Renowned for being a master auteur and visual stylish, it is hard to believe that Stanley Kubrick made only 13 feature films.
Stanley Kubrick made only 13 feature films. And you could stake a claim for every one being a masterpiece. Now, ideas have surfaced for three previously unknown but recently discovered screenplays created by Kubrick himself. All offer recurring themes of marriage, adultery and jealousy. It makes sense considering the screenplays date from 1954-1956, which was the time in Kubrick’s life when he was experiencing marital problems with his second wife, actress and dancer, Ruth Sobotka.
One the screenplays, titled Married Man, showcases 35 pages of typed script with handwritten annotations and notes. Many in scrawly, untidy pencil markings.
Another is titled The Perfect Marriage, again with several handwritten notes and this time offering seven pages of scenes.
The third illustrates a 13-page story, again both typed and handwritten, titled Jealousy, offering a story of resentment between a married couple.
In the opening lines of Married Man, Kubrick wrote: “Marriage is like a long meal with dessert served at the beginning … Can you imagine the horrors of living with a woman who fastens herself on you like a rubber suction cup whose entire life revolves around you morning, noon and night? … It’s like drowning in a sea of feathers.
“Sinking deeper and deeper into the soft, suffocating depths of habit and familiarity. If she’d only fight back. Get mad or jealous, even just once. Look, last night I went out for a walk. Right after dinner. I came home at two in the morning. Don’t ask me where I was.”
The material was recently transferred to the Kubrick archive at the University of the Arts London, resulting in understandable excitement.
A professor of film studies at Bangor University and a leading Kubrick expert, Nathan Abrams, expressed his personal joy over the material: “There’s masses of new material we didn’t know he’d done. It was all previously sitting in his house, now transferred by his estate. These are projects that Kubrick wanted to do but didn’t do. I have not come across references to these in anything I’ve read previously.”
Within the scripts are ideas that would end up in Eyes Wide Shut four decades later – notably in Jealousy, an argument with a wife after a man comes home drunk, and in The Perfect Marriage, in which Kubrick jotted down notes: “Setting Xmas. Wife preparing for party Xmas eve that night. Fussing. Husband depressed by Xmas. Story about marriage, fidelity, cheating.”
Kubrick was an American man although he lived most of his life in Britain, and sadly died in 1999, shortly after the completion of Eyes Wide Shut, a controversial and psycho-sexual thriller starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Alongside his excitement, Abrams has also expressed frustration, given that so much new material has emerged just after he had finished his forthcoming book, titled Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film, co-written with Robert Kolker and published by Oxford University Press later this month on the film’s 20th anniversary.
He explained: “By his own confession, Kubrick wasn’t a writer. There’s a reason he worked with other writers on his films. In terms of literary merit, not high. Kubrick’s a filmmaker. So it’s what he would have done with it that counts. Kirk Douglas once said: ‘Stanley … has always functioned better if he got a good writer and worked with him as an editor … I have a copy of the terrible Paths of Glory that he wrote to make it more commercial. If we had shot that script, Stanley might still be living in an apartment in Brooklyn instead of in a castle in England.”
He said the fascinating new material shed light on Kubrick’s interests and what motivated him, which would have made a brilliant addition to his latest book in the auteur’s life.
“The 1950s is probably the least understood period of Kubrick’s career. This shows that he’s working on far more than we previously knew. He’s quite productive. He’s trying his hand at being a writer. But, after Killer’s Kiss, his 1955 film, they were never based on original material. They were always developed with someone from something.
“Sobotka, who he was married to when he’s developing these screenplays, had a very formative influence on him. But we don’t know so much about it or her. Things weren’t going well with her in Los Angeles. He went off to Germany to make Paths of Glory in 1957, and met one of its actresses, Christiane, who became his third and final wife.”
It will now be interesting to see if anything cinematic can come from these new found ideas, from one of the greatest filmmakers of the last century, or if we can at least understand more about his life, in particular his life within his second marriage.