It’s tea time on the set of Paths of Glory. “For Kubrick, Paths of Glory turned out to be his path to matrimony, for he married German actress Susanne Christian[e] (in the photo above), who played the girl whose singing moved the French troops to tears, and they stayed together for 47 years until his death in 1999.”
Kubrick adapted Paths of Glory from Humphrey Cobb’s 1935 novel, whose title Cobbs had cribbed from a line in Thomas Gray’s famous poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
The film takes its inspiration from the true story of five French soldiers executed for cowardice and mutiny on the Western Front during World War I. Shot in and around the city of Munich, Paths of Glory sparked controversy in Europe: it was banned in France until 1975 on the grounds that it dishonoured the French Army; In Germany its release was held up for two years amid fears that it would strain relations with France. It was also banned by General Franco’s censors in Spain for its anti-military message, not being released until 1986, 11 years after the dictator’s death. Richard Burton, Gregory Peck and James Mason were all contenders for the role of Drax, and it only went to Kirk Douglas after his planned appearance in a Broadway play that would have clashed with filming did not go ahead.
When filming got under way, Kubrick more than lived up to his perfectionist reputation: he shot 68 takes of the doomed men’s “last meal” scene. To the caterers’ chagrin, a new roast duck supper had to be prepared for almost every take. Kubrick meanwhile was determined to make the film as authentic as possible, and for the climactic battle sequence a 5,000 square yard pasture was rented from a German farmer. After paying for the crops he would have raised there, the production team moved in with eight cranes and up to 60 crew members worked around the clock for three weeks to create trenches, shell holes and the rough, muddy terrain of a World War I battleground. More than a ton of explosives were ignited in the first week of filming alone.
For Kubrick, Paths of Glory turned out to be his path to matrimony, for he married German actress Susanne Christian[e], who played the girl whose singing moved the French troops to tears, and they stayed together for 47 years until his death in 1999. —TCN Breakfast Club Screening
- Cold Blood: On Jim Thompson and Stanley Kubrick
- Stanley Kubrick and Jim Thompson’s screenplay for Paths of Glory [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)