Kubrick, Stanley

views updated Jun 08 2018

KUBRICK, Stanley

Nationality: American. Born: New York, 26 July 1928. Education: Attended New York City public schools; attended evening classes at City College of the City University of New York, 1945. Family: Married 1) Toba Metz, 1947 (divorced, 1952); 2) dancer Ruth Sobotka, 1952 (divorced), one daughter; 3) actress Suzanne Christiane Harlan, 1958, two daughters. Career: Apprentice photographer, Look magazine, New York, 1946; made first film, 1950; formed Harris-Kubrick Productions with James Harris, 1955 (dissolved 1962); worked on One-eyed Jacks with Marlon Brando, 1958; planned film on Napoléon, 1969; moved to England, 1974. Awards: Best Direction, New York Film Critics Award, and Best Written American Comedy (screenplay) Award (with Peter George and Terry Southern), Writers Guild of America, for Dr. Strangelove, 1964; Oscar for Special Visual Effects, for 2001, 1968; Best Direction, New York Film Critics, for A Clockwork Orange, 1971; Best Direction, British Academy Award, for Barry Lyndon, 1975; D.W. Griffith Award, Directors Guild of America, 1997; Life Achievement Award, Venice Film Festival, 1997; Special Prize, National Society of Italian Film Critics, for Eyes Wide Shut, 1999. Died: 7 March 1999.

Films as Director:


Day of the Fight (doc) (+ pr, sc, ph, ed); Flying Padre (doc) (+ sc, ph)


The Seafarers (+ ph); Fear and Desire (+ pr, co-sc, ph, ed)


Killer's Kiss (+ co-pr, co-sc, ph, ed)


The Killing (+ co-pr, sc)


Paths of Glory (+ co-pr, co-sc)






Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (+ pr, co-sc)


2001: A Space Odyssey (+ pr, co-sc, special effects designer)


A Clockwork Orange (+ pr, sc)


Barry Lyndon (+ pr, sc)


The Shining (+ pr, co-sc)


Full Metal Jacket (+ pr, co-sc)


Eyes Wide Shut (+ pr, co-sc)


By KUBRICK: books—

Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, New York, 1972.

Full Metal Jacket, New York and London, 1987.

Eyes Wide Shut, New York, 1999.

By KUBRICK: articles—

"Bonjour, Monsieur Kubrick," interview with Raymond Haine, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July 1957.

"Words and Movies," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1961.

"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cinema," in Filmsand Filming (London), June 1963.

"Kubrick Reveals All," in Cinéaste (New York), Summer 1968.

"A Talk with Stanley Kubrick," with Maurice Rapf, in Action (Los Angeles), January/February 1969.

"What Directors Are Saying," in Action (Los Angeles), January/February and November/December 1971.

"Kubrick," an interview with Gene Phillips, in Film Comment (New York), Winter 1971/72.

Interview with Phillip Strick and Penelope Houston, in Sight andSound (London), Spring 1972.

Interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), June 1972.

"Something More," an interview with Gordon Gow, in Films andFilming (London), October 1975.

"Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam," an interview with Francis Clines, in New York Times, 21 June 1987.

On KUBRICK: books—

Austen, David, The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, London, 1969.

Agel, Jerome, The Making of Kubrick's 2001, New York, 1970.

Kagan, Norman, The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, New York, 1972, revised edition, 1993.

Walker, Alexander, Stanley Kubrick Directs, New York, 1972.

Devries, Daniel, The Films of Stanley Kubrick, Grand Rapids, Michi-gan, 1973.

Phillips, Gene, Stanley Kubrick: A Film Odyssey, New York, 1977.

Ciment, Michael, Kubrick, Paris, 1980, revised edition, 1987, New York, 1984.

Kolker, Robert Philip, A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick,Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, Oxford, 1980, revised edition, 1988.

Coyle, Wallace, Stanley Kubrick: A Guide to References and Resources, Boston, 1980.

Nelson, Thomas, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze, Bloomington, Indiana, 1982.

Hummel, Christoph, editor, Stanley Kubrick, Munich, 1984.

Brunetta, Gian Piero, Stanley Kubrick: Tempo, spazio, storia e mondipossibili, Parma, 1985.

Magistrale, Anthony, et al., The Shining Reader, New York, 1991.

Falsetto, Mario, Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis, Westport, Connecticut, 1994.

Corliss, Richard, Lolita, London, 1994.

Falsetto, Mario, editor, Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, New York, 1996.

Baxter, John, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, New York, 1997.

LoBrutto, Vincent, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, New York, 1997.

Walker, Alexander, Stanley Kubrick: Director, New York, 1999.

Raphael, Frederic, Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick, New York, 1999.

