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Films: S is for...


Peter Ustinov once testified that the making of Spartacus took so long that although his daughter Andrea had only just been born at the outset of filming, by the time the film was completed she was responding to queries at school as to what her father’s job was with the answer, ‘Spartacus’. When one considers that the eventual director was none other than goggle-eyed Stan Kubrick, never to garner for himself the nickname ‘One Take Stan’, this seems less than surprising. The first director was Anthony Mann, soon to take his revenge for being bumped from this epic by being responsible for the age-spanning The Fall Of The Roman Empire. To be fair to Kubrick, he did have to contend with some of the most monstrous egos ever to have occupied the planet, some of them, like Charles Laughton’s, visible from space. Laurence Olivier did his bit on the self-obsession front too, and doubtless Tony Curtis would have been attempting to claim his place amongst the big apes as well. The biggest ape of them all was principal star Kirk Douglas, magnificent as the title character, though Laughton – managing to be peutlant, oily and sympathetic with the same character and often all at the same time – is also superb. One of the more entertaining of the woolly blanket genre, this is notable for the excellent cast, workable story and last gasp of Kubrick as a watchable director.



  1. Matt Patton

    July 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    During early rehearsals, Laughton objected to the original script and only agreed NOT to walk out if Ustinov would agree to rewrite his scenes, which the latter did. The official scripter was, of course Dalton “magnificent martyr” Trumbo (also known for writing spectacularly catty letter to people he owned money to) and when the film came out and Trumbo started getting praise for the wit of Laughton’s scenes (particularly those he shared with Ustinov), he suddenly forgot about Ustinov’s uncredited (and un-paid-for) work on the script.

  2. Richard Davies

    August 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Stanley Kubrick only directed this because the original director had to drop out, can’t remember who.

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