How Stanley Kubrick Became Stanley Kubrick: A Short Documentary Narrated by the Filmmaker

Stan­ley Kubrick, the direc­tor of such beloved films as Dr. Strangelove2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Shin­ing, a man whose name remains, more than fif­teen years after his death, almost a byword for the cin­e­mat­ic auteur, got into film­mak­ing because of a mis­un­der­stand­ing. While work­ing as a pho­to­jour­nal­ist in his ear­ly twen­ties, he befriend­ed an even younger fel­low named Alex Singer, who would go on to become a well-known direc­tor of film and tele­vi­sion him­self, but back then he held a low­ly posi­tion in the office of The March of Time news­reels. Singer hap­pened to men­tion that each news­reel cost the com­pa­ny some­thing like $40,000 to pro­duce, which got Kubrick research­ing the price of film and cam­era rentals, then think­ing: could­n’t I make a doc­u­men­tary of my own for less?

Indeed; he and Singer put togeth­er $1,500 and col­lab­o­rat­ed on the box­ing short-sub­ject Day of the Fight, which played in the­aters in 1951. But it did­n’t turn a prof­it, since no dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­ny offered the $40,000 he expect­ed — nor had they ever offered The March of Time, whose news­reel busi­ness went under before long, enough to cov­er their own exor­bi­tant costs. So Kubrick did­n’t make mon­ey on his first film, but he did make a career, going on to do two more doc­u­men­taries, then the low-bud­get fea­tures Fear and DesireKiller’s Kiss, and The Killing. Then came the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed Paths of Glo­ry star­ring Kirk Dou­glas, which even­tu­al­ly brought about an offer to Kubrick from the icon­ic actor to take the direc­to­r­i­al reins on Spar­ta­cus. Next came Loli­taDr. Strangelove2001, and the rest is cin­e­ma his­to­ry.

Of course, Kubrick did­n’t know the full extent of the cin­e­ma his­to­ry he would make back in 1966, on the set of 2001, when he sat down with physi­cist-writer Jere­my Bern­stein, doing research for a New York­er pro­file. The film­mak­er brought out one of his tape recorders (devices he adopt­ed ear­ly and used to write scripts) and record­ed 77 min­utes of his and Bern­stein’s con­ver­sa­tions, almost a half hour of which Jim Casey uses as the nar­ra­tion of the short doc­u­men­tary Stan­ley Kubrick: The Lost Tapes. Only recent­ly redis­cov­ered, these record­ings fea­ture Kubrick­’s first-hand sto­ries of grow­ing up indif­fer­ent to all things aca­d­e­m­ic and lit­er­ary, hon­ing his “gen­er­al prob­lem-solv­ing method” as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, get­ting into movies as a result of the afore­men­tioned mis­con­cep­tion, and build­ing the career that film fans and schol­ars scru­ti­nize to this day. It does make you won­der: what glo­ri­ous work have we missed the chance to cre­ate because we ran the num­bers a lit­tle too rig­or­ous­ly?

via Devour

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er the Life & Work of Stan­ley Kubrick in a Sweep­ing Three-Hour Video Essay

1966 Film Explores the Mak­ing of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Our High-Tech Future)

What’s the Dif­fer­ence Between Stan­ley Kubrick’s & Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (A Side-by-Side Com­par­i­son)

The Let­ter Between Stan­ley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke That Sparked the Great­est Sci-Fi Film Ever Made (1964)

Inside Dr. Strangelove: Doc­u­men­tary Reveals How a Cold War Sto­ry Became a Kubrick Clas­sic

Vladimir Nabokov’s Script for Stan­ley Kubrick’s Loli­ta: See Pages from His Orig­i­nal Draft

Fear and Desire: Stan­ley Kubrick’s First and Least-Seen Fea­ture Film (1953)

Killer’s Kiss: Where Stan­ley Kubrick’s Film­mak­ing Career Real­ly Begins

Lost Kubrick: A Short Doc­u­men­tary on Stan­ley Kubrick’s Unfin­ished Films

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Daugh­ter Shares Pho­tos of Her­self Grow­ing Up on Her Father’s Film Sets

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Jazz Pho­tog­ra­phy and The Film He Almost Made About Jazz Under Nazi Rule

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Rare 1965 Inter­view with the New York­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Carl Russo says:

    Any­one who will be in the Bay Area before the end of Octo­ber (2016) MUST get to the Kubrick exhib­it at the Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Muse­um in San Fran­cis­co. It’s an enor­mous trea­sure of props, scripts, pho­tos, sto­ry­boards, posters, cor­re­spon­dences and even slates (clap­boards) from his pro­duc­tions. His 70mm movie cam­era, the apes and space­suits from “2001,” the twins’ dress­es from “The Shin­ing,” a scale mod­el of the War Room from “Dr. Strangelove”—the col­lec­tion is just too rich to list in detail here.

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