Philips, Gene, editor, Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, Jackson, Missis-sippi, 2000.

On KUBRICK: articles—

"Twenty-nine and Running: The Director with Hollywood by the Horns," in Newsweek (New York), 2 December 1957.

Noble, Robin, "Killers, Kisses, and Lolita," in Films and Filming (London), December 1960.

Burgess, Jackson, "The Antimilitarism of Stanley Kubrick," in FilmQuarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1964.

"Stanley Kubrick," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1964/January 1965.

Bernstein, Jeremy, "Profiles: How about a Little Game?," in NewYorker, 12 November 1966.

Ciment, Michel, "L'Odyssee de Stanley Kubrick," in Positif (Paris), October 1968.

Houston, Penelope, "Kubrick Country," in Saturday Review (New York), 25 December 1971.

Deer, Harriet and Irving, "Kubrick and the Structures of Popular Culture," in Journal of Popular Film (Bowling Green, Ohio), Summer 1974.

Carducci, Mark, "In Search of Stanley K.," in Millimeter (New York), December 1975.

Feldmann, Hans, "Kubrick and His Discontents," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1976.

Moskowitz, Ken, "Clockwork Violence," in Sight and Sound (Lon-don), Winter 1976/77.

Kennedy, H., "Kubrick Goes Gothic," in American Film (Washing-ton, D.C.), June 1980.

Brown, J., "Kubrick's Maze: The Monster and the Critics," in FilmDirections (Belfast), no. 16, 1982.

Kinney, J. L., "Mastering the Maze," in Quarterly Review of FilmStudies (New York), Spring 1984.

Combs, Richard, "Stanley Kubrick: To Be or Not to Be . . . Again and Again," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), July 1984.

Sklar, Robert, "Stanley Kubrick et l'industrie Hollywoodienne," in Filméchange (Paris), no. 38, 1987.

Rafferty, T., "Remote Control," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1987.

Lacayo, R., "Semper fi," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1987.

"Kubrick Section" of Positif (Paris), October 1987.

Cazals, T., "L'Homme labyrinthe," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1987.

"Full Metal Jacket Section" of Literature/Film Quarterly (Salis-bury, Maryland), vol. 16., no. 4, 1988.

French, Philip, "A Clockwork Orange," in Sight and Sound (Lon-don), Spring 1990.

Brode, Douglas, "Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove," in The Filmsof the Sixties, New York, 1990.

Bookbinder, Robert, "Clockwork Orange," in The Films of theSeventies, New York, 1990.

Norman, Barry, "Paths of Glory, 2001: A Space Odyssey," in The100 Best Films of the Century, New York, 1993.

Kael, Pauline, "Lolita, Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket," in For Keeps, New York, 1994.

Stein, Michael, "The New Violence: Clockwork Orange and Other Films," in Films in Review (New York), January/February 1995.

Manchel, Frank, "What about Jack? Family Relationships in TheShining," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Winter 1995.

Combs, Richard, "Kubrick Talks!" in Film Comment (New York), September-October 1996.

Bogdanovich, Peter, "What They Say about Stanley Kubrick," NewYork Times Magazine, 4 July 1999.

Schickel, Richard, "All Eyes on Them," Time, 5 July 1999.

Herr, Michael, "The Real Stanley Kubrick," Vanity Fair, August 1999.

Bernstein, Jill, and others, "Stanley Kubrick: A Cinematic Odys-sey," Premiere (New York), August 1999.

Special issue, Sight and Sound (London), September 1999.

Phillips, Gene D. "Stop the World: Stanley Kubrick," in Major FilmDirectors of the American and British Cinema, Cranbury, New Jersey, 1999.

* * *

Few American directors were able to work within the studio system of the American film industry with the independence that Stanley Kubrick achieved. By steadily building a reputation as a filmmaker of international importance, he gained full artistic control over his films, guiding the production of each of them from the earliest stages of planning and scripting through post-production. Kubrick was able to capitalize on the wide artistic freedom that the major studios have accorded him because he learned the business of filmmaking from the ground up.

In the early 1950s he turned out two documentary shorts for RKO; he was then able to secure financing for two low-budget features which he said were "crucial in helping me to learn my craft," but which he would otherwise have preferred to forget. He made both films almost singlehandedly, doing his own camerawork, sound, and editing, besides directing the films. Then, in 1955, he met James Harris, an aspiring producer; together they made The Killing, about a group of small-time crooks who rob a race track. The Killing not only turned a modest profit but prompted the now-legendary remark of Time magazine that Kubrick "has shown more imagination with dialogue and camera than Hollywood has seen since the obstreperous Orson Welles went riding out of town."

