Lolita (1962)

152 mins | Comedy-drama | 1962

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HISTORY

An item in the 24 Aug 1962 LAT revealed that producer James B. Harris and director Stanley Kubrick formed their business partnership while serving in the US Army during World War II.
       On 27 Apr 1960, Var reported “Production Code Administrator” Geoffrey Shurlock’s relief over the lack of news about plans to film the controversial 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, which was narrated from the point of view of its pedophilic protagonist. Shurlock hoped production would take place in France, requiring no further involvement from his office. In the 8 Jun 1960 LAT, columnist Hedda Hopper assumed the film would never be approved by Shurlock, although she had not read the source novel. The 4 May 1960 NYT announced that actress Shelley Winters would appear in four maternal roles, following her Academy Award-winning performance as “a self-centered refugee matron” in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959, see entry). Among them was “Charlotte Haze” in Lolita. A 10 Aug 1960 Var news brief stated that James Mason was cast as “Humbert Humbert,” with Tuesday Weld “likely” to appear as the title character. Just over one month later, the 28 Sep 1960 LAT announced fourteen-year-old Sue Lyon for the role. The daughter of a Hollywood, CA, hospital worker, Lyon was chosen from among 800 candidates. Kubrick was reportedly impressed with Lyon’s recent television performance opposite Loretta Young. The 30 Dec 1960 LAT stated that actress Hayley Mills, a contract player for The Walt Disney Company, was also considered. Disney refused to ... More Less

An item in the 24 Aug 1962 LAT revealed that producer James B. Harris and director Stanley Kubrick formed their business partnership while serving in the US Army during World War II.
       On 27 Apr 1960, Var reported “Production Code Administrator” Geoffrey Shurlock’s relief over the lack of news about plans to film the controversial 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, which was narrated from the point of view of its pedophilic protagonist. Shurlock hoped production would take place in France, requiring no further involvement from his office. In the 8 Jun 1960 LAT, columnist Hedda Hopper assumed the film would never be approved by Shurlock, although she had not read the source novel. The 4 May 1960 NYT announced that actress Shelley Winters would appear in four maternal roles, following her Academy Award-winning performance as “a self-centered refugee matron” in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959, see entry). Among them was “Charlotte Haze” in Lolita. A 10 Aug 1960 Var news brief stated that James Mason was cast as “Humbert Humbert,” with Tuesday Weld “likely” to appear as the title character. Just over one month later, the 28 Sep 1960 LAT announced fourteen-year-old Sue Lyon for the role. The daughter of a Hollywood, CA, hospital worker, Lyon was chosen from among 800 candidates. Kubrick was reportedly impressed with Lyon’s recent television performance opposite Loretta Young. The 30 Dec 1960 LAT stated that actress Hayley Mills, a contract player for The Walt Disney Company, was also considered. Disney refused to let Mills test for the part, adding that he would also try to prevent her from seeing the finished picture. Kubrick responded by describing Lolita as a “touching love story,” while condemning some Disney films as “too full of violence and brutality” for young audiences. An item in the 7 Dec 1960 Var reported that Presbyterian minister Dr. George Mauze of San Antonio, TX, made a public declaration of disdain for the source novel, and his outrage over the casting of a teenaged girl in the film version. Reflecting on the controversial subject matter, actor Peter Sellers told the 27 Oct 1960 LAT that he was critical of American women for their apparent acceptance of onscreen violence while decrying any reference to sexuality.
       Production was scheduled to begin in Nov 1960, according to the 29 Sep 1960 LAT, with financing from Eliot Hyman of Seven Arts Productions. The 13 Sep 1960 NYT estimated the budget at $1.5 million, although Kubrick later told the 6 May 1962 NYT that the production cost $1.7 million. The 13 Dec 1960 LAT reported the start of principal photography on 28 Nov 1960 at Elstree Studios in London, England, with additional financing from A.A. Productions, Ltd. James B. Harris barred visitors from the set and prevented Sue Lyon from giving interviews, explaining that she needed to concentrate on her work and studies. Lolita was the first film of her seven-year contract with Harris and Kubrick. The 26 Apr 1961 Var revealed that Kubrick was filming one minute of the picture per day, which a studio representative attributed to the director’s perfectionism. Meanwhile, Harris was considering composer David Raksin to write the score. The job ultimately went to Nelson Riddle.
