Lolita’s path from novel to the Stanley Kubrick's and Adrian Lyne's film adaptations. Essay by Rebecca Bell-Metereau

by Rebecca Bell-Metereau

In 1962, the catholic legion of decency was bound to condemn Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the story of a middle-aged pedophile who marries a widow, loses her, and then becomes the lover of his adolescent stepdaughter. Thirty-six years later, Adrian Lyne’s 1998 remake confronted a number of the same problems that Kubrick faced in terms of adaptation, censorship, and distribution. The two film adaptations of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita do not exactly follow the old sexist adage about women—the beautiful ones aren’t faithful and the faithful ones aren’t beautiful. In fact, Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film was neither particularly beautiful nor faithful, at least in superficial terms. Robert Stam has questioned the legitimacy of the entire concept, arguing that “we need to be less concerned with inchoate notions of ‘fidelity’ and to give more attention to dialogical responses—to readings, critiques, interpretations, and rewritings of prior material.”1 When Kubrick released Lolita, the film’s audiences, critics, and would-be censors could not agree on how true to the novel Kubrick’s version was, but fidelity was not the most pressing issue at the time. Kinky sex was the sticking point for many readers and viewers, and although some “felt cheated that the erotic weight wasn’t in the story,” Production Code arbiters objected to its supposed tawdriness.2

Lolita’s path from novel to film was riddled with compromises and accommodations, beginning with the decision of collaborators Stanley Kubrick and James Harris to move the production from the United States to England, where artistic freedom and financial advantages kept Kubrick for the remainder of his career. Kubrick and Harris had worked successfully together on Paths of Glory and then on Spartacus, a project they took over to buy their way “out of a five-picture contract [they] had with Kirk [Douglas].”3 Kubrick wanted to film Lolita because he viewed it as one of the great love stories of the twentieth century, so he and Harris purchased the film rights.4 At a publicity luncheon, Nabokov met Harris, who was introduced to him as the purchaser of Lolita, and Nabokov, assuming he had simply bought a copy of the book, told him, “I hope you enjoy reading it.”5 Later, Kubrick commissioned Nabokov as screenwriter, then took Nabokov’s 400-page script and used only about twenty percent of it, according to Nabokov. Nevertheless, Nabokov did not publicly condemn the film, even claiming that he was envious of some of Kubrick’s ideas. Moreover, Nabokov himself received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the film was widely acknowledged as a cinematic masterpiece. Nabokov eventually published his edited original screenplay, “not as a pettish refutation of a munificent film but purely as a vivacious variant of an old novel.”6

Fast-forward to 1998, when Adrian Lyne’s worshipful attempt to be both beautiful and faithful resulted in a film described by one critic as “a particularly somber episode of The Red Shoe Diaries,” a comment referring to the gloom of romantic sentimentality and the soft pornographic atmosphere that characterize Lyne’s revisioning of the tale.7 Lyne took pains to be more faithful to the novel, but in the view of many critics his efforts came to life somewhat anemically, under the double shadow of Nabokov’s original masterpiece and Kubrick’s groundbreaking adaptation. In the commentary track on the DVD, Lyne scrupulously avoids referring to Nabokov or Kubrick, calling the 1962 work simply “the other film,” in the way a betrayed wife might refer to “the other woman.”8 Stephen Schiff, Lyne’s screenwriter, seems equally reluctant to acknowledge any anxiety of influence, stating that he “didn’t look at the screenplay Nabokov wrote” since he “wanted to be influenced no more by his take on himself than by Kubrick’s take on him.”9 Schiff  also states that most of his company “actually looked upon the Kubrick version as a kind of ‘what not to do.’”10 Schiff  became the screenwriter for the project after Lyne decided not to use the contemporary version by James Dearden (Lyne’s screenwriter for Fatal Attraction), the production company had rejected Pinter’s “fluent” yet “icy and off -putting” script, and David Mamet had been hired and fired.11 Because of his relative inexperience, Schiff  had the virtue of being an inexpensive replacement on a production that was heading way over budget.

The sexually sensitive material proved to be a source of problems for both adaptations, although the directors dealt with the challenges in vastly different ways. Kubrick turned to satire, and Lyne emphasized sentiment, but neither tactic kept censors at bay. Kubrick notes, “At the time I made it, it was almost impossible to get the film played. Even after it was finished, it laid around for six months.”12 The delay could be attributed to the film’s combination of pedophilia and humor—a confusing mix for censoring agencies and critics alike. A film version of Lolita might be expected to take on the patina of art and respectability with the passage of time, but this was not the case. More than three decades later, Lyne’s version had not made it into theaters. The film’s release was crippled by the passage of Orrin Hatch’s Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, a rider attached to a spending bill.13 Two years after the film was ready for screening, Showtime finally made it a feature of its “No Limits” campaign, a series designed to let audiences see what some considered outrageous fare on Showtime. In an echo of the uproar over Kubrick’s film, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families stated that the film would “increase child molestation and have a harmful effect on healthy men.”14