Kubrick next acquired the rights to Humphrey Cobb's 1935 novel The Paths of Glory, and in 1957 turned it into one of the most uncompromising antiwar films ever made. Peter Cowie is cited in Major Film Directors of the American and British Cinema as saying that Kubrick uses his camera in the film "unflinchingly, like a weapon," as it sweeps across the slopes to record the wholesale slaughter of a division.

Spartacus, a spectacle about slavery in pre-Christian Rome, Kubrick recalled as "the only film over which I did not have absolute control," because the star, Kirk Douglas, was also the movie's producer. Although Spartacus turned out to be one of the better spear-and-sandal epics, Kubrick vowed never to make another film unless he was assured of total artistic freedom, and he never did. Lolita, about a middle-aged man's obsessive infatuation with his pre-teen step-daughter, was the director's first comedy. "The surprising thing about Lolita," Pauline Kael wrote in For Keeps, "is how enjoyable it is. It's the first new American comedy since those great days in the 1940s when Preston Sturges re-created comedy with verbal slapstick. Lolita is black slapstick and at times it's so far out that you gasp as you laugh."

For those who appreciate the dark humor of Lolita, it is not hard to see that it was just a short step from that film to Kubrick's masterpiece in that genre, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, concerning a lunatic American general's decision to launch an attack inside Russia. The theme implicit in the film is man's final capitulation to his own machines of destruction. Kubrick further examined his dark vision of man in a mechanistic age in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick's view of life, as it is reflected in 2001, seems to be somewhat more optimistic than it was in his previous pictures. 2001 holds out hope for the progress of mankind through man's creative encounters with the universe. In A Clockwork Orange, however, the future appears to be less promising than it did in 2001; in the earlier film Kubrick showed (in the "person" of the talking computer, Hal) the machine becoming human, whereas in A Clockwork Orange he shows man becoming a machine through brainwashing and thought control.

Ultimately, however, the latter film only reiterates in somewhat darker terms a repeated theme in all of Kubrick's previous work: man must retain his humanity if he is to survive in a dehumanized, highly mechanized world. Moreover, A Clockwork Orange echoes the warning of Dr. Strangelove and 2001 that man must strive to gain mastery over himself if he is to master the machines of his own invention.

After a trio of films set in the future, Kubrick reached back into the past and adapted Thackeray's historical novel Barry Lyndon to the screen in 1975. Kubrick portrayed Barry, an eighteenth-century rogue, and his times in the same critical fashion as Thackeray did before him. The film echoes a theme which appears in much of the director's best work, that through human error the best-laid plans often go awry; and hence man is often thwarted in his efforts to achieve his goals. The central character in Lolita fails to possess a nymphet exclusively; the "balance of terror" between nations designed to halt the nuclear arms race in Dr. Strangelove does not succeed in averting global destruction; and modern technology turns against its human instigators in Dr. Strangelove, 2001, and A Clockwork Orange. In this list of films about human failure the story of Barry Lyndon easily finds a place, for its hero's lifelong schemes to become a rich nobleman in the end come to nothing. And the same can be said for the frustrated writing aspirations of the emotionally disturbed hero of Kubrick's provocative "thinking man's thriller," The Shining, derived from the horror novel by Stephen King.

It is clear, therefore, that Kubrick could make any source material fit comfortably into the fabric of his work as a whole, whether it be a remote and almost forgotten Thackeray novel, or a disturbing story about the Vietnam war by a contemporary writer, as with Full Metal Jacket, based on the book by Gustav Hasford.

Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut, derived from a controversial novella by Arthur Schnitzler called Dream Story, focuses on Dr. William Harford (Tom Cruise), who jeopardizes his marriage by making a foray into the unsavory netherworld of the decadent rich in New York City. Released shortly after Kubrick's death in 1999, Kubrick's last film indicates that he was still intent on taking the temperature of a sick society. It is evident that Kubrick continued right to the end of his career to create films that would stimulate his audience to think about serious human problems, as his pictures did from the beginning. His canon of films testifies that Kubrick valued the artistic freedom which worked so hard to win and used so well.

—Gene D. Phillips

Stanley Kubrick

views updated Jun 11 2018

Stanley Kubrick

Although he first won acclaim for films he made during the 1950s such as Spartacus and Lolita, director Stanley Kubrick (born 1928) is best known for his later work, including Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket.

During his long and distinguished career as a filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick has earned a reputation as a control-obsessed perfectionist who often re-shoots scenes hundreds of times, driving actors and actresses to distraction. Yet a number of his films are considered classics of postwar American cinema, including the one critics most often point to as his masterpiece, the black comedy Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Kubrick himself for the most part ignores what people have to say about both him and his movies, believing that his work speaks for itself.

