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Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory(1958)

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teaser Paths of Glory (1958)

SYNOPSIS

France, 1916. General Mireau is persuaded by General Broulard that a successful attack on "the Anthill," a well-nigh impregnable position which is held by the enemy, will advance his career. Under Mireau's orders, Colonel Dax leads the regiment in the doomed attack, predictably suffering heavy losses. Unable to admit responsibility, Mireau, together with Broulard, selects three men from the regiment to be court-martialed for cowardice. A trained lawyer, Dax offers to defend his men; in the process, he becomes increasingly aware of the callousness of commanders and the absurdity of war.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: James B. Harris
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson; based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb
Cinematography: George Krause
Editing: Eva Kroll
Music: Gerald Fried
Cast: Kirk Douglas (Colonel Dax), Ralph Meeker (Corporal Paris), Adolphe Menjou (General Broulard), George Macready (General Mireau), Wayne Morris (Lieutenant Roget), Timothy Carey (Private Ferol), Joseph Turkel (Private Arnaud), Susanne Christiane (The German Girl).
BW-88m. Closed captioning.

Why PATHS OF GLORY is Essential

After directing The Killing (1956) for MGM, a low-budget film which nonetheless barely broke even, Kubrick developed a script in collaboration with Calder Willingham under the supervision of Dore Schary, then head of production: The Burning Secret, based on a short story by Stefan Zweig. After Schary's departure, Kubrick and Willingham abandoned the project and turned to the novel Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, a work which Kubrick had admired for years. Although sometimes characterized as a true story, it is instead a fictional account inspired loosely by true events. Cobb's sole novel, its influence can be seen in later war-themed works such as William Faulkner's A Fable and Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead.

Kirk Douglas, who had formed his own production company, Bryna productions, took an interest in the project after seeing The Killing. It was only his star power that helped push it through at United Artists. Douglas writes in his 1988 autobiography The Ragman's Son: "I trapped them into doing it, by saying I had a deal with MGM, and if they didn't want to make the movie, to let me know immediately." The budget was set at $900,000, with $350,000 set aside for Douglas' fee as the lead actor. Thanks to careful planning and the relatively low production costs of shooting overseas, the film looks much more expensive than it actually was." Commenting on Kubrick's legendary ego, Douglas writes, "...wherever we went, Stanley made sure they stuck signs saying HARRIS-KUBRICK all around like FOR RENT signs. I was tempted to say, Get rid of all those signs and put up a sign that says BRYNA....It amused me that he was so anxious about the HARRIS-KUBRICK signs. I'm just surprised that he didn't want the signs to say just KUBRICK." However, Douglas respected Kubrick enough to have him hired a few years later as the director of Spartacus (1960), replacing Anthony Mann.

Paths of Glory was shot entirely in Germany in the run-down Geiselgasteig Studios outside of Munich, using a nearby field for the battle scene and a chateau for the headquarters of the commanding officers. A realistic battlefield was constructed, wired with explosives and strewn with craters, debris, muddy gullies, barbed wire, and of course trenches. The trenches themselves were made some six feet wide - in World War I trenches were actually about four feet wide - in order to accommodate the camera for the film's legendary tracking shots in "the Anthill" attack sequence. Kubrick says in Alexander Walker's book Stanley Kubrick Directs: "For this sequence, we had six cameras, one behind the other on a long dolly track which ran parallel to the attack. The battlefield was divided into five 'dying zones' and each extra was given a number ranging from one to five and told to 'die' in that zone, if possible near an explosion."

For many years Paths of Glory was banned in France and Switzerland due to its supposed anti-French sentiment. When the film was selected for the 1958 Berlin Film Festival, the French threatened to withdraw altogether if the film was shown there. It was also banned on American military bases because of its anti-military theme. It was, however, admired by Winston Churchill for the realism of its battle scenes. Although lauded by critics as one of the great war films, its box-office receipts were disappointing, due in part to the harsh subject matter and the above-mentioned restrictions in the international marketplace. But, on a personal level, Paths of Glory was particularly rewarding for Kubrick because it was on the set that he met his future wife, Susanne Christian, who closes the film with her moving rendition of a German song.

by Scott McGee & James Steffen

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teaser Paths of Glory (1958)

Paths of Glory is but one of many Stanley Kubrick literary adaptations. Starting with The Killing (1956), every one of Kubrick's films after that were adapted from novels or works of fiction.

