Stanley Kubrick’s Annotated Copy of Stephen King’s The Shining

kubrick shining cover

The web site Over­look Hotel has post­ed pic­tures of Stan­ley Kubrick’s per­son­al copy of Stephen King’s nov­el The Shin­ing, which is nor­mal­ly kept at the Stan­ley Kubrick Archive, but has been mak­ing the rounds in a trav­el­ing exhi­bi­tion. The book is filled with high­light­ed pas­sages and large­ly illeg­i­ble notes in the margin—tantalizing clues to Kubrick’s inten­tions for the movie.

kubrick shining text 1

The site fea­tures a pic­ture of the book’s care­worn cov­er along with two spreads from the book’s inte­ri­or —pages 8–9, where Jack Tor­rance is being inter­viewed by hotel man­ag­er Mr. Ull­man, and pages 86–87 where hotel cook Dick Hal­lo­rann talks to Jack’s son Dan­ny about the tele­path­ic abil­i­ty called “shin­ing.” (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Much of the mar­gin­a­lia is mad­den­ing­ly hard to deci­pher. One of the notes I could make out reads:

Maybe just like their [sic] are peo­ple who can shine, maybe there are places that are spe­cial. Maybe it has to do with what hap­pened in them or where they were built.

Kubrick is clear­ly work­ing to trans­late King’s book into film. Oth­er notes, how­ev­er, seem whol­ly unre­lat­ed to the movie.

Any prob­lems with the kitchen – you phone me

When The Shin­ing came out, it was greet­ed with tepid and non­plussed reviews. Since then, the film’s rep­u­ta­tion has grown, and now it’s con­sid­ered a hor­ror mas­ter­piece.

kubrick shining text 2

At first view­ing, The Shin­ing over­whelms the view­er with pun­gent images that etch them­selves in the mind—those creepy twins, that rot­ting senior cit­i­zen in the bath­tub, that del­uge of blood from the ele­va­tor. Yet after the fifth or sev­enth view­ing, the film reveals itself to be far weird­er than your aver­age hor­ror flick. For instance, why is Jack Nichol­son read­ing a Play­girl mag­a­zine while wait­ing in the lob­by? What’s the deal with that guy in the bear suit at the end of the movie? Why is Dan­ny wear­ing an Apol­lo 11 sweater?

While Stephen King has had dozens of his books adapt­ed for the screen (many are flat out ter­ri­ble), of all the adap­ta­tions, this is one that King active­ly dis­likes.

“I would do every thing dif­fer­ent,” com­plained King about the movie to Amer­i­can Film Mag­a­zine in 1986. “The real prob­lem is that Kubrick set out to make a hor­ror pic­ture with no appar­ent under­stand­ing of the genre.” King lat­er made his own screen ver­sion of his book. By all accounts, it’s nowhere as good as Kubrick’s.

Per­haps the rea­son King loathed Kubrick’s adap­ta­tion so much is that the famous­ly secre­tive and con­trol­ling direc­tor packed the movie with so many odd signs, like Danny’s Apol­lo sweater, that seem to point to a mean­ing beyond a tale of an alco­holic writer who descends into mad­ness and mur­der. The Shin­ing is a semi­otic puz­zle about …what?

Crit­ic after crit­ic has attempt­ed to crack the film’s hid­den mean­ing. Jour­nal­ist Bill Blake­more argued in his essay “The Fam­i­ly of Man” that The Shin­ing is actu­al­ly about the geno­cide of the Native Amer­i­cans. His­to­ri­an Geof­frey Cocks sug­gests that the movie is about the Holo­caust. And con­spir­a­cy guru Jay Wei­d­ner has argued pas­sion­ate­ly that the movie is in fact Kubrick’s cod­ed con­fes­sion for his role in stag­ing the Apol­lo 11 moon land­ing. (On a relat­ed note, see Dark Side of the Moon: A Mock­u­men­tary on Stan­ley Kubrick and the Moon Land­ing Hoax.)

Rod­ney Ascher’s 2012 doc­u­men­tary Room 237 jux­ta­pos­es all of these wild­ly diver­gent read­ings, bril­liant­ly show­ing just how dense and mul­ti­va­lent The Shin­ing is. You can see the trail­er for the doc­u­men­tary above.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mak­ing The Shin­ing

The Mak­ing of Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing (As Told by Those Who Helped Him Make It)

Room 237: New Doc­u­men­tary Explores Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing and Those It Obsess­es

Rare 1960s Audio: Stan­ley Kubrick’s Big Inter­view with The New York­er

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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Comments (18)
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  • rfhartzell says:

    (Click on the images to enlarge.)

    FYI: Click­ing on the cov­er enlarges it, but it’s impos­si­ble to click on the spreads below to enlarge them.

  • Teksu says:

    @rfhartzell :
    You can right click the images and select “open image in new tab” in chrome to get a bet­ter look

  • rfhartzell says:

    Where to begin …

    The mar­gin­al notes aren’t near­ly as hard to read as you make them out to be — though it’s nec­es­sary to vis­it the Over­look web­site to be able to see (and read) the spreads enlarged.