Born in New York City in 1928, Stanley Kubrick grew up in one of the more prosperous families of his Bronx neighborhood. Yet his childhood was rather bleak and unhappy. His father, a doctor, tried his best to stimulate his son's interest in learning. He made books from his library readily available, for example, and also taught the boy to play chess. But Kubrick was a poor student throughout his school years; nothing his teachers presented in class seemed to be able to hold his attention. "I never learned anything at all in school and didn't read a book for pleasure until I was 19 years old, " he is quoted as saying in The Making of Kubrick's 2001. When he turned 13, however, his father bought him a still camera as a birthday present. As time would tell, it was probably the most significant gift he ever received.

Although young Kubrick took a dim view of school, he was an avid moviegoer with a keen sense of what worked and what didn't. "One of the important things about seeing run-of-the-mill Hollywood films eight times a week was that many of them were so bad, " biographer Vincent LoBrutto reports Kubrick told a writer for the New York Times. "Without even beginning to understand what the problems of making films were, I was taken with the impression that I could not do a film any worse than the ones I was seeing. I also felt I could, in fact, do them a lot better."

Experimented with Still Photography

But it was still photography, not film, that brought Kubrick his first commercial success. Rarely without his camera, he made a hobby of taking pictures to document the events unfolding around him. One such occasion presented itself following the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945. Kubrick, who was then only 17, came upon a newspaper dealer at his stand surrounded by headlines trumpeting news of the president's death. His subject's dejected posture and mournful facial expression captured the eye of the young photographer, who snapped his picture. But as LoBrutto observed, "Stanley didn't just take the man's picture, he made the situation into a piece of photojournalism." Editors at Look magazine recognized the nascent artistry in his work and bought the photograph for publication. It was the first picture Kubrick had ever sold.

Not long after that, Kubrick landed a job as a staff photographer for Look. He remained in the job for several years and traveled all over the United States. Many of his assignments were simply routine, but some allowed him more freedom to exercise his creativity.

Kubrick's travels eventually inspired him to enroll at Columbia University as a non-matriculating student. In his spare time, he often attended films shown at the New York Museum of Modern Art. And those childhood chess matches with his father finally paid off when he began playing the game for money from time to time in several New York City venues.

Tried His Hand at Filmmaking

In 1951, at the age of 23, Kubrick financed his first film with his own savings. His 16-minute documentary, entitled Day of the Fight, was about boxer Walter Cartier, the subject of one of his Look magazine photo assignments. Kubrick served as director, cinematographer, editor, and sound technician for the film, which RKO bought for its This Is America series. It played at the Paramount Theatre in New York.

Kubrick soon quit his job at Look to pursue filmmaking on a full-time basis. With an advance from RKO, Kubrick made a short documentary, The Flying Padre (1951), about a priest named Father Fred Stadtmueller who traveled around his New Mexico parish in an airplane. Two years later, Kubrick made his first color film, a 30-minute industrial documentary entitled The Seafarers.

Kubrick raised $13, 000 from relatives to help finance his first feature-length film, Fear and Desire (1953). The plot centers around four soldiers trapped behind enemy lines who kill four of their adversaries while trying to escape only to discover they've killed their own doubles. (Kubrick's first wife, Toba Metz, whom he married when he was 18, was one of the crew members on the project.) In later years, Kubrick disowned the film, calling it amateurish. On more than one occasion, he has even prevented it from being shown in public.

Kubrick's next film was Killer's Kiss (1955), financed with $40, 000 raised from friends and relatives. It tells the story of an aging boxer who becomes involved with a gangster's girlfriend. He followed this with The Killing (1956), which focuses on a gang of small-time hoods and their elaborate plan to rob a racetrack. Widely regarded as an above-average crime thriller, it is the film Kubrick himself reportedly considers the true beginning of his filmmaking career.

Scored First Cinematic Triumph

In 1957, Kubrick directed Paths of Glory (1957), an adaptation that he, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson wrote of the best-selling Humphrey Cobb novel of the same name. No studio had been willing to take on this particular project until Kirk Douglas agreed to star. Filmed in Germany, Paths of Glory is about three soldiers tried for cowardice; it is regarded as one of the best films ever made about the insanity of war.

Despite the kudos he received for Paths of Glory, Kubrick ran into some difficulties with his next few projects, which never even reached the production stage. His fortunes took a turn for the better, however, when the original director of Spartacus, Anthony Mann, was fired and producer Kirk Douglas offered Kubrick the job, making the 32-year-old filmmaker the youngest person ever to direct a Hollywood epic. It took 167 days to shoot, employed some 10, 000 people, and cost more than $12 million, an astronomical sum in those days. Although Spartacus was a hit upon its release in 1960 and attracted some Academy Award attention, it left Kubrick feeling as if he had had too little creative control. As a result, he later sought to dis-associate himself from the film.

