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Lust for Life (1956)

Approved | | Biography, Drama | November 1956 (Australia)
3:04 | Trailer
The life of brilliant but tortured artist Vincent van Gogh.


Vincente Minnelli, George Cukor (co-director) (uncredited)


Norman Corwin (screen play), Irving Stone (based on the novel by)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Kirk Douglas ... Vincent Van Gogh
Anthony Quinn ... Paul Gauguin
James Donald ... Theo Van Gogh
Pamela Brown ... Christine
Everett Sloane ... Dr. Gachet
Niall MacGinnis ... Roulin
Noel Purcell ... Anton Mauve
Henry Daniell ... Theodorus Van Gogh
Madge Kennedy ... Anna Cornelia Van Gogh
Jill Bennett ... Willemien
Lionel Jeffries ... Dr. Peyron
Laurence Naismith ... Dr. Bosman
Eric Pohlmann ... Colbert
Jeanette Sterke ... Kay
Toni Gerry Toni Gerry ... Johanna


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 MOST REVEALING LIFE-INSPIRED STORY EVER FILMED! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


Biography | Drama


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Did You Know?


In his memoir "The Ragman's Son" Kirk Douglas recounted that John Wayne attended a screening of the film, and was horrified. "Christ, Kirk! How can you play a part like that? There's so few of us left. We got to play strong, tough characters. Not those weak queers," Wayne said. Douglas tried to explain, "It's all make-believe, John. It isn't real. You're not really John Wayne, you know." Wayne (born Marion Morrison) looked at him oddly, as if Douglas had betrayed him. See more »


When Van Gogh is at the window, after he cuts his left ear off, his right ear is bandaged. See more »


[first lines]
Commissioner De Smet: You are now qualified for evangelical work, under the auspices of The Belgian Committee of the Messengers of the Faith. May the lord guide you, and sustain you in all your ways.
Dr. Gachet: [gets up from the table and dismisses the five aspiring clergymen from the room, then looks unenthused at Vincent Van Gogh waiting in the hallway before closing the door and sitting back down]
Dr. Peyron: Congratulations Dr. Gachet, a very creditable group of young men.
Commissioner De Smet: Now about this other young man Dr. Gachet. Are you ...
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Featured in 75th Golden Globe Awards (2018) See more »


Polka des poulettes
Music by Aman Comès
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User Reviews

The Best Hollywood Biopic
20 September 2007 | by Afzal-s2007See all my reviews

Lust For Life may look, at first glance, to be a typical Hollywood biopic, which is usually not much more than a star vehicle about a famous, real-life but vacuously recreated character, denuded of any real personality. Minelli certainly makes his biopic of Vincent Van Gogh with his trademark lavishness. But, importantly, he does not glamorise his subject. Instead, he makes a visually rich but earthy film, which exalts Van Gogh's achievement and seeks to portray the realities of his creative life and the dark side of his personality.

Lust For Life focuses on the extremely troubled man Van Gogh was, at turns listless, priggish, childish, needy, manic and quick-tempered; but also sensitive, caring, thoughtful, romantic and altruistic. Kirk Douglas is superb as Van Gogh, holistically exhibiting his various and contradictory aspects: obsessive though circumspect artist, diffident but passionate friend, forlorn romantic and dangerous maniac. It is all the more of an accomplishment as he is such a muscular, good-looking leading actor (nor should Anthony Quinn's key supporting performance as Gauguin, a macho with hidden sensibilities, be neglected).

However, at the same time, what the film never forgets is Van Gogh's considerable achievement. Minelli's iridescence complements Van Gogh's colourful, vivacious visual style, and many of his paintings are shown throughout the film.

Critics have pointed to the over-use of melodrama in the film. Yet Lust For Life is rare in that the film is consummated by its melodrama, along with Miklós Rózsa's grand, sweeping music. In other words, its melodrama succeeds, making the viewer identify more with Douglas' Van Gogh, giving him a greater, but also justified, pathos and sense of tragedy.

Lust For Life is the best Hollywood Biopic

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Release Date:

November 1956 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Lust for Life See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Perspecta Sound® encoding) (35 mm optical prints) (Westrex Recording System)| 4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Ansco Color) (as Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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