Stanley Kubrick And His Films

The name Stanley Kubrick is synonymous with film. Learn more about the man and his films.

The name Stanley Kubrick is synonymous with film. The American director, who died aged 70 in 1999, produced films which startled audiences in many ways, from sheer awe in 2001: A Space Odyssey to outright shock in A Clockwork Orange.

Born in the Bronx, New York City, on July 26, 1928, his father, a physician, introduced him to photography at a young age. At age 16 he sold a photograph - showing an unhappy newspaper vendor holding papers headlining the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt - to Look magazine for $25. As a result of this, he secured a job with the magazine until the age of 21.

Since the age of 18 Kubrick was obsessed with moving images. In 1951 he wrote, directed and produced "Day of the Fight," a film about a boxer. He also conducted camerawork, scene-making, sound-engineering and overall editing. The film and its successor, "The Flying Padre", was sold to RKO Pictures. Instilled with newfound confidence, he left his job and pursued films as a full-time career.

"Fear and Desire" (1953), a film about a group of soldiers who encounter mind-bending psychological adversity, in which he also acted as cinematographer, was a failure, and he was not much more pleased with his next installment, "Killer's Kiss" (1955). But it was an invaluable apprenticeship to a career in film.

"The Killing," his first full-length film, a story about a group of men executing a racecourse heist, included the visionary backtracking film techniques which were to become prevalent in the Quentin Tarantino films and was well received.

"Paths of Glory" (1957), a film about a suicide mission in World War One, was also acclaimed for its "unforgettable movie experience". The film's star, Kirk Douglas, was so impressed with the enigmatic director that he decided to replace Anthony Mann as director of the Roman epic "Spartacus" (1960).

Despite being his first major box-office success, the experience was unpleasant for the director, since he lacked the total creative and technical input he was accustomed to. Clashes with Douglas forced Kubrick to disclaim authorship and eventually virtually disown the film.

After moving to England in 1961, he made "Lolita" (1962), a film about an elderly man obsessed with a schoolgirl, based on Nabokov's 1955 novel. However, it proved too daunting a task because of the overbearing literary nature of the novel and, in the end, it got the better of him.

He uncharacteristically embraced satire in his 1964 movie "Dr Strangelove - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". With some film critics praising it as one of the funniest movies ever, it received Oscar nominations for best director and best picture.

Kubrick utilized color to create the epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-wrote with science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Encompassing themes as varied as evolution and extra-terrestrial intelligence and man's collective reaction to it, it was divided among critics: some hailed it as revolutionary, while others slandered it for its lack of narrative and oppressing visual content.

"A Clockwork Orange" (1971), based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel, a story set in the near-future portraying crime and punishment and the "scientific rehabilitation" thereof, caused uproar in Britain after several copycat crimes were committed. The film was not shown again in Britain until the year 2000.

His 1975 "Barry Lyndon" was unspectacular in Kubrick terms. It was praised for its visual cinematic quality, but achieved neither critical nor commercial success.

He emerged five years later - the intervals between films were getting longer - to direct "The Shining" in 1980. Based on Stephen King's third published novel, the film was highly commended in terms of its suspense-creating scenes, and Jack Nicholson's unforgettable performance.

Seven years later, Kubrick returned with "Full Metal Jacket" (1980). It was immediately acclaimed as the best war movie ever made. The film was more about the intricacies and complexities surrounding the human condition in a state of turmoil than about the war in Vietnam.

"Eyes Wide Shut" (1999), a haunting story about a couple plagued by sexual obsession and jealousy - starring real-life couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman - was initially not well received, but second and third viewings revealedto most more about the hidden contexts within the plot.

Stanley Kubrick pursued his cinematic visions with relentless passion, regardless of time, money or commercial success. His perfectionist traits were as well known as his reclusive and highly private life. His themes were deep, rich, stimulating. He married Suzanne Harlan in 1958, whom he met on the set of "Paths of Glory" in which she acted, and had three daughters with her.

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