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 Kubricks first choice - Noel Coward, then Cary Grant, Laurence Olivier, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.
The films production, the first of Kubricks 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, Kubricks rewriting (with co-producer James B. Harris) of Nabokovs unacceptable versions of the script, and the threat of censorship and denial of a Seal of Approval from the film industrys production code.
The film received only one Oscar nomination, Best Adapted Screenplay (credited to Vladimir Nabokov), that lost to Horton Footes 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). Nabokovs 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 plot of the filmed version of Lolita transposes the events in the epilogue of the novel (a bizarre murder 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 love story with occasional reappearances throughout the narrative of the protagonists 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 nymphet pervert.
After a fade-in on satiny drapes, a young girls bare left foot and leg are ceremoniously offered up. In a timely identification, the word Lolita appears superimposed along the top of the foot. The cushioning left hand (wearing a wedding ring) of a subservient, enslaved male cradles her foot and his right hand lovingly and devotedly paints her toenails with bright enamel - at intervals, he wedges cotton tufts between her toes.
A light-colored station wagon drives through the fog up to an old, dusty baroque mansion. The inside of the enormous luxurious chateau is disheveled and messy, showing evidence of the previous nights party/orgy. Empty liquor bottles and glasses are strewn around and dust covers are placed over various articles of furniture in the cluttered rooms. Marble statues, a harp, and a piano fill other areas of the rooms. [The half-abandoned, cluttered mansion suggests Quiltys own dissipated character.]
Quilty: Wha? Wha? Whats that? Humbert: Are you Quilty? Quilty: (spoken with a lisp) No, Im Spartacus. Have you come to free the slaves or somethin? [An inside joke, a clear reference to Spartacus (1960), Kubricks most recent film.] Humbert: Are you Quilty? Quilty: Yeah, I am Quilty. Yes, sure.
Im not accusing you, Captain, but its sort of absurd the way people invade this house without even knocking...They use the telephone..
Humbert: Do you recall a girl called Dolores Haze? Quilty: I remember the one guy, he didnt have a hand. He had a bat instead of a hand. Hes... Humbert: (He bangs on the table loudly with the paddle to get Quiltys attention) Lolita!?
Humbert is hurt and outraged by Quiltys vapid, erratic, uncaring answer and he pulls out a gun. After seeing the gun, Quilty cleverly but nervously counter-points the weapon with a non-sequitur comment about Humberts poor ping-pong playing - [and in retrospect, Humberts inability to hold onto Lolita]:
Hey, youre a sort of bad loser, Captain. I never found a guy who pulled a gun on me when he lost a game. Didnt anyone ever tell ya? Its not really who wins, its how you play, like the champs. Listen, I dont think I want to play anymore.
Humbert: Quilty, I want you to concentrate - youre going to die.
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