Having acquired the rights to Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita with its themes of sexual obsession and pedophilia, director Kubrick and producer James B. Harris headed to England to do the film. The two men ended up rewriting Nabokov's script, leaving only about 20 percent of the original (by Nabokov's own estimate). The novel's subject matter was handled very subtly in the film, primarily through looks and double-entendres. But this toned-down version left many moviegoers and critics disappointed because they felt it was not true to the frank eroticism of the original story.

Ever since making Lolita, the thrice-married Kubrick has called England home; he even refuses to leave the country to work elsewhere. Notoriously reclusive, he lives in a semi-rural manor house in Childwickbury, near St. Albans. He rarely grants interviews, but when he does, he demands total control over the circumstances and the result. "He doesn't like people much; they interest him mainly when they do unspeakably hideous things or when their idiocy is so malignant as to be horrifyingly amusing, " Kubrick biographer John Baxter quoted Kubrick's onetime collaborator Calder Willingham as saying. That assessment would seem to be supported by Kubrick's next film, Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Tackled Diverse Themes

Dr. Strangelove was released in 1964, two years after the Cuban missile crisis led the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war. Based on Peter George's novel Red Alert, it is what some consider the blackest comedy in movie history. The film is both a suspenseful Cold War thriller and a wicked farce that lampoons both the military and political establishments. It was a resounding hit, with Kubrick receiving Academy Award nominations as co-author, director, and producer.

Kubrick next hired science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke to develop a story about man's encounter with extraterrestrial intelligence. The result was the landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It netted Kubrick more Academy Award nominations for writing and directing and his only Academy Award for designing and directing the movie's complicated special effects. Critics generally panned 2001, but audiences loved it. Regarded as a technological triumph of filmmaking, it is also noteworthy for the fact that it contains fewer words than any other commercial sound film of its length in history (about 40 minutes' worth over the course of nearly 3 hours). "The feel of the experience is the important thing, not the ability to verbalize it, " Kubrick once explained, as reported online at Criterion's The Films of Stanley Kubrick. "I tried to create a visual experience."

In 1971, Kubrick adapted Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange for the screen and also filled his customary roles of producer and director. Controversial because of its violent scenes, the film initially garnered an "X" rating in the United States. Kubrick nevertheless wound up with three Academy Award nominations (for writer, producer, and director) as well as the New York Film Critics' Best Picture and Best Director honors. It played in England for nearly a year to sellout crowds before Kubrick and Warner Brothers removed it from theaters in the wake of several crimes that appeared to be modeled on acts of violence depicted in the film.

Kubrick's next film, Barry Lyndon (1975), represented quite a departure from his previous works. Based on the eighteenth-century novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, it was an expensive, meticulously detailed costume drama that did not do well at the box office. But it was a hit with critics and with Kubrick's fellow filmmakers, who nominated it for seven Academy Awards. Three of those were for Kubrick himself as the movie's writer, director, and producer.

Five years later, Kubrick adapted Stephen King's novel The Shining for the screen. Although it was a financially successful film, it left critics unmoved and angered King, who deeply resented the changes Kubrick had made to his original story. King eventually bought back the rights to The Shining and approved a 1997 television remake that he felt was more in line with how he himself envisioned the characters and themes.

In 1987, Kubrick released Full Metal Jacket, based on Gustav Hasford's novel The Short-Timers. A brutal look at Marine basic training and the subsequent combat experiences of a group of recruits sent to Vietnam, the film tackled one of Kubrick's favorite themes-dehumanization, particularly amid war and violence. But some moviegoers and critics took issue with the fact that he insisted on shooting the movie in London rather than in a more appropriate locale. To make his sets look as authentic as possible, Kubrick demolished a number of 1930s-era buildings to create his own rubble, brought in palm trees from Spain, and imported over 100, 000 plastic tropical plants from Hong Kong.

Scheduled for release in late 1998, Eyes Wide Shut took nearly two years for Kubrick to complete. Based on a novel by Frederic Raphael, it is a tale of jealousy and sexual obsession involving a married couple who are both psychiatrists. Problems plagued the project almost from the beginning. Star Tom Cruise reportedly balked at having to reshoot so many of his scenes and was furious that the delays finally forced one of his co-stars, Harvey Keitel, to quit due to a scheduling conflict. His departure meant that six months' worth of work had to be scrapped.

