Van Gogh – Art Detective
4:27 P.M. 5/24/21
I just discovered that Kirk Douglas wanted to play Randall McMurphy in his son’s movie – he refused to sell the rights to. The actor that played Vincent Van Gogh, played him in Kesey’s script that he turned into play! Why aren’t we reading about this? How I came to discover this is an amazing set of coincidences that will begin my blog tomorrow morning. But for this, there exist no connection to Van Gogh by Ken Kesey – who sued Michael Douglas! What did Kirk have to say about this? Was Ken Kesey, and Ken Babbs – along with the Pranksters – afraid of mixing it up with Kirk the King of Hollywood – and that crowd? This is AMAZING. Our tiny Emerald Valley goes to war with Hollywood! Here is another ZARDOZ connection. Why aren’t any Pranksters talking about penetrating the Hollywood Vortex?
It has been forty-eight hours since I read about the surfacing of The Lost Van Gogh. I am reminded of James Burke’s T.V. series, Connections.
Kirk Douglas, who died today at age 103, had owned rights to the Cuckoo’s Nest play (based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel) and had hoped to get it financed as a movie, playing the role that later went to Jack Nicholson, Michael recalled. At the time Michael was a successful television actor in Streets of San Francisco but aspired to become a feature star and producer. He thus asked his father for his rights to the play, only to be turned down. Kirk told him firmly that no one wanted to make the movie, that he would be wasting his time.
From the New York Times
PLEASANT HILLS, Ore., March 30—Ken, Kesey, his family and 15 friends and neighbors watched the Academy Awards here on television last night at his blueberry farm southeast of Eugene with a resigned “sense of the absurd” as the movie adaptation of his novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” won five Oscars.
Younger members of the merry band applauded and older friends smiled at Mr. Kesey and one another every time the movie adaptation won an award. But the winners of those awards were individually booed and derided when they did not acknowledge Mr. Kesey’s authorship of “Cuckoo” while accepting their Oscars.
Only the film’s director, Milos Forman, mentioned Mr. Kesey at all in his speech accepting his own award for best director. But Mr. Forman did not identify the writer as the author of the book and the mention came while Mr. Kesey was in his milkshed, taking care of some last‐minute chores.
Like a Pump Without Water
“It was like pumps trying to say they’re more important than the well and the water,” Mr. Kesey said. “Last night; it was pumps giving pumps awards for being good pumps.”
Although the author said he had not seen the film, he predicted earlier in the evening that “Cuckoo’s Nest has to win because it has to be so much better than the others.” Yesterday afternoon Mr. Kesey said the film and its producers, Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, were “immoral” and that he was suing them for 5 percent of the movie’s gross plus $800,000 in punitive damages for “breaking our verbal agreement and ruining the book.”
When the televised ceremoni’s were over, Mr. Kesey switched off his battered color television set and said sadly, “They blew it; they just blew their big chance. Any one of them could have thanked me for writing the hook and won all the arguments; but they blew their big chance to be in the big times, the big league.”
Dale Wasserman‘s stage adaptation, with music by Teiji Ito, made its Broadway preview on November 12, 1963, its premiere on November 13, and ran until January 25, 1964 for a total of one preview and 82 performances. Since then, the play has had two revivals: first off-Broadway in 1971, directed by Lee Sankowich with Danny DeVito as Martini, then as a Broadway production in 2001 with Gary Sinise as McMurphy. The film version One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was released in 1975 and was based on the novel, not on the play. DeVito reprised his stage role in the film.
The 1963–64 Broadway production starred Kirk Douglas as Randle Patrick McMurphy, Gene Wilder as Billy Bibbit, William Daniels as Harding, Ed Ames as “Chief” Bromden, Al Nesor as Martini, and Joan Tetzel as Nurse Ratched. Douglas retained the rights to make a film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for a decade, but was unable to find a studio willing to make it with him. Eventually, he gave the rights to his son Michael, who succeeded in getting the film produced. At that time, Kirk Douglas was deemed too old for the role of McMurphy, and the role was given to Jack Nicholson.