Screen Time: 65%
Age: 15 years old
Directed: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
Humbert Humbert, a divorced British professor of French literature, travels to small-town America for a teaching position. He allows himself to be swept into a relationship with Charlotte Haze, his widowed and sexually famished landlady, whom he marries in order that he might pursue the woman's 14-year-old flirtatious daughter, Lolita, with whom he has fallen hopelessly in love, but whose affections shall be thwarted by a devious trickster named Clare Quilty.
Movie ReviewsHow did they ever make a movie of Lolita?
Lolita (1962) was Stanley Kubrick's sixth film - a brilliant, sly adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's celebrated yet controversially-infamous 1955 novel of a middle-aged man's unusual, doomed sexual passion/obsession for a precocious, seductive "nymphet" girl. [The scandalous book was banned in Paris in 1956-1958, and not published in its full form in the US or UK until 1958.] The age of Lolita in the novel was raised from 12 years old to that of a typical high-schooler - probably 14 or 15. [The well-known scandal at the start of the century of actor Charlie Chaplin's second marriage and subsequent divorce to under-age actress Lolita McMurry may have been an original reference point for Nabokov's novel.]
The black humor and dramatic story of juvenile temptation and perverse, late-flowering lust was centered on a pubescent nymphet and a mature literature professor in an aura of incest. Rather than a film of overt sexuality and prurient subject matter, its content was mostly suggestive, with numerous double entendres and metaphoric sexual situations. Actors who were offered or considered for the role of the middle-aged, obsessed European intellectual included Kubrick's first choice - Noel Coward, then Cary Grant, Laurence Olivier, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.
The film's production, the first of Kubrick's films produced independently in England, was marked by a long casting search for the proper 'Lolita' [Kubrick decided upon blue-eyed blonde Sue Lyon, a fourteen-year-old television actress in her screen debut, and almost 16 by the time the film was released], the appointment of Nabokov to write the screenplay for his own lengthy novel, Kubrick's rewriting (with co-producer James B. Harris) of Nabokov's unacceptable versions of the script, and the threat of censorship and denial of a Seal of Approval from the film industry's production code.
The film received only one Oscar nomination, Best Adapted Screenplay (credited to Vladimir Nabokov), that lost to Horton Foote's screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). It received five Golden Globe nominations for Best Director (Kubrick), Best Dramatic Actor (Mason), Best Dramatic Actress (Winters), Best Supporting Actor (Sellers) and a win for Most Promising New Female Star of the Year (Lyon). Nabokov's novel was again adapted for the screen (by Stephen Schiff) and directed by Adrian Lyne - an R-rated Lolita (1997), that starred Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith, Dominique Swain, and Frank Langella.
The film's publicity posters asked the tagline: "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" with a picture of Lolita in a seductive lollipop pose. She wears heart-shaped sunglasses and licks a red lollipop. Indeed, at the time of the film's making, sexual freedom and content had not advanced to the point of acceptance that is commonly seen today. Lolita's opening credits, however, contain some of the most overtly-erotic, idealizing images of the entire film - designed to set the tone of the film.
The plot of the filmed version of Lolita transposes the events in the epilogue of the novel (a bizarre death scene) to the prologue. After the opening prologue (the first ten minutes of the film), the film then returns to events that began four years earlier - recalling what led up to the killing of another man who had uncaringly seduced Lolita. The tale unfolds therefore, in a flashback told like a black comedy and murder mystery that both embellish the unusual lovestory with occasional reappearances throughout the narrative of the protagonist's alter-ego. The victim - the scheming, degenerate and ill-fated genius whom Lolita loved and eventually ran off with, bedevils, induces paranoia and baits the avenging tragic figure - the pervert!