    For instance, on the first spread there appears on the left­hand page what appears to be Kubrick­’s attempt at writ­ing dia­logue for Mr. Ull­man:

    “I have to warn you and I have to ask you to dis­cuss this open­ly with your wife. I would­n’t want you to change your mind after I’ve left for Flori­da (N.Y.?) Once I leave you, I expect you to car­ry out your respon­si­bil­i­ties. I have to stress the neg­a­tive aspect of the job because there are all these things which will come to mind once you are installed here.”

    Kubrick then adds a brief ratio­nale for Ull­man’s utter­ing these words: “Ull­man does­n’t want to come back and hire some­one else.”

    As far as King’s detest­ing The Shin­ing (which I admit I haven’t read), I believe it’s main­ly because Kubrick changed the end­ing. I recall watch­ing some of the King-sanc­tioned TV movie ver­sion made years lat­er and being astound­ed that at the end of the sto­ry Jack Tor­rance’s ghost proud­ly attends the col­lege grad­u­a­tion of his son, Dan­ny. (You see, even though Jack tried hard to kill his son he real­ly, real­ly loved him, you know?) I have no idea what King had in mind with this end­ing, but there isn’t much doubt in my mind that Kubrick­’s ver­sion is both far creepi­er and far more sat­is­fy­ing.

    Beyond that, how­ev­er, if we posit that hor­ror movies *must* con­tain hor­ri­fy­ing sur­pris­es that shock view­ers and leave them per­pet­u­al­ly on the edge of their seat we must con­clude that The Shin­ing falls a bit short. I’ve seen the movie from begin­ning to end only once, when it was released the­atri­cal­ly, and recall most­ly being baf­fled by the ele­va­tor full of blood (it sounds more shock­ing than it looks) as well as Scat­man Crothers’ puz­zling­ly abrupt demise. Which isn’t to say the movie offers no mem­o­rably dis­turb­ing moments — there are plen­ty. Any­one who’s seen it will nev­er see the words ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY the same way again.

    Nichol­son’s and Duval­l’s per­for­mances are obvi­ous­ly both first-rate, too. As a cast­ing deci­sion Nichol­son was a no-brain­er, since he excels at por­tray­ing men ruled by rage and libido. But I’ve always been impressed by Duvall, because I con­sid­er it extra­or­di­nar­i­ly chal­leng­ing to be real­is­ti­cal­ly ter­ri­fied onscreen, espe­cial­ly for as long as Duvall is asked to be. She man­ages to sus­tain her ter­ror and avoid turn­ing it into a one-note response — i.e., tire­some vari­a­tions on a scream. It could­n’t have been easy.

    Still, as much as I admire most of Kubrick­’s work I think The Shin­ing is some­thing of a white ele­phant. When the movie was released Kubrick was quot­ed in the press hop­ing it would be his first big-mon­ey block­buster, and it’s always been impos­si­ble for me to escape the sus­pi­cion that he was torn between the need to make a mass-mar­ket crowd-pleas­er and a thought­ful, gen­uine­ly provoca­tive film. Squar­ing that cir­cle is always hard. I don’t think Kubrick real­ly suc­ceed­ed.

  • rfhartzell says:

    And one last thing (I’m start­ing to think I’m as obsessed with this post as Jack Tor­rance was with the Over­look): what’s so odd about Dan­ny’s Apol­lo 11 sweater?

    As a kid in the ’60s I built a plas­tic Apollo/lunar mod­ule from a kit (not to men­tion the Pan Am shut­tle from 2001), so see­ing a young boy express­ing his (or more like­ly, his moth­er’s inter­est in his) pas­sion for the space pro­gram does­n’t seem at all odd. The Apol­lo pro­gram left a last­ing impres­sion on the gen­er­a­tion that grew up with it; to me find­ing the sweater odd says more about those who think it’s odd than about the sweater itself.

  • were says:

    The note “Any prob­lems with the kitchen, you phone me, you hear. My num­ber is on the wall” actu­al­ly does refer to the movie, and shows Kubrick (or oth­er read­er) did not under­stand what the Shin­ing was. In fact, Dan­ny could con­tact Hal­lo­rann using the Shin­ing, and did­n’t need to use the phone.

  • Max says:

    One thought, per­haps not even my own, for why King hat­ed Kubrick­’s work was not because of Kubrick­’s sil­ly signs but because Kubrick changed the Shin­ing on a fun­da­men­tal lev­el.

    King’s ene­my is human nature. Alco­holism is a promi­nent exam­ple, but not his only (though the author’s per­son­al favorite). In the Shin­ing, read­ing it, there’s no doubt that every­thing could have gone bet­ter if only a few choice choic­es had went a dif­fer­ent direc­tion. Per­haps it’s a plat­i­tude, ‘just be a bet­ter per­son!’ ‘Choose bet­ter!’ Or maybe it is a lit­tle deep­er than that, like ‘We can, even still, make a dif­fer­ence.’ I’m not sure.

