"If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed." - Stanley Kubrick
The Early Years
Stanley Kubrick was born on 26 July in the Bronx, in New York to Jewish parents, one of whom was doctor Jack Kubrick. Though obviously intelligent, Stanley was an underachiever at his first school, causing his father to send him away to live with his uncle, Martin Perveler, in California for a year, presumably hoping that a change of scenery would help him concentrate, but to no avail.
In a desperate attempt to get Kubrick to take an interest in something, his father introduced him to the game of Chess
, to which he took an instant liking. His love affair for the visual
arts started soon after at the age of thirteen when his father gave him a Graflex
camera for his birthday, distracting him from his previous dreams of becoming a famous Jazz
drummer. Kubrick went on to attend William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx, where he showed some application, but mainly in the field of science, much to the irritation of his arts teachers. His passion for photography continued unabated, and he was made the official school photographer.
He graduated high school in 1946, but due to his relatively low grades, combined with the high numbers of G.I.'s returning from World War Two, meant that he couldn't get into college, and instead he ended up working as a photographer for Look Magazine, after a photograph he took of an exhausted newspaper vendor on the day of President Franklin D. Roosevelt death, was published. He attended City College in an attempt to become eligible for university, an attempt which succeeded when he enrolled as a part time student at Columbia University, when he wasn't globe-trotting for the magazine.
When Kubrick turned eighteen he married his high school sweetheart Toba Metz and in 1949, the pair moved to Greenwich Village, where he started to play with the idea of making films.
The Lure of the Silver Screen
He entered the film business in 1950 with his friend Alexander Singer, and the pair sank their savings into making the short documentary about middleweight boxer Walter Cartier, who had been the subject of a series of photos by Kubrick. Released in 1951, this film, Day of the Fight was bought by RKO , and earnt the young Kubrick several commissions for further short documentaries. Seeing a future in film, Kubrick quit his job at Look, made a further nine minute film about Father Fred Stadtmueller, a priest who flew a Piper Cub around his 400 mile New Mexico parish. It was also released in 1951 and called it Flying Padre.
The Atlantic and Gulf Coast District of the Seafarers International Union gave Kubrick his next commission, for a half hour industrial documentary, which was released in 1953 as The Seafarers. This was Kubrick’s first ever film shot in glorious technicolor, and gave him the confidence to approach his relatives for the $13,000 needed to finance his first full length film. Further funds were raised from outside investors and also from hustling chess games in the Marshal and Manhattan clubs and Central Park, Kubrick was able to make Fear and Desire on location in California.
Kubrick's marriage to Toba did not survive the shooting, and despite a number of art-house cinemas in New York run by Joseph Burstyn picked up on the film, Kubrick didn't cover his costs. The only good point was that the film gained some degree of critical acclaim, and encouraged Kubrick to borrow $40,000 from another relative in 1953 to film Killers Kiss.
Killers Kiss was a crime flick shot in 1954 in the streets of New York, and featuring a cameo from his second wife, Ruth Sobotka. Again it was critically acclaimed, and to some degree cemented his popularity with the critics, but it flopped commercially, and didn't recoup it's costs. Undeterred Kubrick met with meeting with a friend Singer's, James B. Harris, son of the owner of Flamingo films, who wanted to become a producer. Kubrick and Harris joined forces, and founded Harris-Kubrick Pictures. Their first venture was the 1956 short film , The Killing, which starred Sterling Hayden and was funded and distributed by Universal Artists. This was Kubrick's break into the big time, and brought him the attention of MGM Studios.
Hitting the Big Time
MGM offered Kubrick a stab at any of the plethora of book rights it owned, and the pair ended up deciding to bring Paths of Glory, the story of unjust court-martial, to the screen. It starred Kirk Douglas and was released in 1957. A trail of half finished projects littered the duo for the next 3 years before Douglas, who was working as the producer on Spartacus contacted Kubrick and proposed that he took over from Anthony Mann, with whom he had decided he was unable to work. Several of the other crewmember complained about Kubrick autocratic style, with the cinematographer, Russell Metty accusing Kubrick was taking over his job, to which Kubrick replied 'sit there and do nothing'. Metty did as he was told and was ironically awarded the Academy Award for 'his' cinematography.
