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Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick: A Brief Overview by Jan Harlan

Stanley Kubrick was one of the great film directors of our time. His continuing influence on motion pictures is profound. But Stanley was as unknown as his films were known and we hope our documentary redresses that balance.

Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928 in New York City and grew up in the Bronx where his father was a physician. When he was just 16 and in high school, Kubrick shot a photograph of a news vendor the day after President Franklin D. Roosevelt died and submitted it to Look magazine. Look printed the photo and soon hired him (at 17) as their youngest ever staff photographer.

After creating a photo essay on boxer Walter Cartier for Look, Kubrick used his savings to make an impressive, gritty 16-minute documentary film, Day of the Fight (1950), based on the essay.

Two other documentaries -- Flying Padre and The Seafarers -- followed before he made his first feature film, Fear and Desire in 1953. The movie about a fictitious war was directed, produced, photographed, co-scripted and largely financed by Kubrick's father and other family members.

Killer's Kiss was shot two years later and then came The Killing (1956), a noir thriller about a race track heist with Sterling Hayden, that prompted Time magazine to remark that Kubrick "has shown more imagination with dialogue and camera than Hollywood has seen since the obstreperous Orson Welles went riding out of town.

In 1957 Kubrick made Paths of Glory," starring Kirk Douglas, which was set in the First World War and was one of the most uncompromising anti-war films in the history of the cinema. Kirk Douglas subsequently hired Kubrick to direct Spartacus (1960), the most intelligent of the then current epic films, and the one and only film on which Kubrick did not have complete control.

Two darkly satiric films then followed, the much-acclaimed Lolita (1962), with James Mason and Peter Sellers, and "Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964), again with Peter Sellers, a movie that eviscerated and held to high ridicule the Cold War arms race.

2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 redefined the science fiction/futuristic film and the special effects set a new standard for accuracy, realism and beauty.

In 1971 A Clockwork Orange portrayed an oppressive lawless society where man was reduced to little more than a machine. This was a powerful film made by a director at the height of his powers and the impact of the film generated worldwide controversy. Barry Lyndon (1975), with Ryan O'Neill, portrayed on a grand canvas an 18th century rogue with a compassion and attention to historical detail that has rarely been equaled in the cinema.

In 1980 Kubrick produced what many critics regard as the ultimate horror film, The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King and starring Jack Nicholson. Full Metal Jacket (1987) saw Kubrick return to the subject of war, this time the Vietnam conflict, as seen through the eyes of a U.S. Marine played by Matthew Modine.

Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999), is an enigmatic study of a married couple, their love for each other and their real or imagined infidelities. It starred Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and was the fitting end to a distinguished career. Over a career that spanned some five decades, Kubrick thought that this film was his greatest accomplishment.

Stanley Kubrick died peacefully at his home in England in the early hours of Sunday, 7 March 1999. He is survived by a wife and three daughters and has left to the cinema an enduring legacy.

London, 2001

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Stanley Kubrick Facts

BirthdayJuly 26, 1928
BirthplaceNew York, New York, USA
Date of deathMarch 7, 1999 (age 70)
Height5' 8½" (1m74)  How tall is Stanley Kubrick compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Full Metal Jacket
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Shining
Eyes Wide Shut
A Clockwork Orange
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Continue » Find more details on the Stanley Kubrick Movies page