He is Spartacus…and here’s how it happened.
Douglas (Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning, 2008, etc.) famously helped break the Hollywood blacklist when he insisted Dalton Trumbo—previously jailed for contempt of Congress and made an unemployable industry pariah due to his membership in the “Hollywood Ten”—be given sole screenwriting credit under his own name for Spartacus, rather than employ a pseudonym, as was common practice at the time. That act of courage is at the heart of this memoir about the creation of the epic film. The author’s evident pride in the matter is wholly justified, but the book’s true appeal lies in the off-camera antics of the storied cast and the candidly described aggravation and terror the production’s many complications engendered in Douglas, who, as the producer, had staked his reputation and financial well-being on the results. Among Douglas’ many headaches were the childish rivalry between stars Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton, who regarded each other with a curious combination of respect and utter hatred; the scene-stealing machinations of Peter Ustinov, whose efforts would net him an Academy Award; a scheduling standoff with a similarly themed sand-and-sandals epic starring Yul Brynner; and, most fascinatingly, Douglas’ frustration with director Stanley Kubrick, a replacement for Anthony Mann who alienated Douglas and much of the cast and crew with his high-handedness and lack of social skills, while ultimately delivering a technically accomplished and viscerally emotional masterpiece. Douglas is a fine natural storyteller, unafraid to portray his quick temper and nasty outbursts when the going got rough.
An entertaining and informative look at the troubled gestation of a film of both artistic and social significance.