    What I am sure about is that in the Shin­ing, and real­ly all of Kubrick­’s movies, the ene­my is not per­son­al choic­es. The ene­my of Kubrick­’s cre­ations is Kubrick him­self. He drops them into his mind, so intri­cate­ly designed, then repli­cat­ed for the audi­ence, and we watche. Jack isn’t an excep­tion to that rule in the film. He plays his part, and we watch as inevitabil­i­ty takes its course.

  • James says:

    For future ref­er­ence, “non­plussed” means “sur­prised”.

  • Dawn says:

    James: Not exact­ly; it means per­plexed or puz­zled, or at a loss. I don’t think crit­ics knew what they were sup­posed to think and were very per­plexed about how to respond to this film.

  • steffan says:

    I would love to read the entire man­u­script. I’ve always thought that Ama­zon or some oth­er book com­pa­ny should pub­lish e‑versions of great works anno­tat­ed in this way. (I’m cer­tain Mark Twain anno­tat­ed exam­ples of James Fen­i­more Coop­er’s books, he hat­ed them and com­plained about their fail­ings in a spe­cif­ic man­ner that indi­cat­ed through research.) The e‑book is a great way to pub­lish some­thing like this, you could switch between the anno­tat­ed and non-anno­tat­ed ver­sions instant­ly. They could go a step beyond and com­mis­sion anno­ta­tions as well… I’d love to read Col­in Pow­ell’s anno­tat­ed ver­sion of “The Art of War” for exam­ple.

  • Darci Thomson says:

    for any­one who is a fan of the movie, there is a great doc­u­men­tary called Room 237. I high­ly rec­om­mend it.

  • O. Ficious Lilprick says:

    “The note ‘Any prob­lems with the kitchen, you phone me, you hear. My num­ber is on the wall’ actu­al­ly does refer to the movie, and shows Kubrick (or oth­er read­er) did not under­stand what the Shin­ing was. In fact, Dan­ny could con­tact Hal­lo­rann using the Shin­ing, and didn’t need to use the phone.”

    Fun­ny, I hear this as Hal­lo­ran­n’s dia­logue to Wendy Tor­rance in my head.

  • Thomas says:

    Here’s the thing. King’s feel­ings about Kubrick­’s adap­tion of his nov­el are very clear. This arti­cle makes lit­tle use of this infor­ma­tion. King dis­liked the film because the omis­sion of much of the super­nat­ur­al ele­ments. King felt Kubrick could­n’t except the exis­tence of a haunt­ed hotel, which is why he said Kubrick “thought too much and felt too lit­tle.” Also, King’s dis­like for the film have cooled over the years, espe­cial­ly with the less than favor­able reviews of King’s minis­eries ver­sion of his book.

  • Essie says:

    Hi. I think “Any prob­lems with the kitchen — you phone me” could be a phrase Kubrick would like Dick Hal­lo­rann to say to the kid. While they were talk­ing about the shin­ing. So that’s why I think he prob­a­bly wrote it there.

    Essie from Hol­land

  • Essie says:

    I’m sor­ry, I did­n’t see the com­ment about “you phone me” above. But it’s actu­al­ly some­thing Hal­lo­rann did say to Dan­ny in the book I thought.

  • Lori Wischmann says:

    King’s mini-series ver­sion was truer to the book which made it lev­els above Kubrick­’s, some­times far­ci­cal adap­ta­tion.

  • sean says:

    “Jack Torrance’s ghost proud­ly attends the col­lege grad­u­a­tion of his son, Dan­ny. (You see, even though Jack tried hard to kill his son he real­ly, real­ly loved him, you know?)”

    That isn’t the end­ing of the book, though the point of that end­ing (as not­ed in your par­en­thet­i­cal) is basi­cal­ly the point of the book, and is a big part of why King hates the film.

    Basi­cal­ly, Jack is the hero of the book. The book is about how hor­ri­ble it is to *be* this alco­holic depressed writer who acci­den­tal­ly broke his son’s arm.

    Kubrick made Jack the vil­lain. The film is about how hor­ri­ble it is to be *with* this alco­holic depressed writer who acci­den­tal­ly broke his son’s arm.

    Basi­cal­ly, the key dif­fer­ence is that Kubrick sees get­ting drunk and break­ing your son’s arm as the act of a mon­ster, King sees it as a sym­pa­thet­ic act.

  • sean says:

    One piece of evi­dence to that inter­pre­ta­tion — in the first chap­ter of the book, we’re told that Jack broke his son’s arm. Accord­ing to King, the char­ac­ter of Jack is sup­posed to descend deep­er into mad­ness, and he feels that Nichol­son played the part as crazy from the start. I’m not say­ing King is in favor of beat­ing a child, but it sounds as if it’s some­thing where he can see the point of view of Jack in the sit­u­a­tion real­ly clear­ly, and nobody else’s at all.

  • JR says:

    “Kubrick is clear­ly work­ing to trans­late King’s book into film. Oth­er notes, how­ev­er, seem whol­ly unre­lat­ed to the movie.

    ‘Any prob­lems with the kitchen – you phone me’ ”

    This absolute­ly has to do with the movie. I believe it’s a line of dia­logue Hal­lo­ran might say to Wendy at the end of the scene where he shows her round the kitchen and leaves them alone for sev­er­al months.

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