Happy birthday to the late Stanley Kubrick — one of the greatest filmmakers in cinema. The Paths of Glory director passed away in 1999, but Kubrick’s life has been an ongoing source of inspiration thanks to a sprawling exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2012 and an ongoing fascination with Kubrick’s quirky personality.
Kubrick was known as an eccentric, evidenced in the 2008 documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes. He was also known for demanding dozens of takes from his talented cast during a film shoot. We’ve previously explored some of Kubrick’s philosophies about filmmaking. Today, we delve into some of Kubrick’s favorite things that reveal more about the brilliant mind behind our favorite films.
There are perhaps more lists of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite films than any of other filmmaker floating around out there (ok, apart from Scorsese, maybe). BFI broke down the master list (films between 1921 and 1998) as well as a few uncorroborated claims made by various folks around the Internet. Favorite films of Stanley’s, as confirmed by his longtime assistant Anthony Frewin, include:
The Spirit of the Beehive (Erice, 1973) La Belle et la Bête (Cocteau, 1946) The Godfather (Coppola, 1972) Abigail’s Party (Leigh, 1977) An American Werewolf in London (Landis, 1981) White Men Can’t Jump (Shelton, 1992) Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957) Closely Observed Trains (Menzel, 1966) Peppermint Frappé (Saura, 1967) Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
Michael Herr’s memoir of Kubrick revealed that the director enjoyed watching VHS tapes from American friends (and his sister) of TV shows like Seinfeld and The Simpsons. He also watched NFL Football and other programs he couldn’t get in the United Kingdom. (Kubrick had a fear of flying, so he didn’t travel outside of the UK once he moved overseas.)
“He was addicted to music, he played it always, all day long. He worked with music… classical and the pop songs and he liked jazz music. You name it, a very catholic taste in music,” Kubrick’s wife Christiane has said. In a 1987 Rolling Stone interview, Kubrick called Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully” one of the “great party records of all time.”
That rumor you read about Kubrick wearing a football helmet when he drove a car isn’t true. The filmmaker enjoyed driving his Porsche 928 S and wasn’t afraid to take it up to 80 or 90 miles per hour on the highway.
Kubrick loved a good conspiracy theory. “I once gave him a book, can’t remember the title, about all the weird and wonderful conspiracy theories out there,” daughter Katharina said during a 2012 Reddit AMA. “He was once convinced that a Chinese restaurant that we used to go to was a cover for some dastardly espionage activities! He thought the M’aitre D, was far too intelligent a man to be running a restaurant. We laughed and teased him as we chewed our egg rolls.” Were he alive today, Kubrick might get a kick out of the documentary Room 237 about the strange conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining.
Word and number games amused the director. And he made references to the number 114 in several of his films, though this could just be a “parlour game” according to website Visual Memory:
CRM 114 made it first appearance in a Kubrick film in Dr Strangelove (1963), according to the production designer, Ken Adam, “Stanley was so steeped in his material [that] his conversation was full of megadeaths, gyro headings and CRM 114s.” The source is Peter Bryant’s book Red Alert, Communication officer Mellows is describing the code procedure to Captain Brown: “To ensure the enemy cannot plant false transmissions and fake orders, once the attack orders have been passed and acknowledged the CRM 114 is to be switched into the receiver circuit. The three code letters of the period are to be set on the alphabet dials of the CRM 114, which will then block any transmissions other than those preceded by the set letters from being fed into the receiver.” Kubrick, allegedly made references it to CRM 114 in a number of his subsequent films, most notably in A Clockwork Orange Alex is injected with ‘serum 114’, additionally one of the pods in 2001 is marked with this code and, in Eyes Wide Shut the morgue is said to be located in room 14, C-wing, 1st floor, although I cannot confirm this even after very close scrutiny of the film.
“I was taught to play chess at the age of 12, but did not play seriously until about age of 17 when I joined the Marshall Chess Club in New York,” Kubrick stated in an interview for The New Yorker. At one point, he also played for money.
According to wife Christiane: “Stanley would be happy with eight tape recorders and one pair of pants.” Kubrick loved gadgets and did a lot of his script writing by talking into a recorder. In the previously mentioned New Yorker interview, Kubrick insisted on recording it using one of his personal tape recorders since writer Jeremy Bernstein didn’t own one at the time.
Tony Frewin, Kubrick’s personal assistant for 20 years, told the Guardian about the filmmaker’s favorite font used in many of his title sequences: “It’s Futura Extra Bold. It was Stanley’s favourite typeface. It’s sans serif. He liked Helvetica and Univers, too. Clean and elegant.”
Kubrick was a devoted cat dad and loved animals in general, including the many birds that visited his estate for the loaves of bread he would feed them. He offered his feline friends fresh grass from the garden to play in (his dogs played out there, so he kept his kitties indoors). They would eat off fine china and drank Evian water.