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Five unusual, surprising or downright bizarre facts about Stanley Kubrick

The new documentary Room 237 is loaded with conspiracy theories planted in The Shining, but how about the unbelievable truth?


Did Stanley Kubrick save Albert Brooks’s life?
Yes—in a manner of speaking. According to Brooks (profiled in Esquire), the comedian-director was so depressed after the flop of 1981’s Modern Romance (pictured above) that he strongly considered giving up his career until Kubrick called him in the middle of the night to shower the movie with praise. Their friendship was short-lived: After Kubrick made “terrible” suggestions to the script of Lost in America, Brooks says that the mysterious phone calls dried up.


Was Stanley Kubrick’s uncle-in-law a Nazi?
“Nazi” might be going a bit too far, but Veit Harlan, a noted filmmaker himself, was responsible for one of the Third Reich’s most infamous pieces of propaganda, 1940’s Jew Süss. After WWII ended, Harlan was tried for crimes against humanity, but emerged with a light sentence after he persuaded the tribunal that his work on the script was actually to make his film less anti-Semitic than Goebbels had wanted. Harlan’s niece, Christiane, became Kubrick’s wife after they met on the set of Paths of Glory (pictured above; she’s the German girl that sings in the bar at the end). Christiane Kubrick has said that her Jewish-born husband had to drink a “big glass of vodka” before meeting her uncle.


Did Stanley Kubrick drop out of college?
No, because he never went to college—and barely finished high school. His grade point average lingered just above failing and, when he graduated in 1945, too many academically qualified veterans were returning from WWII to make Kubrick’s application to college hopeless. Instead he became a photographer for Look magazine and educated himself with nonstop reading. In a sumptuous catalog produced for the 1968 release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick disparaged the normal high-school curriculum as one of “rote memorization of characters in books and plays.”


Did Stanley Kubrick spend weeks watching his dog die?
Kubrick loved animals—his rural English estate was filled with roaming cats and golden retrievers, pets that often accompanied the director into the editing suite. According to a reminiscence by collaborating writer Ian Watson, Kubrick was so distraught by the failing health of one of his dogs that he flew “special pills” in from California and sat with the animal for days, caressing it and, per Watson, considering his own mortality. It’s also been reported that, while working on Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick’s production crew accidentally killed a family of rabbits, an episode that so unhinged the director, he shut down work for the rest of the day.


Did Stanley Kubrick once receive a ticking time bomb in the mail?
It wasn’t actually a bomb, but according to Kubrick’s daughter Katharina, the director thought it was: A fan sent a literal “clockwork orange” to his home and the police were called out to investigate. Kubrick had already been receiving death threats over the perceived negative influence of his futuristic 1971 classic and—in a move that’s been widely misreported—decided of his own accord to ask Warner Bros. to withdraw A Clockwork Orange from British theaters. Such was Kubrick’s power that the studio complied and the “ban” stood for decades.

Obsessive fans of Stanley Kubrick (are there any other kind?) will thrill to the weird ideas lobbed forward in the speculative documentary Room 237. Even more notoriously, several strange anecdotes have collected around the director himself over the years. Was he scared of flying? Actually, Kubrick was convinced of the inevitability of flight error; he himself had a pilot license and saw too much he couldn’t forget. Did he wear a crash helmet in cars? Nope—in fact, the filmmaker owned a Porsche. These are the obvious ones: Here, we cut through the haze of rumor to find five tales not as widely whispered but still with merit.