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Lust for Life (1956)

Approved | | Biography, Drama | 15 September 1956 (USA)
The life of brilliant but tortured artist Vincent van Gogh.


, (uncredited)


(screen play), (based on the novel by)

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pamela Brown ...
Niall MacGinnis ...
Anton Mauve
Jill Bennett ...
Dr. Bosman
Jeanette Sterke ...
Toni Gerry ...


Vincent Van Gogh is the archetypical tortured artistic genius. His obsession with painting, combined with mental illness, propels him through an unhappy life full of failures and unrewarding relationships. He fails at being a preacher to coal miners. He fails in his relationships with women. He earns some respect among his fellow painters, especially Paul Gauguin, but he does not get along with them. He only manages to sell one painting in his lifetime. The one constant good in his life is his brother Theo, who is unwavering in his moral and financial support. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The best-seller comes to the screen...the drama of a man who lived with insatiable passion. See more »


Biography | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 September 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La vie passionnée de Vincent van Gogh  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Perspecta Sound® encoding) (35 mm optical prints) (Westrex Recording System)| (35 mm magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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Did You Know?


Parts of the film were shot in Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent van Gogh lived and died. Kirk Douglas had his hair cut specially in the style of the artist and had it dyed to a similar reddish tint. This was enough to make some of the older inhabitants of the town believe that Van Gogh had returned. See more »


Camera shadow falls across Ducrucq as Van Gogh finds him dead. See more »


Anton Mauve: Oh, Vincent. I'm sorry to put off seeing you, but we artists have to be selfish, you know. We have to save our ourselves. After all with each painting, we die a little.
See more »


Referenced in Interview with Chris Petit and Keith Griffiths (2008) See more »


Polka des poulettes
Music by Aman Comès
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Brilliant, Yet Painful Classic Offers Douglas' Finest Performance...
3 January 2007 | by (Las Vegas, Nevada) – See all my reviews

"Lust for Life", Vincente Minnelli's rich interpretation of Irving Stone's Vincent Van Gogh bio-novel, is a film both compelling and repelling; in delving into the psyche of the artist (unforgettably portrayed by Kirk Douglas), one can see an untrained, unbridled genius smashing convention to open viewers' eyes to a world defined by passion; yet in doing so, we share in the growing nightmares and agony of his creative mind, teetering toward the madness that would destroy him, and it is an unsettling experience, to be sure!

This is a film so rich in visual imagery (with a Technicolor 'palette' that attempts to recreate Van Gogh's view of his world), that it demands repeated viewings, just to savor the details. From wheat fields 'aflame' in color, to night skies that nearly writhe in waves of darkness, the elemental nature of the artist's vision is spectacularly captured. And in experiencing the world through his eyes, the loving, yet uncomprehending concern of his brother (James Donald), and more hedonistic, shallow patronizing, and gradual disgust of fellow artist Paul Gauguin (Anthony Quinn, in his Oscar-winning performance), become elemental 'barriers', as well. Van Gogh wants to 'speak', but no one can understand his 'language', not even the artist, himself!

Kirk Douglas never plunged as deeply into a portrayal as he did, in "Lust for Life", and the experience nearly crushed him, as he related in his autobiography, "Ragman's Son". His total immersion in the role SHOULD have won him an Oscar (Yul Brynner won, instead, for "The King and I"), and his bitterness and disappointment at the snub would haunt him, to this day. With the passage of time, his performance has only increased in luster and stature, and it certainly shows an actor at the top of his form!

"Lust for Life" is an unforgettable experience, not to be missed!

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