Did you know that in 1959 crowd cheers for the movie Spartacus were recorded before an MSU home football game. One of the actors from the movie, John Gavin, who played Julius Caesar, came to campus to lead the crowd. Shortly after the recording was complete, actor Kirk Douglas, who was the star and executive producer of Spartacus sent a thank you letter to MSU coach Clarence “Biggie” Munn for the Spartan’s efforts. Spartacus was released in 1960 with the cheers from MSU in the film.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Spartacus and the University Archives wanted to do something special to mark the event. Archivist Ed Busch found a copy of the script used in the film, a photo of Gavin at MSU, the letter from Douglas and set out to create an exhibit about MSU’s contribution to a cultural landmark. To round out the exhibit, Ed wrote to Kirk Douglas asking if he would send the archives a photograph to be used in our exhibit. Mr. Douglas responded almost immediately with an autographed photo personalized to the MSU Archives. Ed’s exhibit, including the autographed photo of Mr. Douglas, is on display in the foyer of Conrad Hall on the MSU campus.
An article about MSU’s contribution to Spartacus was recently run in The City Pulse. Mr. Douglas was also kind enough to respond a request of that article’s author, Lawrence Cosentino.
The reason we are writing today to thank Kirk Douglas is because this week we received another personalized, autographed photo from him. We did not ask him for this photograph, he sent it to us of his own volition. This new photograph is a still from the movie Spartacus and is signed, “Michigan State U – Follow Me! Kirk Douglas”.
From all the staff at the MSU Archives & Historical Collections – Thank you, Kirk Douglas! You are a true gentleman who has contributed above and beyond what we had hoped to receive from you. We sincerely appreciate all that you have contributed to the University Archives. You have our deepest respect and admiration. Thank you.
In October, the East Lansing Film Festival is showing Spartacus in honor of the 50th anniversary of the film. Stay tuned for more details about that event.