Person of the Week Kirk Douglas on Helping to Break Blacklist

VIDEO: The actor risked his own career standing up for those accused of ties to the communist party.
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Image Credit: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The year was 1960, and Kirk Douglas was staring as Spartacus, but all these years later, it is the role he was secretly playing that he's now most proud of.

Douglas, 95, survived a stroke a few years back and even though his speech is a little shaky he is more than eager to reveal a story he waited decades to tell in his new book " I am Spartacus!"

Open Road Integrated Media

In the 1950s, Hollywood was consumed by the blacklist. Writers, producers and actors were called before Congress amid fear they might be Communists. The mere mention of a name was enough to end a career.

"It was the worst time in Hollywood," Douglas told ABC News. "Everybody told me I was crazy."

Crazy because as a producer of "Spartacus," Douglas put his own career on the line, his own fortune, to hire Dalton Trumbo, one of those writers on the blacklist.

Trumbo had been hiding in Hollywood under an assumed name. Douglas' wife, Anne Buydens, remembered the warnings.

"If you do it … you'll never work in this town again. You will be declared a Communist," Buydens said people told Douglas.

But Douglas hired Dalton Trumbo anyway, and "Spartacus" became the top movie.

Even President Kennedy went to see it. The movie wasn't only a box-office winner, it was also instrumental in breaking the blacklist.

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