Paths of Glory has often been compared to director Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western (1930), another literary adaptation that condemned war yet aroused compassion for the men in the trenches. Made when sound equipment was still cumbersome and unwieldy, Lewis Milestone's film broke expectations with an extremely mobile camera, employing many startling tracking shots across "No Man's Land", a technique that Stanley Kubrick adapted and refined in Paths of Glory.

Paths of Glory is an important work in Stanley Kubrick's career. The work shows traces of such formative influences as Max Ophuls, famous for lengthy dolly shots, and Sergei Eisenstein, for his influential dialectical editing and formal framings - all techniques that Kubrick adopted for Paths of Glory and for each of his successive films. Kubrick paid homage to Ophuls throughout Paths of Glory, particularly during the shooting of the scene when Broulard and Mireau first meet. The two men enjoy the luxuries of their rank while wandering around Mireau's salon. Kubrick, who shot much of the film himself, composed this sequence in a series of tracks, following them as they weave around columns, pause at priceless tables for a whiff of cognac, and so on. Kubrick decided to film this sequence midway into the production, so naturally the crew was puzzled about its inclusion. Only at the end of the day's shooting did he whisper to supporting actor Richard Anderson, "Max Ophuls died today. This shot is in his honor."

In 1958, Stanley Kubrick spoke at length about the soldier's experience, as depicted in Paths of Glory: "The soldier is absorbing because all the circumstances surrounding him have a kind of charged hysteria. For all its horror, war is pure drama, probably because it is one of the few remaining situations where men stand up for and speak up for what they believe to be their principles."

by Scott McGee

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teaser Paths of Glory (1958)

As meticulous as Stanley Kubrick was in the making of his feature films, he did overrule battlefield authenticity in favor of practicality by making the trenches two feet wider than the real trenches in World War I, which were about four feet wide. Kubrick simply needed more room for his many celebrated tracking shots.

Paths of Glory, despite its impressive production design and battlefield pyrotechnics, cost only $900,000, a third of which went to star Kirk Douglas. However, Kubrick's later collaboration with Douglas on Spartacus (1960) cost $10 million.

George Macready, playing the nefarious General Mireau, was considered the villain par excellence for much of his career. He made his Broadway debut in 1926, portraying the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter. His many other screen credits include Rita Hayworth's reptilian husband in Gilda (1946). The scar that he sports in Paths of Glory was genuine, incurred in a car accident. Off screen, Macready was one of Hollywood's most cultivated citizens, having owned a Los Angeles art gallery with another Hollywood heavy, Mr. Vincent Price.

Wayne Morris, as Lt. Roget, was an actual war veteran, having earned four Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals as a Navy aviator in World War II. He was credited with shooting down seven Japanese aircraft in aerial dogfights and with sinking an enemy gunboat and two destroyers. Roget died of a heart attack in 1959 at age 45 while watching aerial maneuvers aboard an aircraft carrier.

You may need to flex that bionic muscle between your ears to remember where you have seen the actor playing Major Saint-Auben. Richard Anderson played government official Oscar Goldman on the TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-78). Anderson, one of producer James B. Harris' tennis companions, was hired originally to only coach the cast of Paths of Glory, but he was eventually given a strong supporting part as well. Some of Anderson's other film acting credits include Twelve O'Clock High (1949), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Long, Hot Summer (1958) and Seven Days in May (1964).

Sidney Howard, who was the main contributor to the screenplay of Gone With the Wind (1939), adapted the novel Paths of Glory for the stage. The theatre version ran briefly on Broadway at the end of 1935, but it was not a success. Nevertheless, theatre critic Brooks Anderson did offer this bit of prescient insight when he wrote in The New York Times, "Some day the screen will seize this ghastly tale and make a work of art from it."

by Scott McGee

Famous Quotes from PATHS OF GLORY (1957)

General Broulard: Colonel Dax, you're a disappointment to me. You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. You really did want to save those men, and you were not angling for Mireau's command. You are an idealist -- and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We're fighting a war, Dax, a war that we've got to win. Those men didn't fight, so they were shot. You bring charges against General Mireau, so I insist that he answer them. Wherein have I done wrong?
Colonel Dax: Because you don't know the answer to that question, I pity you.

(The condemned men are awaiting execution.)
Corporal Paris: See that cockroach? Tomorrow morning, we'll be dead and it'll be alive. It'll have more contact with my wife and child than I will. I'll be nothing, and it'll be alive.
(Ferol smashes the roach.)
Private Ferol: Now you got the edge on him.