       During filming, Sue Lyon was hospitalized for tonsillitis, delaying production for four days, at an approximate cost of $22,000 as reported in the 8 Mar 1961 Var. The producers were compensated through an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London.
       On 21 Jun 1961, Var announced that the picture would open in Frankfurt, Germany, in the autumn of 1961. One month later, the 26 July 1961 Var reported that Seven Arts executives would attend a screening of the final edit in London the following month, prompting speculation that the company might also distribute the film. The 10 Jan 1962 Var later stated that distribution deals were also attempted with Twentieth Century-Fox and Warner Bros., and negotiations were currently underway with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (MGM).
       The Production Code was amended in early Oct 1962 to allow “sex aberrations” to appear on screen. Eliot Hyman told the 11 Oct 1961 NYT that the film adaptation would have been “handled” differently if the amendment had been in place sooner. The novel’s term “nymphet” was omitted from the screenplay, and emphasis was placed on the comical aspects of the literary source. As a result, the Production Code and the British censorship board reportedly demanded only two minor edits. Four months later, 14 Feb 1962 NYT announced the film’s spring 1962 release by MGM, with assurances from the National Legion of Decency, a Roman Catholic organization, that it would not condemn the film “provided the advertising specifies that ‘no one under 18 will be admitted.’” The agreement was satirized in a 14 Feb 1962 Var item, which stated, “Young girls will be admitted to theatres only if accompanied by middle-aged men.” Responding to reports that the Legion only demanded thirty seconds cut from the picture, representatives of the organization told the 21 Feb 1962 Var that several edits were made, at least one of which was forty-five seconds in length.
       On 11 Apr 1962, Var ran a full-page advertisement bearing a close-up image of Sue Lyon wearing heart-shaped sunglasses, with the caption, “How did they ever make a movie of LOLITA?” In that same issue, Leroy Holmes’s recording of Bob Harris’s “Love Theme From ‘Lolita’” appeared in the publication’s list of most promising singles. The 23 May 1962 Var explained that the Legion of Decency prevented any mention of Nabokov’s novel in advertisements for the movie. This created a marketing dilemma for Fawcett Publications, which was unable to “tie-in” its paperback edition to the picture.
       Lolita premiered in New York City on 13 Jun 1962 at the Loew’s State Theatre. As reported in the 30 May 1962 Var, a press screening was held two days earlier to ensure that reviews would coincide with the opening. The 13 Jun 1962 Var noted that Shelley Winters would make a brief appearance on her way to the Royale Theatre to perform in Night of the Iguana. An item in the 20 Jun 1962 Var stated that attendees received promotional acetate discs containing excerpts of the songs “Lolita Ya-Ya,” performed by Sue Lyon, and “Love Theme From ‘Lolita,’” along with souvenir programs. The picture made its Los Angeles, CA, debut on 21 Jun 1962 at the Beverly Theater, which reopened for the event following more than $150,000 in renovations, according to the 11 May 1962 LAT. The 21 Jun 1962 LAT heralded the screening as an “Invitational Gala Preview,” to be attended by Lyon and numerous other celebrities.
       Reviews were generally enthusiastic, although critic Bosley Crowther claimed, in his 14 Jun 1962 NYT review, that the screen version bore little resemblance to the novel. In a subsequent 24 Jun 1962 NYT article, Crowther compared the film to the mainstream comedy, That Touch of Mink, noting how both stories emphasized female cruelty toward men. On 27 Jun 1962, Var reported box-office receipts of $65,000 in New York City during the film’s first week of release. Kubrick attended screenings in the city to verify reports of the picture’s immense popularity, according to the 11 Jul 1962 Var. Sue Lyon was also in town at that time, having just returned from a seven-city publicity tour of Germany.
