With the recent release of the original extended US version of The Shining, the Stanley Kubrick Archive, held at the University of the Arts London’s Archives and Special Collections Centre, has seen an increased interest in the materials relating to the director’s 1980 classic. As Michael Herr wrote in his short memoir of Kubrick: “Stanley didn’t like to talk about his films; he’d tell you how but never why.” The same is true for the Kubrick Archive, but it undoubtedly contains some tantalising pieces which give us an insight into how the films were made and the lengths to which Kubrick went to make the film he wanted.
The Archive documents the planning for the set construction with extensive research photographs of the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon (the model for the exterior of the Overlook Hotel) and the interiors of the Awahnee Lodge Hotel (the model for many of the Overlook’s interiors) in Yosemite National Park, California. Then there are the hundreds of photographs of the miniature models built by the cinematographer John Alcott to plan the lighting; the technical drawings planning the building of the sets; and the production stills documenting their construction, including the giant façade built on the backlot of Elstree Studios.
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Among the most interesting facets of the archive are the insights it can give into unrealised scenes or scenes which were cut from the film. One of the many props left over from the film and now stored on the Archive’s shelves at the London College of Communication is the scrapbook. Much research and work went into the production of this prop. Twenty-seven reels of microfilm show Colorado newspapers from 1920-1972 documenting terrible events in the past. Then there are the reproduced cuttings from those same newspapers with the names changed to the Overlook Hotel.
Finally there is the scrapbook itself, a huge bound volume with pages and pages stuffed full of these newspaper cuttings and the mysterious handwritten note on one page: “and they took his balls with them” (a line taken straight out of the novel). After all that work, the scrapbook hardly features at all in either cut of the film and we never really see the contents.
The Archive also shows the great attention to detail which Kubrick applied to the advertising of his film. Catriona McAvoy researched in the archive for her MA dissertation. She highlights the correspondence between Kubrick and Saul Bass who designed the poster for the original release of the film. She refers to the letter in which Kubrick explains that all of Bass’s designs are “beautifully done but [none] of them are right”. He requests “A GREAT MANY PENCIL ROUGHS” but then asks, “By the way, what happened to the face version which you showed me in London?”
The closing line of this letter is also truly exciting as it reveals Kubrick’s thematic aims for the film: “ps. I would like to suggest it is a film of terror (a must) and the supernatural (if possible).”
But probably my favourite items from The Shining materials are the copies of Stephen King’s original novel, which are littered with Kubrick’s handwritten annotations, prising out ideas from the story and expanding on narrative and character points. As Nathan Abrams of Bangor University told me, “They not only gave me insight into what Kubrick was intending… [but also suggest] a body of additional texts that he was thinking about while working on the screenplay.”
This same document is singled out by Lee Unkrich (director of Toy Story 3, massive fan of The Shining and friend of the Archive) as one of the highlights from his visit in 2010. He states that:
Kubrick of course famously refused to talk about the meaning of his work, and spoke very little about his motivations. This manuscript offered me a glimpse… into the workings of Kubrick’s mind. The story it revealed was not necessarily that of a brilliant mastermind who knew exactly what he wanted, but rather, of a [man] who struggled, as many of us do, with how best to tell a story using the medium of film.
He ends quite beautifully with a statement I would happily place above the strongroom door: “And that, I think, is a hidden value of the Archive: it humanises Kubrick.”
The Archive of acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick is housed in the archives and special collections centre at University of the Arts London. It is available to University students and staff, members of other Higher Education Institutions internationally, and interested members of the public. The Archive provides a unique insight into the filmmaking processes of Stanley Kubrick, including his extensive research, screenwriting and production techniques, photography and film distribution and reception.
The University of the Arts London Archives & Special Collections Centre makes available collections that inform, inspire, encourage and excite a diverse range of audiences in support of their creativity, learning and research in the arts, design and communications. The Centre includes facilities for researchers to use laptops and see selections of the holdings in display cases.
For further information on booking a visit and making an enquiry:
The University Archives and Special Collections Centre is based at London College of Communication, Elephant and Castle, London, SE1 6SB. Email: email@example.com
Tel: 020 7514 9333.
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