After all the delays over racy content, most viewers found both adaptations relatively tame. The differences between the two films, however, reveal the delicate line Nabokov successfully walked in his depiction of a grown man’s obsession with a twelve-year-old nymphet. Whereas Kubrick went for black humor by centering on James Mason’s wry sarcasm and Peter Sellers’s comic virtuosity, Lyne attempted to capture a mood of romantic nostalgia, focusing on erotic and emotional elements. Robert Stam argues that “if Kubrick misses the style of the novel, Lyne misses its humor.”15 Kubrick’s vision included a satirical comment on the vapidity of middle-class American society, while Lyne’s work reflected his own private obsession with obsession. Neither version captured the element of surprise that Nabokov considered essential to the structure of his narrative: the discovery, toward the end, that Humbert Humbert, far from being simply a cynical child molester fixated on young girls, actually loved Lolita herself. As Stanley Kauffmann puts it, “Humbert Humbert is not, in the movie, a ‘gonad nomad,’ but has become a ‘trusty, trustful Tristram.’”16

In order to satisfy the censors, Kubrick was forced to downplay the erotic nature of the relationship, inadvertently giving the impression that Humbert actually cared for Lolita, regardless of her age or physical attributes. And Lyne, somewhat freer to explore the more pornographic elements of the story, nevertheless chose from the start to emphasize the elements of romantic love inherent in the relationship. Thus, both filmmakers failed to adequately emphasize an unexpected turn that both Nabokov and Kubrick saw as essential to the dramatic development of the story. Kubrick’s version also normalizes Humbert, as Francis Russell observes: “The book is degenerate ‘porno-picaresque,’ a version of the Satyricon. Th e audiences for the movie are, thus, seeking lubricious details. Actually, though, the movie is more normal than the book.”17 Along these lines, Hollis Alpert explains that Sue Lyon is “too old to play Lolita, so Humbert seems less sick and less grotesque, more human.”18 By creating a more sympathetic or normal character, the film may have lost another element besides narrative tension—the liminality in Nabokov’s characters. Always fascinated with complexity, Nabokov introduced a set of characters whose motivations are multifaceted; they cannot be pigeonholed as innocent or depraved, kind or cruel, insane or criminal. Comparatively speaking, Kubrick, through his use of humor and ironic distancing, comes much closer than Lyne does to capturing the thematic depth and moral ambiguity inherent in Nabokov’s original work. Even at that, Robert Stam maintains that Nabokov’s “screenplay is more prone than the Kubrick film to comic interruption and dedramatization.”19

While literary and film critics often admire such enriching ambiguities, it may be argued that the continued fame of the mercurial figure of Lolita owes at least as much to the scandals surrounding the beleaguered film adaptations as it does to Nabokov’s original literary masterpiece. Long after the novel’s critical acceptance in the literary world, film and digital technologies gave Lolita new incarnations. Given the number of Web sites and organizations devoted to the iconic adolescent, it seems that Nabokov has joined Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and Lewis Carroll in creating a character and a phenomenon that live beyond the original novel. In providing a compilation of Web sites, Suellen Stringer-Hye comments, “Lolita in fact leads a life of her own.”20 James Naremore comments on the intertextuality of Lolita’s character as he notes one of the more obscure cross-references, describing “Richard Kwieniowski’s Love and Death on Long Island, which tells the story of a sheltered British novelist who goes to see an E. M. Forster adaptation at the local Cineplex and wanders by mistake into Hot Pants College II ” … in a film “based on a novel by Gilbert Adair … a rewriting of Mann’s Death in Venice and Nabokov’s Lolita.”21

The persona of Lolita, like that of Alice in Lewis Carroll’s famous works, has spurred admiration and a swirl of controversy since the figure’s inception. The popularity of such liminal female figures owes to an ambivalent longing for a combination of naiveté and naughtiness that resides within American culture itself. If both film versions of Lolita fall short of truly capturing the interior of her character, Nabokov’s novel could also be accused of this same shortcoming. Stephen Schiff  explains one of the difficulties he had in creating lines for Lolita in Lyne’s version of the film: “Because Nabokov’s Humbert lives in a kind of exalted subjectivity, Lolita herself is so much a figment of his imagination that she barely exists on the page.”22 Only at rare moments does the poignancy of Lolita’s plight break through Nabokov’s witty prose, giving the reader intimations of a creature who is presented primarily as an iconic face, on which Humbert projects his own fears, desires, and dreams. The popularity of Lolita’s character points to the love-hate relationship between a male-dominated society and the figure of a female child who should be easy to bully and yet who holds much of the psychological power in the relationship.  The desire to represent this phenomenon is not new, and a number of critics have attempted to pinpoint earlier sources for Nabokov’s famous tale. The social milieu from which Nabokov’s tale of Lolita arose is the closing of the flapper era, during the 1930s, when a certain boyish quality in young rebellious women was considered enormously attractive. Indeed, Lolita combines elements of the “modern” woman of the prohibition era and the rebellious teen of the forties and fifties. It may have been this complex combination that first inspired Nabokov’s interest in the original concept of the seductive quality of an adolescent female on the verge of womanhood. Tim Dirks dates Lolita’s origin somewhat earlier by suggesting that “the wellknown scandal at the start of the century of actor Charlie Chaplin’s second marriage and subsequent divorce to under-age actress Lolita McMurry [sic] may have been the original reference point for Nabokov’s novel.”23 Chaplin’s second wife was actually named Lillita McMurray, and Nabokov denied any association between his literary Lolita and the real-life actress. Michael Marr notes that a novella published by Heinz von Eschwege (under the alias Heinz von Lichberg), a journalist during the Nazi regime, has the same title and basic scenario as Nabokov’s Lolita. Both authors “lived in the same area of Berlin for fifteen years, which Mr. Maar believes makes it possible that the Russian read the earlier work.”24