General Broulard: Colonel Dax! You will apologize at once or I shall have you placed under arrest!
Colonel Dax: I apologize... for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!

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teaser Paths of Glory (1958)

Director Stanley Kubrick and his partner, producer James B. Harris, were determined to follow up their critical hit, The Killing (1956), with another bankable project. They decided on a war picture, but one with an anti-war theme. Kubrick told Harris about Canadian writer Humphrey Cobb's obscure 1935 novel, Paths of Glory, that Kubrick had read when he was a young teenager. It was long out of print, so Harris tracked down a copy at the New York Public Library. Unable to check it out, he read it at the library and became entranced with the story.

Cobb's novel was based on a 1934 New York Times report of a trial just concluded in France. The families of five French enlisted men, shot for mutiny in 1915, had sued the army for damages. The court agreed that they were unfairly executed, but awarded two of the families with one token franc each. The other families got nothing. Cobb was so livid over this injustice that he wrote a short novel based loosely on the incident. The book had no title when Cobb finished it, so the American publisher held a contest offering a cash prize for the winning title. The winner suggested a line from Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard:" "The paths of glory lead but to the grave." Paths of Glory arrived in bookstores in the summer of 1935.

By the time Kubrick and Harris got their hands on Paths of Glory, Humphrey Cobb was dead, but his widow was more than willing to sell them the movie rights for $10,000. Although the producing pair had no script, they took the project to MGM chief Dore Schary, who promptly told them to forget it. Schary just lost his shirt producing a Civil War epic for MGM - The Red Badge of Courage (1951) - and he was not about to sink more of MGM's cash into another potential debacle. Despite the MGM setback, the duo decided to commission a screenplay from pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson. His version was later reworked by noted author Calder Willingham, who had been working on another Kubrick-Harris project entitled The Burning Secret until that project was dropped and he was brought aboard Paths of Glory.

While a final script was being developed, Kubrick and Harris approached a few of Hollywood's top actors to play Dax, including James Mason and Richard Burton. Agents of a few top actors refused to even show such a depressing and non-commercial project as Paths of Glory to their clients. Still, one actor with a lot of Hollywood clout became very much interested in the project - Gregory Peck. The producers were excited at the prospect of casting the reputable actor, but Peck was unavailable for the next 18 months. Meanwhile, Kirk Douglas expressed an interest in the script and made an offer that the producers could not turn down. Plus, United Artists agreed to finance the picture since the very-bankable Douglas was interested. After Peck caught wind of the imminent deal between Kubrick-Harris and Kirk Douglas, he quickly called them to say that he had reassessed his priorities for the next year and that he was available to play Dax. But by that time, a stringent and ironclad deal between Kubrick-Harris and Douglas was set.

At Stanley Kubrick's urging, Jim Thompson added a happy ending to the first draft of the Paths of Glory screenplay. Incensed at the happy ending, Kirk Douglas asked if Kubrick dared authorize such a change, and if so, why. Kubrick agreed to the happy ending and had apparently wanted it to make the film more publicly appealing, thus increasing its box office take. In the end, the filmmakers decided to stick close to the original novel's ending. The film's screenwriting credit would finally be attributed to Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson.

by Scott McGee

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teaser Paths of Glory (1958)

The World War I battle scenes in Paths of Glory, like the Vietnam combat sequences in Full Metal Jacket (1987) thirty years later, were not shot in authentic locations but were recreated in different geographic areas. For instance, Paths of Glory was shot outside the village of Pucheim, west of Munich, Germany. In fact, the entire movie was filmed in Germany, even though it takes place along the Western Front in France. The soldiers' trial and execution were filmed in and around the Schleissheim Palace, just beyond the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial. At the time Paths of Glory went into pre-production, the era of "runaway" productions was in full swing in Hollywood, a time when films often went to other countries to shoot because of cheaper labor and less government interference.

Bryna, Kirk Douglas' production company, hired dozens of German workers to alter several acres into the vast hell of "No Man's Land." They did so by gouging out the crater holes, digging huge ruts and gullies, filling some with water, covering the area with a tangled spider's web of prickly barbed wire, and then planting hundreds of explosives throughout that were to be detonated during the initial attack.

