent. He purchased the film rights and then convinced Universal Studios to jointly finance the film. Douglas brought in Fast to adapt his own novel, but his unfamiliarity with cinematic screenplays led to his dismissal. Douglas was determined to succeed at all costs, and so stoked controversy by bringing in black listed screenplay writer Dalton Trumbo and insisting that he get screen credit. This decision was decisive in that it served to break the decade long blacklisting of writers in Hollywood. For his cast, we have one the finest ever assembled. Supporting Douglas in the titular role would be Lawrence Olivier as Crassus, Jean Simmons as Varinia, Charles Laughton as Gracchus, Peter Ustinov as Lentulus Batiatus, Tony Curtis as Antoninus, John Gavin as Julius Caesar, John Dall as Glabrus and John Ireland as Crixus. The film got off to a rocky start when Douglas fired his director Anthony Mann after one week of shooting – he felt he was in over his head. He brought in past collaborator Stanley Kubrick, and the rest is history. Read more…