Despite his eccentricities, Kubrick is an acknowledged master of the modern cinema. His thought-provoking, carefully crafted films address timeless themes such as the absurdity of war, the nature of crime and punishment, obsessive love, madness, and even the enigma of humankind's evolution. The fact that he has not yet had a blockbuster success during his career is of no concern to him; he aims to please himself above all, which is perhaps the source of his perfectionism. As Kubrick remarked in a 1997 speech upon accepting the D.W. Griffith Award from the Director's Guild of America, a transcript of which is available online at http://pages.prodigy.com, "although [directing a film] can be like trying to write War and Peace in a bumper car in an amusement park, when you finally get it right, there are not many joys in life that can equal the feeling."

Further Reading

Agel, Jerome, editor, The Making of Kubrick's 2001, New American Library, 1970.

Baxter, John, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, Carroll & Graf, 1997.

Ciment, Michael, Kubrick, Holt, 1984.

Falsetto, Mario, editor, Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, G.K. Hall & Co., 1996.

Kagan, Norman, The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, Continuum, 1993.

LoBrutto, Vincent, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, Donald I. Fine Books, 1997.

Nelson, Thomas, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze, Indiana University Press, 1982.

Entertainment Weekly, December 15, 1995; April 11, 1997.

Film Comment, September-October 1996.

New Statesman, October 3, 1997.

Omni, May 1993.

People Weekly, January 27, 1997; June 9, 1997.

"Criterion's The Films of Stanley Kubrick, " http://www.voyagerco.com/criterion/indepth.cgi? (March 4, 1998).

"Stanley Kubrick's Videotaped DGA Acceptance Speech, " http://pages.prodigy.com/kubrick/dgaspe.htm (May 19, 1998).

"Stanley Kubrick: The Master Filmmaker, " http://pages.prodigy.com/kubrick (May 19, 1998).

Kubrick, Stanley

views updated May 29 2018

KUBRICK, Stanley

(b. 26 July 1928 in New York City; d. 7 March 1999 in Hertfordshire, England), influential film director who declared independence from the Hollywood studio system, relocated to England in the early 1960s, and became a recognized innovator of film genres, aesthetics, narrative strategies, and the cinematic process, challenging Hollywood mores.

Kubrick was one of two children of Jacques Kubrick, a physician, and Gertrude Perveler, a homemaker. He was raised in the Bronx, New York City, in a middle-class Jewish family. Kubrick's father introduced his son to still photography and chess, disciplines that would inspire and influence his iconoclastic vision as one of the twentieth-century's premier film directors.

As an adolescent Kubrick immersed himself in photography, developing photos in a friend's apartment darkroom. At William Howard Taft High School he invariably had a camera around his neck and took pictures for school publications. A poor student, Kubrick managed to receive the necessary credits to graduate when mentored by an art teacher who convinced him to view photography as an art. While at Taft, Kubrick sold a photograph to Look magazine that dramatically displayed the impact of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, and after graduation he became the youngest member of photography staff at the magazine. At the age of nineteen he married Toba Metz; they divorced in 1952. Kubrick married his second wife Ruth Sobotka on 15 January 1955. As a photojournalist Kubrick became interested in visual storytelling, and although he had no formal training, he directed, edited, and photographed an independent short Day of the Fight (1951), based on a photo story of boxer Walter Cartier that he had shot for Look. Kubrick's self-apprenticeship continued with The Flying Padre (1951), a human-interest story about a priest who flies his plane across New Mexico to serve his parish, and The Seafarers (1952), an industrial documentary for the Seafarers International Union and his first color film.

The first feature film directed by Kubrick, Fear and Desire, was released in 1953. The independent production was written by Howard O. Sackler, who later won a Pulitzer Prize for The Great White Hope. The film was financed by Kubrick's uncle and shot in black and white on location in the San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles, with a small Mexican crew. The autodidact continued his self-taught approach by photographing and editing Fear and Desire himself. Although clearly amateurish, the film evidences Kubrick's dark vision and worldview. This existential drama was the first of many of the director's excursions into the grim reality and absurdity of war. His second feature, Killer's Kiss (1955), written with Sackler, is a New York guerrilla production about a down-and-out fighter. In it, Kubrick experimented with narrative structure and captured the noir atmosphere of New York in the 1950s.

In the mid-1950s, Kubrick met James B. Harris, an aspiring producer, and they formed Harris-Kubrick Pictures. Their first production, generally considered the first true Kubrick film, was The Killing (1956), which featured prominent B-movie actors and a complex nonlinear narrative structure decades before the concept became fashionable. In the film Kubrick developed his signature dolly shot, which explored the notion of time and space.

In the second of three Harris-Kubrick productions, they teamed with Kirk Douglas to make Paths of Glory (1957), a critically acclaimed antiwar film that revealed the sacrifice of three French soldiers during World War I as a result of the machinations of a maniacal general. The relentless dolly shots that follow Douglas reviewing his doomed troops in the trenches, and the hand-held camera (operated by Kubrick) that puts the viewer in the middle of an aimless charge for a hopeless mission, captured the grim reality of war stripped of all Hollywood artifice.