       Lolita was an official US-British entry to the Venice Film Festival in Italy. The producers briefly considered withdrawing the film, as the U.S. affiliation would disqualify them from receiving a $400,000 British subsidy. Reporting from Venice in the 16 Sep 1962 LAT, correspondent George Waldo lamented that Lolita and the other U.S. entry, The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962, see entry), offered unflattering portraits of American society. As noted in the 3 Sep 1962 LAT, , Sue Lyon’s attendance at the festival enabled her to view the film, as she was still too young to see it in the US. A 19 Apr 1962 Var brief noted that actress Shirley Douglas, who played “Mrs. Starch,” was the daughter of T. C. Douglas, premier of Saskatchewan, Canada, where the picture was banned.
       Lolita garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and five Golden Globe nominations, including Outstanding Directorial Achievement (Stanley Kubrick), Best Actor (James Mason), Best Supporting Actor (Peter Sellers), and Best Actress (Shelley Winters). Sue Lyon won the award for Most Promising Newcomer. The 30 Jan 1963 Var reported that AMPAS classified Sellers as a lead actor in its balloting for award nominees. Although James B. Harris petitioned to reduce the actor’s status to a supporting role because of his relatively brief screen time, the Academy stood by its decision, citing Sellers’ star billing on screen and in advertising.
       Despite its popularity, the picture was banned in Ireland and on several U.S. military bases in Germany. The 24 Apr 1963 Var explained that military theaters did not consistently “screen ticket-buyers,” enabling under-aged children to view inappropriate content. However, the Irish Film Censor Board refused to account for its decision, according to the 18 Sep 1962 NYT.
       Filmed in part in Great Britain and in Albany, New York. Opened in London in Sep 1962. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
8 Jun 1960
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1960
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
28 Sep 1960
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
29 Sep 1960
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
27 Oct 1960
Section B, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1960
Section B, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
30 Dec 1960
Section B, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1962
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1962
Section N, p. 8, 30.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jun 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
22 Jun 1962
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jun 1962
Section A, p. 7, 26.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jul 1962
pp. 26-28.
Los Angeles Times
19 Aug 1962
Section N, pp. 2-3.
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1962
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
3 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
16 Sep 1962
Section A, p. 7, 35.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
22 Oct 1962
Section C, p. 13.
New York Times
4 May 1960
p. 57.
New York Times
13 Sep 1960
p. 41.
New York Times
4 Oct 1961
p. 41.
New York Times
11 Oct 1961
p. 51.
New York Times
14 Feb 1962
p. 41.
New York Times
1 May 1962
p. 34.
New York Times
6 May 1962
p. 149.
New York Times
14 Jun 1962
p. 23.
New York Times
24 Jun 1962
p. 73.
New York Times
30 Aug 1962
p. 28.
New York Times
18 Sep 1962
p. 33.
Variety
27 Apr 1960
p. 1.
Variety
10 Aug 1960
p. 19.
Variety
7 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Variety
18 Jan 1961
p. 26.
Variety
8 Mar 1961
p. 22.
Variety
19 Apr 1961
p. 20.
Variety
26 Apr 1961
p. 94.
Variety
21 Jun 1961
p. 70.
Variety
26 Jul 1961
p. 5.
Variety
10 Jan 1962
p. 7.
Variety
14 Feb 1962
p. 11.
Variety
21 Feb 1962
p. 3.
Variety
11 Apr 1962
p. 13, 60.
Variety
2 May 1962
p. 17.
Variety
23 May 1962
p. 11.
Variety
30 May 1962
p. 18.
Variety
13 Jun 1962
p. 5, 9.
Variety
20 Jun 1962
p. 51.
Variety
27 Jun 1962
p. 9.
Variety
4 Jul 1962
p. 8.
Variety
11 Jul 1962
p. 16, 17, 22.
Variety
22 Aug 1962
p. 4.
