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It's love at first sight for international scholar Humbert Humbert when he meets all-American girl Lolita Haze. But it's not their different nationalities or cultural backgrounds that stand between him and romance. It's the socially unacceptable age difference between them - the middle-aged academic has fallen for a nymphet. As he tries to build a life with his beloved Lolita despite opposition from her culture-vulture mother and a conniving rival for her body, Humbert becomes more and more intent on realizing his fantasy. CAST AND CREW

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: James B. Harris
Screenplay: Valdimir Nabokov
Based on his novel
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Editing: Anthony Harvey
Art Direction: Bill Andrews
Music: Nelson Riddle
Cast: James Mason (Humbert Humbert), Sue Lyon (Lolita Haze), Shelley Winters (Charlotte Haze), Peter Sellers (Clare Quilty), Marianne Stone (Vivian Darkbloom), Roberta Shore (Lorna), Lois Maxwell (Nurse Mary Lore)

Why LOLITA is Essential

Because of the novel's ironic depiction of pedophilia, Lolita was considered unfilmable. When Stanley Kubrick and Vladimir Nabokov came up with a screenplay that could pass the Production Code Administration and the Legion of Decency, it struck a new blow for on-screen permissiveness and opened the door to other cinematic treatments of sexual perversion.

Lolita was the first of Stanley Kubrick's films on which he exercised total artistic control, a demand he routinely made after his experience working on Spartacus (1960).

As in most of Kubrick's films, Lolita demonstrates the tendency of human error to destroy even the best-laid plans. Humbert fails to keep Lolita, just as the thieves in The Killing (1956) fail to make themselves rich, the title character in Spartacus fails to free the Roman Empire's slaves and the title character in Barry Lyndon (1975) fails to become a wealthy and influential aristocrat.

Kubrick first revealed his talent for brittle, edgy comedy of manners with Lolita, thereby paving the way for the political satire of his next film Dr. Strangelove (1964), and offering a fascinating insight into such later films as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Barry Lyndon.

For the first time, Kubrick employed first-person narration (delivered by James Mason as Humbert Humbert), a device he would use to great effect again in A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon.

Lolita was the first Stanley Kubrick film shot in England, which would become the travel-phobic director's home base for the rest of his life. Being based far from Hollywood helped the director retain his independence as a filmmaker.

Both James Mason and Peter Sellers benefited from the positive critical response to their work in Lolita. Sellers would continue to capitalize on his success, which added to his reputation as a comic genius through the '70s. For Mason, the boost would last until his disastrous 1964 divorce, which left him desperate to accept any well-paying role to keep up alimony and child-support payments.

Kubrick and Sellers developed a rapport on Lolita that would lead to their teaming on the director's next picture, Dr. Strangelove.

by Frank Miller

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