In 1973, at the very beginning of Danny DeVito's Hollywood career, he was cast in Scalawag—a largely forgotten movie directed by, and starring, Kirk Douglas which received, at best, lukewarm reviews upon release. No-one was prouder of the film, however, than DeVito's mother, Julia, and soon after watching it she sent an endearing letter to Douglas to thank him for casting her son. Julia passed away in 1987; the next year, Kirk Douglas reprinted her charming letter in his autobiography. In 1991, Danny DeVito read it aloud to an audience of hundreds as the AFI Life Achievement Award was awarded to Douglas. Footage can be found below, immediately after a transcript of the original letter as printed in Douglas' book.
Trivia: Eight years after Scalawag hit the screens, Julia DeVito starred opposite her now-famous son in two episodes of Taxi. She played, quite fittingly, his character's mother.
(Source: The Ragman's Son; Image above: Danny DeVito & his mother in Taxi, Season 4 Episode 7.)
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Douglas:
I am Danny DeVito's mother, writing to thank you both for giving my son a part in your movie, "Scallywag." My family all went to see it at the Paramount in N.Y.C. it was a great movie. Some of my friends & relatives saw it in Florida, they called me up to-day, to tell me that Danny was great they liked his acting, so that made me feel so proud. Half of Asbury Park N.J. are waiting for it to come here. My daughter owns a Beauty Salon in Neptune N.J. & has a sign in it: "Scallywag Coming Soon." You see there is plenty of publicity out here.
Love to your son Michael, he spent a weekend at our house & we all love him & we also watch the Streets of San Francisco on Thursday nights.
Again, I want to thank you both for giving my son a part in your movie. It's great to have a part with a big star like you.
Mrs. Dan DeVito