Spartacus: Life or Legend?
‘I’m Spartacus!’ In the field of epic film making, the 1960 historical drama ‘Spartacus’, is legendary. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, adapted from the Howard Fast novel by Red Scare blacklisted screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, and starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov and Jean Simmons; it is a classic. But how much of the plot has emerged from the true story of a Thracian gladiator and slave who escaped his Roman captors and led an unsuccessful but impressive rebellion against their oppressors? How much of the film’s message was formed by the personalities involved in its creation, and the context in which it was made.
In her own words, Dr Fiona Radford devoted years of her life to the man with the most memorable chin cleft in the world - Kirk Douglas, specifically as Spartacus. Her thesis traced the production history of this film, examining in particular the effect that the turbulent process had on the portrayal of female characters. Having taught at Macquarie University, ANU and the University of Sydney, she currently teaches history at secondary school level, and her conversation with Tristan in this episode is an eye-opener to 1950s film making as well as the legend of Spartacus.
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