The 1960s were Kubrick's most creative period and brought him international recognition as an auteur. The decade began with a turning point in Kubrick's career, the release of Spartacus (1960), produced under the Hollywood system. Spartacus marks the only time Kubrick worked as a hired hand and did not have artistic control over a film. The assignment was part of a multipicture deal with Douglas and his Bryna production company. Although the film is one of the most intelligent and emotional of the gladiator genre, it was a painful lesson to Kubrick. He vowed never again to subject himself to working in Hollywood and demanded total artistic and fiscal control over his work.

The final Harris-Kubrick production was an adaptation of the scandalous Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita. Kubrick had made films in both New York and Hollywood. New York lacked the necessary facilities, and although Hollywood had the talent and resources, the conventions of the industry were a threat to Kubrick's independence. Lolita (1962) was produced in England under the Eddy plan, which offered financial assistance if a percentage of the cast and crew were English. This environment gave Kubrick the solitude and freedom to make the film in his idiosyncratic and meticulous manner.

Lolita was a landmark exploration into the dark human region of sexual depravity and obsession. The novel had been banned and ostracized, and the feat of visualizing Nabokov's tale of an older man's fixation with a thirteen-year-old girl seemed impossible in an industry monitored by a strict Motion Picture Code and the all-powerful Catholic Church. By telling the story with innuendo and sophisticated subtext, Kubrick made it past the censors and drew attention as a filmmaker who delved into the fringes and shadows of American life.

Kubrick and his third wife, painter Christiane Harlan, whom he married in 1958, were still living in a New York apartment with her daughter from a previous marriage and their two daughters, but England was becoming Kubrick's filmmaking home, a place where he could work with first-rate craftspeople and facilities without interference from meddling studio powers.

After three films Harris-Kubrick Pictures disbanded amicably. Kubrick wanted even more control over his work by producing them himself, and Harris felt the urge to direct. Kubrick had long been interested in the subject of nuclear war. During the iciest phase of the cold war, he acquired the film rights to Red Alert by Peter George, a serious novel about a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. After extensive research Kubrick decided to transform the drama into a black comedy. To push the envelope, he collaborated with hipster Terry Southern, whose diabolical sense of humor explored a new satiric and outrageous terrain.

The irreverent presentation of global annihilation put on the screen in Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) was a benchmark in absurdist humor. The meticulous details of the bomber cockpit, military base, and war room were a platform for the outrageous characters and behavior that brought the world over the brink. Kubrick employed the innovative genius of the actor Peter Sellers, who played three roles, to make fun of humankind's greatest fear, and the film struck a harmonious chord with the 1960s zeitgeist of challenging and taunting the establishment. Dr. Strangelove brought Kubrick international acclaim and Academy Award nominations for best director, screenplay, and picture.

Kubrick's most significant and lasting contribution to the cinema began in 1964 when he extended noted science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke an offer to collaborate on "a really good sci-fi movie." This project, which became the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (released in 1968 after four years of production), was an accomplishment that continues to resonate beyond the year in which the story was set. The nontraditional narrative begins with "The Dawn of Man" and concludes with the rebirth of an U.S. astronaut who passes through a "Star Gate" into a universe beyond our discovery. Kubrick broke all the Hollywood rules for the genre and established precedents in the production, aesthetic, narrative, and technical properties of motion picture creation.

To write the screenplay, Clarke and Kubrick first collaborated on a novel, which was then adapted into the project's scenario. Kubrick's intensive research into space travel involved the contributions of scientific, military, and aviation corporations to determine what space travel would achieve by 2001. The mountains of research were turned into an inventive production design and special effects that were beyond the cinematic technology of the time. Kubrick and his team of four special-effects supervisors invented their own technology decades before digital application was available to filmmakers. Front-screen projection, detailed mattes, multiple-screen film production, a centrifuge, and an invention named the Split Scan machine were developed and refined to create images of the time before man, life in outer space, and beyond. The minimalist plot and the merging of image and sound to achieve "The Ultimate Trip" features two astronauts and a talking computer named HAL, who is more emotionally and psychologically complex than the humans. This presentation challenged the traditional three-act structure with a nonnarrative mediation that used little dialogue to create a cinematic experience with images and sound. With the promise of rebirth and afterlife, Kubrick's film about the dangers of mechanization and dehumanization features, in the 1960s Aquarian tradition, his most hopeful ending. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a crown jewel in the counterculture of the decade.