Kubrick went back to working with Harris on his controversial adaptation of Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita. After pressure from a number of groups Kubrick moved the filming to Britain, where he ended up settling down with Christiane Harlan, and fathering three daughters. The film was released in 1962 and its success enabled Kubrick to use the film as a powerful bargaining chip with MGM. He managed to secure a deal whereby he had total control over the entire film making process, from the purchase of the film rights, to the design of the marketing materials, which eventually led to his reputation as a control freak.
He exercised this freedom when he adapted the Peter George novel, Red Alert into the twisted comedy Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb starring Peter Sellers in three, almost four different roles. It was released in 1964 and won a New York Critics Award, as well as Oscar nominations for Kubrick as co-writer, director, and producer. MGM were edgy about releasing this film as cracking jokes about Nuclear war was cutting quite close to the bone in terms of what you could and couldn't say at the time.
Kubricks next film was a collaboration with author Arthur C. Clarke 2001: A Space Odyssey released in 1968 was an instant hit, and has since been hailed by many as the best film ever made, and as a landmark in cinema history. Yet more Oscar nominations were received by Kubrick for his writing and direction, and it was for this film that he won his only Oscar for the film's amazing special effects sequences.
The knack for courting controversy stuck with Kubrick, and dogged his next film, an adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, which was released in 1971. The film caused uproar and was given an 'X' certificate in the US due to the levels of violence and its portrayal of sex. The film was also removed from cinema's in the UK, but not, as is often claimed for the fact that it was banned, but that the Kubrick didn't think the film was up to his usual standards as well as seeing the potential for copycat attacks, and wanted to be unavailable for as long as he lived, despite it garnering him yet more Oscar nominations.
it was at around this time that rumours of Kubrick's private life started to come to the fore. He was portrayed as a recluse, who hated other people, and stories began circulating about his harsh treatment of the actors working on his films, requiring them to perform dozens of takes with no breaks.
After two futuristic tales, Kubrick went on adapt William Makepeace Thackery's novel Barry Lyndon, which was based and filmed in Ireland, and after IRA death threats, moved into England. Whilst not a commercial success, this 11 million dollar costume drama gained Kubrick seven Oscar nominations, his most for any one film.
Kubrick tried the horror genre next, and bought the rights to Stephen Kings'The Shining', in which he cast Jack Nicholson as the caretaker who slowly slips into psychopathic behaviour. An interesting note about this film is that one of its most famous lines, where Nicholson hacks his way through the bathroom door, and cackles 'Here's Johnny' was actually ad-libbed. The film did well at the box office, but King however agreed with the reviewers who weren't at all kind, and he ended up producing his own mini version of the film some years later.
A break of seven years ended to see the release of Full Metal Jacket, based around the Vietnam conflict released in 1987. Described as showing the 'dark side to the humanist story of Platoon', the film was a box office smash.
After buying the rights to the Brian Aldiss novel Supertoys Last All Summer Long in 1982, Kubrick began work on yet another sci-fi piece, A.I.. Production was halted in 1993, as he saw that special effects technology wasn't at the point where he could make the film as he would like to. Though he restarted work on the film in the late Nineties, he died before it was released in 2001, and the majority of the work was done by Steven Speilberg, after he claimed to have held extensive clandestine discussions with Kubrick about the direction the film should take
On Saturday March 8th, 1997, the Director's Guild of America awarded Stanley Kubrick its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, and a few months later he was also given the Golden Lion Award at the 54th Venice International Film Festival..
Eyes Wide Shut was Kubrick final film and was based on two half finished projects, 'Rhapsody' and 'Blue Moon', starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The film was given totally polarised reviews, not least because of the fact that Kubrick claimed it was the best film he has ever made.
Stanley Kubrick, one of the 20th century's greatest film directors, suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep and died on Sunday morning, March 7th, 1999, at his home in St. Albans, UK.
Below is a complete filmography taken from IMDB