After the workmen had finished dressing the battlefield set, the Paths of Glory production still needed local assistance and manpower: six hundred German policemen were hired as extras to play the French troops, while six cameras tracked the attack, recording their "deaths." Each one of the extras, many of whom had fathers that served in the Great War, were assigned "dying zones," the exact locations in the battle area where they were to fall dead by machine gun bullets, artillery shrapnel, or other horrendous demises. Kubrick had a bit of a problem though; he had to keep reminding the policemen, who had three years military training, that they were supposed to act fearful on the battlefield. Only after Kubrick's repeated directions did the extras get the idea of acting scared. Moreover, they stopped performing foolish feats of physical courage such as leaping in and out of foxholes that were lined with explosives and were capable of inflicting severe burns.

Stanley Kubrick also had trouble getting one of his stock players to take direction. The eccentric character actor, Timothy Carey, who had played the sicko racehorse assassin in Kubrick's The Killing (1956), was cast as one of the condemned soldiers. For his last meal of roast duck, Carey could never remember to tear into it the same way for repeated takes, so every take required a new, unmolested duck. Kirk Douglas was irritated by Carey's erratic acting, and made his impressions known, loudly. But Kubrick seemed to have enjoyed getting Douglas riled up. During the court-martial scene, when Douglas was criticizing Carey's delivery, Kubrick whispered to Carey, "Make this a good one, because Kirk doesn't like it."

Stanley Kubrick met his third wife Christiane Harlan while filming Paths of Glory in Germany. Near the close of the film, Harlan plays the timid girl in the cafe who sings for the soldiers (she was the only German character actually seen in the picture). James B. Harris was alarmed that Kubrick put his own girlfriend on the payroll, as well as by the fact that she was related to Nazi filmmaker Veit Harlan, director of the notorious Jud Süss (1940). Christiane and Stanley were married until his death in 1999. Of course, Kubrick's first two wives were involved in his earlier films. His first wife, Toba Etta Metz Kubrick, was the dialogue director for Stanley's first feature film Fear And Desire (1953). His second wife, Ruth Sobotka Kubrick, was in Killer's Kiss (1955) as a ballet dancer named Iris in a short sequence for which she also did the choreography.

Both Stanley Kubrick and star/producer Kirk Douglas knew that Paths of Glory was bound to be a hard sell at the box office. Despite the minor box office take, Douglas still pocketed a salary that was roughly equal to a third of the film's total budget, which came to about $1 million. Kubrick, meanwhile, worked for a percentage of the profits, but received no salary.

by Scott McGee

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teaser Paths of Glory (1958)

France,1916. General Mireau is persuaded by General Broulard that a successful attack on "the Anthill," a well-nigh impregnable position which is held by the enemy, will advance his career. Under Mireau's orders, Colonel Dax leads the regiment in the doomed attack, predictably suffering heavy losses. Unable to admit responsibility, Mireau, together with Broulard, selects three men from the regiment to be court-martialed for cowardice. A trained lawyer, Dax offers to defend his men; in the process, he becomes increasingly aware of the callousness of commanders and the absurdity of war.

After directing The Killing (1956) for MGM, a low-budget film which nonetheless barely broke even, Kubrick developed a script in collaboration with Calder Willingham under the supervision of Dore Schary, then head of production: The Burning Secret, based on a short story by Stefan Zweig. After Schary's departure, Kubrick and Willingham abandoned the project and turned to the novel Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, a work which Kubrick had admired for years. Although sometimes characterized as a true story, it is instead a fictional account inspired loosely by true events. Cobb's sole novel, it's influence can be seen in later war-themed works such as William Faulkner's A Fable and Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead.

Kirk Douglas, who had formed his own production company, Bryna productions, took an interest in the project after seeing The Killing. It was only his star power that helped push it through at United Artists. Douglas writes in his 1988 autobiography The Ragman's Son: "I trapped them into doing it, by saying I had a deal with MGM, and if they didn't want to make the movie, to let me know immediately." The budget was set at $900,000, with $350,000 set aside for Douglas' fee as the lead actor. Thanks to careful planning and the relatively low production costs of shooting overseas, the film looks much more expensive than it actually was. Commenting on Kubrick's legendary ego, Douglas writes, "...wherever we went, Stanley made sure they stuck signs saying HARRIS-KUBRICK all around like FOR RENT signs. I was tempted to say, Get rid of all those signs and put up a sign that says BRYNA....It amused me that he was so anxious about the HARRIS-KUBRICK signs. I'm just surprised that he didn't want the signs to say just KUBRICK." However, Douglas respected Kubrick enough to have him hired a few years later as the director of Spartacus (1960), replacing Anthony Mann.