During the 1960s Kubrick developed the analytical and meticulous working methods that distinctly defined his filmmaking. His projects had a long gestation period, as Kubrick searched for the obsessional state that would propel him into the next endeavor. His research was intensive; all possibilities were considered, analyzed, and tested. During shooting Kubrick would call for take after take, often saying no more than "Let's go again." His involvement in all areas of development, preproduction, and post-production was complete and included marketing, advertising, and the selection of theaters to screen his films. Kubrick even sent trusted colleagues to key venues to check the projection equipment.

In 1971 Kubrick entered into a deal with Warner Brothers, who financed and distributed his films until his death. A Clockwork Orange (1971), based on a novel by Anthony Burgess, set off a firestorm by challenging the limits of screen violence. Barry Lyndon (1975), a perfect recreation of Thackeray's eighteenth century, is frequently cited as the most beautifully rendered period film ever made. The Shining (1980), based on a Stephen King novel, transformed a haunted hotel into a major character, a place where writer's block and a dysfunctional family make for Grand Guignol horror. Full Metal Jacket (1987) is a Vietnam film about how the U.S. Marines turn boys into fighting machines, and Eyes Wide Shut (1999) explores the sexual obsessions and jealousy of a young married couple viewed through the prism of a dream world where all the characters are awake. Before the completion of the film, Kubrick died of natural causes at his home in England.

Kubrick's legacy is as a twentieth-century film director who forged commerce and art issues from his artistic integrity; consistent, thematic worldview; distinctive visual style; and a body of work that is diverse in both subject matter and narrative approach. His dedication to the art of filmmaking has inspired moviemakers worldwide to create films that represent the vice and vision of the director, expressed through nontraditional narrative techniques and the inventive use of the cinematic crafts.

Kubrick's papers are in the possession of his family in England. Some materials concerning his films released by Warner Brothers are in the Warner Brothers Collection at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. There are two full-scale biographies of Kubrick: Vincent LoBrutto, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (1997), and John Baxter, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (1997). Alexander Walker, Sybil Taylor, and Ulrich Ruchti, Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis (rev. ed. 1999); Norman Kagan, The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick (3rd ed. 2000); Thomas Allen Nelson, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze, (rev. ed. 2000); Michael Ciment, Kubrick: The Definitive Edition, translated by Gilbert Adair (2001); and Mario Falsetto, Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis ( rev. ed. 2001), contain analytical and critical insights into Kubrick's films. Gene D. Phillips, author of the excellent Stanley Kubrick: A Film Odyssey (1975), is also the editor of Stanley Kubrick Interviews (2001). Obituaries are in the New York Times and Hollywood Reporter (both 8 Mar. 1999).

Vincent LoBrutto

Kubrick, Stanley

views updated May 08 2018


KUBRICK, STANLEY (1928–1999), U.S. film producer and director. Born in the Bronx, New York, Kubrick worked as an apprentice photographer at Look Magazine at the age of 17. He made his first feature film, Fear and Desire, in 1953, and his first moneymaking film, The Killing, in 1956. He aroused much controversy with films such as Paths of Glory (1958), on the stupidity of war, and Spartacus (1960). In the early 1960s he moved to England, where he led a reclusive life, co-founded the Directors Guild of Great Britain, and made all his subsequent films. These included the provocative film Lolita (1962); Dr. Strangelove (Oscar nomination for Best Picture, 1963), an anti-military establishment movie; the sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which was widely considered to be a major work; the disturbing and very violent A Clockwork Orange (Oscar nomination for Best Picture, 1971); the period piece Barry Lyndon (Oscar nomination for Best Picture, 1975); The Shining (1980); the Vietnam war film Full Metal Jacket (1987); and the erotic thriller Eyes Wide Shut (1999). In 1993 Kubrick began work on the futuristic film Artificial Intelligence: ai but died before he could complete it. Steven Spielberg finished the film, which was released, ironically, in 2001.

Voted the 23rd Greatest Director of All Time by Entertainment Weekly, Kubrick was the least prolific of the lot. However, although he made only 16 films during his 48-year career, his impact on the film industry and on his audiences was profound. Kubrick's films are characterized by a common theme of dehumanization and a demonstration of the dark side of human nature. All his films except his first two (Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss, 1955) were adapted from novels. He produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay for the majority of them. Among his countless awards, Kubrick won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey and was nominated for 12 other Academy Awards for writing, producing, and/or directing.


C. Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2002); M. Herr, Kubrick (2000); P. Duncan, Stanley Kubrick (1999); F. Raphael, Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick (1999); V. Lobrutto, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (1997); T. Nelson, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze (1992).

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

Kubrick, Stanley

views updated May 23 2018

Kubrick, Stanley (1928–99) US film director. An ambitious, fiercely independent auteur, his films include Dr Strangelove (1963), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), and Full Metal Jacket (1987). His final film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999) was released after his death.

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