A Tribute to Stanley Kubrick
The visionary director was known more for quality than quantity. His total output as a director was only 17 films in almost 50 years, but they included some of the most powerful, innovative movies in history. From 1957 to 1971, he directed (and in many cases wrote and produced) only six films, but each was a masterpiece:
- Paths of Glory (1957)
- Spartacus (1960)
- Lolita (1962)
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Born on July 26, 1928 in the Bronx, New York City, Kubrick’s high school career was undistinguished, and he was unable to get into college because of his grades. He instead worked as a photographer for Look Magazine for several years. He made his first film in 1951, when he was 23. It was a 16-minute documentary about a man named Walter Cartier, whom he had met while on assignment for the magazine. Financed with his savings, it was shown in a theatre in New York and actually made a small profit. After that he made several documentaries and in 1953 he produced his first feature length film, entitled Fear and Desire. It was financed with only $13,000 which he raised from his friends and relatives. Similarly obtained financing of $40,000 resulted in Killer’s Kiss. The Killing followed in 1956.
The following year Kubrick directed his first big hit, Paths of Glory. Adapted by Kubrick, Jim Thompson, and Calder Willingham from the novel by Humphrey Cobb, it almost didn’t get made until Kirk Douglas agreed to star. It is now considered by many to be one of the greatest war and anti-war films ever made.
In 1960 he was asked to take over the direction of Spartacus, the “thinking person’s” costume epic, from fired director Anthony Mann. Although Kubrick didn’t claim responsibility for the whole thing, his influence is strong, and he was once again paired successfully with Douglas. His 1962 filming of Lolita, the Vladimir Nabokov novel of sexual obsession and self-destruction, was highly controversial. It was shot in England, where Kubrick subsequently moved permanently.
In 1964 Kubrick adapted the novel Red Alert into the film Dr. Strangelove, starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott. The film is a classic and resulted in Oscar nominations for Kubrick as writer, director, and producer. Four years later he scored again with 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968). It was influential, ahead of its time, and probably at least partly responsible for the ongoing sci-fi craze in movies and on TV.
This time the gap between films was three years, after which he adapted the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange. So violent that it got an “X” rating in the United States, he still got Oscar nominations for writing, directing, and producing. It proved to be another influential work of future fiction, especially in terms of the “negative utopian” films that followed.
Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) followed, as Kubrick tackled three distinctly different genres, all with great success. In 1997 he received The D.W.
Griffth Award from the Director’s Guild of America. But the time between films was continuing to lengthen. His final project, Eyes Wide Shut(1999), starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, received mixed reviews, as did Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001), which was based on an idea Kubrick had been developing for years but had put on hold while he finished Eyes. He was never able to complete it himself, since he died in March 1999 at the age of 70.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books, Sounds, and Posters