Paths of Glory was shot entirely in Germany in the run-down Geiselgasteig Studios outside of Munich, using a nearby field for the battle scene and a chateau for the headquarters of the commanding officers. A realistic battlefield was constructed, wired with explosives and strewn with craters, debris, muddy gullies, barbed wire, and of course trenches. The trenches themselves were made some six feet wide - in World War I trenches were actually about four feet wide - in order to accommodate the camera for the film's legendary tracking shots in "the Anthill" attack sequence. Kubrick says in Alexander Walker's book Stanley Kubrick Directs: "For this sequence, we had six cameras, one behind the other on a long dolly track which ran parallel to the attack. The battlefield was divided into five 'dying zones' and each extra was given a number ranging from one to five and told to 'die' in that zone, if possible near an explosion."

The premiere of the film took place in Munich on September 18, 1957. For many years it was banned in France and Switzerland due to its supposed anti-French sentiment. When the film was selected for the 1958 Berlin Film Festival, the French threatened to withdraw altogether if the film was shown there. It was also banned on American military bases because of its anti-military theme. It was, however, admired by Winston Churchill for the realism of its battle scenes. Although lauded by critics as one of the great war films, its box-office receipts were disappointing, due in part to the harsh subject matter and the above-mentioned restrictions in the international marketplace. But, on a personal level, Paths of Glory was particularly rewarding for Kubrick because it was on the set that he met his future wife, Susanne Christian, who closes the film with her moving rendition of a German song.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: James B. Harris
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson; based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb
Cinematography: George Krause
Editing: Eva Kroll
Music: Gerald Fried
Principal Cast: Kirk Douglas (Colonel Dax), Ralph Meeker (Corporal Paris), Adolphe Menjou (General Broulard), George Macready (General Mireau), Wayne Morris (Lieutenant Roget), Timothy Carey (Private Ferol), Joseph Turkel (Private Arnaud), Susanne Christian (The German Girl).
BW-88m. Closed captioning.

by James Steffen

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teaser Paths of Glory (1958)

Paths of Glory opened on September 18, 1957, in its world premiere in Munich. Ironically, the stark anti-war drama opened in the United States on Christmas Day 1957.

Paths of Glory was a controversial release in Europe and the United States. It was banned in France for 20 years because the French felt it was a slander against the honor of their country and the men who fought and died in World War I. The French even threatened the filmmakers with criminal charges of libel. They were particularly miffed that the patriotic "Marseillaise" played over the credits. Austria put a disclaimer on the film that stated it represented an isolated incident and did not represent the "vast majority of French soldiers." The movie was even banned on some American military bases in Europe. But in Italy, Paths of Glory was lauded as the best international film of the year. The flick also won admiration from several key figures, notably Sir Winston Churchill, who thought the battle scenes were as authentic as any he had ever seen.

Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review said it was "unquestionably the finest American film of the year. It is so searing in its intensity that it will probably take its place, in years to come, as one of the screen's most extraordinary achievements."

Variety praised Paths of Glory as "starkly realistic," but then gave it a one-two punch by labeling it "dated" and "grim screen fare." The critic was prescient though when he said the box office take would be "spotty at best."

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote of Paths of Glory as having "an impact of hard reality...a frank avowal of agonizing, uncompensated injustice that is pursued to the bitter, tragic end." But Crowther summed up his review with a rather ambiguous impression: "It is grotesque, appalling, nauseating...but so framed and isolated that...you are left with the feeling that you have been witness to nothing more than a horribly freakish incident."

Similarly, The New York Herald called Paths of Glory "a good hard movie...powerful in design and execution," but that "you may not believe that two such evil men could wield this power, or that French military justice could be so polluted. In this case, Paths of Glory will strike you as a narrow and unlikely drama."

Influential film critic Stanley Kauffman later wrote, "The script of Paths of Glory had all the simplistic and banal anti-war propaganda that Dr. Strangelove (1964) transcends, but it was executed with ruthless, vivid immediacy."

Screen veteran Adolphe Menjou (General Broulard) said of Stanley Kubrick at the time of release: "The greatest director was Chaplin. Stanley works more like him than anybody I've ever seen...in that the actor is always right and the director always wrong...He'll be one of the ten best directors."

by Scott McGee

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