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Lolita (Seven Arts Productions, James Mason, Shelley Winters)

Lolita: Kubrick’s controversial and deeply ironic black comedy stars James Mason as a middle aged professor obsessed with a precociously sexual minor. Adapted by Nabokov from his own novel

In filming a book derided at the time as crossing the borderline, Kubrick put both his artistic and commercial reputation on the line, but the result is a sophisticated and moving tragi-comedy riddled with queasy wit.

Urbane intellectual Humbert Humbert (James Mason) arrives in New Hampshire and marries his highly-strung landlady Charlotte (Shelley Winters) in order to spend more time with her fifteen-year old daughter Lolita (Sue Lyon). When Charlotte dies, Humbert’s relationship with Lolita takes on a disturbingly adult dimension. Lurking in the background, though, is the strange and oddly ubiquitous playwright Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers), the subject of Lolita’s own unhealthy obsession.

Astonishingly polished performances and Kubrick’s typically meticulous attention to detail lend the movie an artfully mocking air. Humbert is cruel, repressed and deeply delusional, but in his devotion to Lolita, Mason locates a deep-seated tenderness. Sue Lyon makes her debut here, and although the film would prove the high point in a career trajectory aimed squarely at the ground, her portrayal of Lolita is giddyingly ambiguous. Manipulative, selfish and self-consciously sexy, but also needy and naive, the inappropriateness of Humbert’s feelings for her doesn’t lessen their strength.

James Mason Prof. Humbert Humbert
Shelley Winters Charlotte Haze
Sue Lyon Dolores “Lolita” Haze
Gary Cockrell Richard T. “Dick” Siller
Jerry Stovin John Farlow
Diana Decker Jean Farlow
Lois Maxwell Nurse Mary Lore
Cec Linder Physician
Bill Greene George Swine
Shirley Douglas Mrs. Starch
Marianne Stone Vivian Darkbloom

Director Stanley Kubrick
Producer James B. Harris
Original Music Composer Nelson Riddle
Director of Photography Oswald Morris
Screenplay Vladimir Nabokov
Novel Vladimir Nabokov
Music Bob Harris
Editor Anthony Harvey
Wardrobe Master Barbara Gillett
Clapper Loader Mike Rutter

United Kingdom / Seven Arts Productions / 154 minutes / Released 1962-06-13

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