Variety
30 Jan 1963
p. 3.
Variety
24 Apr 1963
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
1st, 2d & 3d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Assoc art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dresser
Chief draughtsman
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward mistress
Miss Winters' cost
MUSIC
Orch
SOUND
Dub ed
Sd mix
Boom op
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
Prod secy
Casting dir
Constr mgr
Prod buyer
Stills
Camera grip
Elec gaffer
Main titles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Paris, 1955).
MUSIC
"Theme from Lolita" by Bob Harris.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
1962
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 13 June 1962
Los Angeles opening: 21 June 1962
Production Date:
28 November 1960--April 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Seven Arts Productions
Copyright Date:
31 December 1961
Copyright Number:
LP21994
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
152
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Humbert Humbert walks into the disordered mansion of amoral television playwright Clare Quilty and shoots the drunken, mocking author. Humbert then recalls the events that began 4 years earlier: Newly arrived from England, Humbert, a staid middle-aged professor and translator of French poetry, plans to spend the summer in New Hampshire before moving on to a position as a lecturer at an Ohio college. Charlotte Haze, a sexually frustrated widow, is anxious to rent him a room in her house, but her overbearing manner nearly drives him away until he meets her precocious adolescent daughter, Lolita. The girl so arouses Humbert's passion that to be near her he marries Charlotte, meanwhile recording his impressions of mother and daughter in a diary. Charlotte's possessiveness soon awakens murderous desires in Humbert, but the problem of her presence is solved when she reads his diary and, hysterical, runs into the path of an automobile. Humbert retrieves Lolita from the summer camp where her mother had disposed of her and drives with her to Ohio, enrolling her in a private school. Lolita's interest in boys gives him no peace, however, and their relationship becomes strained as she chafes at his interference. When he discovers that Lolita has used the cover of her performance in a school play for meetings with an unknown man, Humbert takes her from school. They embark on a cross-country trip, but Humbert suspects that they are being followed. Both fall ill, and Lolita, hospitalized, disappears one night from her hospital room. Some time later, Humbert receives a letter from Lolita in which she reveals that she is married and pregnant and asks for financial help. When he visits her, ... +


Humbert Humbert walks into the disordered mansion of amoral television playwright Clare Quilty and shoots the drunken, mocking author. Humbert then recalls the events that began 4 years earlier: Newly arrived from England, Humbert, a staid middle-aged professor and translator of French poetry, plans to spend the summer in New Hampshire before moving on to a position as a lecturer at an Ohio college. Charlotte Haze, a sexually frustrated widow, is anxious to rent him a room in her house, but her overbearing manner nearly drives him away until he meets her precocious adolescent daughter, Lolita. The girl so arouses Humbert's passion that to be near her he marries Charlotte, meanwhile recording his impressions of mother and daughter in a diary. Charlotte's possessiveness soon awakens murderous desires in Humbert, but the problem of her presence is solved when she reads his diary and, hysterical, runs into the path of an automobile. Humbert retrieves Lolita from the summer camp where her mother had disposed of her and drives with her to Ohio, enrolling her in a private school. Lolita's interest in boys gives him no peace, however, and their relationship becomes strained as she chafes at his interference. When he discovers that Lolita has used the cover of her performance in a school play for meetings with an unknown man, Humbert takes her from school. They embark on a cross-country trip, but Humbert suspects that they are being followed. Both fall ill, and Lolita, hospitalized, disappears one night from her hospital room. Some time later, Humbert receives a letter from Lolita in which she reveals that she is married and pregnant and asks for financial help. When he visits her, she tells him that she left him for Quilty, who, in various disguises, pursued and tormented Humbert wherever he went with Lolita. Quilty abandoned the girl when she balked at becoming part of his "weird" circle, and she married a younger man. Humbert, his pride gone, begs her to come back to him, but she refuses, preferring to remain with her husband. His world at an end, Humbert gives Lolita all of his money and then goes to find Quilty. [An epilog explains that Humbert dies of a heart attack in prison.] +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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