On the July 4 edition of CNN's "Reliable Sources," my colleague David Zurawik proved once again the most reliable source when he drew the connection between Larry King and newspaper columnist/radio commentator Walter Winchell. (In fact, King replaced Winchell at the Miami Herald.) Too bad host Howard Kurtz kept pushing the conversation to King's influence on prime-time TV. It's been almost a decade since USA Today canceled King's three-dot column, but throughout its 19-year run it provided other journalists with a deep well of non-sequitur humor (I have no idea what it provided innocent readers).
Even without a column, King managed to turn himself into the monarch of movie blurbs, extravagant and kind to the lowliest subjects. For example, do you remember the Cole Porter biopic, "De-Lovely?" Well, King called it "far and away the best musical biography ever made!" (Take that, "Yankee Doodle Dandy!")
So I was shocked to discover, in a book called "Variety's The Movie That Changed My Life," that King's taste in classic Hollywood escapism is impeccable -- "King Kong," "Gunga Din," "Pinocchio" -- and that William Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives" and a series of movies by Stanley Kubrick ("Paths of Glory," "Dr. Strangelove" and "Full Metal Jacket") turned him "antiwar." He loved Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," too. And the late, great Mr. Kubrick is the only moviemaker or star to be named repeatedly in King's pantheon.
It's hard to figure out exactly what draws the gushing, life-affirming King (above) to the mordant and often downright bleak work of Kubrick (below). Maybe it's partly that they're each one of a kind (albeit very different kinds). When I asked Jerry Seinfeld why he chose to parody King in "Bee Movie," he said, "I just thought every culture would develop its own Larry King. Even bee culture."