Given Maar’s assertion that the 1916 short story of the Lolita tale by Heinz von Eschwege may be a source for Nabokov’s novel, one could argue that Nabokov has not produced an original story. However, to make that claim would require ignoring the richness and depth of Nabokov’s novel. As Maar writes, “What you can see is that the theme itself is nothing. The first novel is not of great artistic merit but then the master takes the subject and creates a work of art.”25 While Maar’s assessment of Nabokov’s literary genius is on target, his claim that the theme is “nothing” may exaggerate the case. Indeed, the symbol of the nymphet itself is so overdetermined that the subject is often skirted or ignored precisely because it engenders such extreme responses, even years after the novel’s original publication. The film adaptations brought Nabokov’s tale to a wider public, revivifying and further canonizing a literary work that caused a scandal in its original release. Although there are a few striking surface similarities between von Eschwege’s story and Nabokov’s novel, there is no proof that Nabokov ever read the story. Nabokov himself claims a later and more convoluted origin:

The first little throb of Lolita went through me late in 1939 or early in 1940, in Paris, at a time when I was laid up with a severe attack of intercostal neuralgia. As far as I can recall, the initial shiver of inspiration was somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes who, after months of coaxing by a scientists, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.26

Lolita paints a portrait of the bars of Humbert Humbert’s own psychological cage, a picture of his own obsession rather than an account of another human being’s life. Nabokov also includes the narrator’s self-reflexive and literary explanation for his obsession with the figure of his childhood sweetheart, Annabel, an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s eponymous child bride memorialized in his poem “Annabel Lee.” In yet another vein, Carl Proffer notes that “Lolita was suggested to Vladimir Nabokov by Boris Ivanovich Shchyogolev, a not particularly intelligent character in one of his Russian novels (Dar) written in the years 1934–37.”27 These and other theories of influence are not mutually exclusive, for the material resonates deeply and widely. Appel argues that the distinguishing mark of Nabokov’s treatment of the delicate subject of girl love is “Nabokov’s profoundly humane comic vision.”28  Despite his “comic vision,” not everyone was laughing when they saw Nabokov’s initial manuscript. The novel Lolita came into the literary world with considerable difficulty. Nabokov, who in the 1950s was a professor of Russian and European literature at Cornell University, sent his manuscript to a number of editors, but he could find no American publisher willing to touch the work. In 1955, Olympia Press, a Parisian company that specialized in pornography, published Lolita, and most reviews focused on whether the work should be considered pornographic. The book was subsequently banned in Paris in 1956. After placing excerpts in the Anchor Review in 1957, Nabokov succeeded in publishing the work that year in the U.S. and it was so successful that he was able to retire from teaching to live off  royalties.  If the inspiration for and the path to distribution of Nabokov’s novel are murky, the adaptation process from novel to film and remake took an even more tortuous route, not only because of the controversial subject matter but also because of the strength of artistic vision expressed by both Nabokov and Kubrick. Nabokov’s original novel uses multiple references to cinematic imagery, and Kubrick, always on the lookout for literary masterpieces ripe for adaptation, recognized the inherently filmic nature of Nabokov’s vision and commissioned the initial screenplay from him. Nabokov’s original script would have required about seven hours of filming, so Kubrick suggested cutting major portions. Even after editing, Nabokov could not resist including background scenes, such as one in which Humbert’s mother is struck by lightning, her ghost then floating “up above the black cliffs, holding a parasol and blowing kisses to her husband and child who stand below, looking up, hand in hand.”29 As poetic as this image is, it would be logistically quite difficult to shoot, and the scene would have no place in Kubrick’s more or less naturalistic film. In addition, extensive development of Humbert’s background is simply not feasible in a film that already pushes viewers’ attention span at two and one-half hours.

Aside from the task of cutting out five hours’ worth of content from Nabokov’s screenplay, Kubrick viewed his first challenge as structural, for the original novel’s narrative comes to a premature climax when Humbert sleeps with Lolita. Although this precipitous conclusion of romantic foreplay may not be a problem in the novel, it poses a number of difficulties in the cinematic medium, which generally places such climactic scenes toward the end of the film, at least in the latter third. Kubrick attempted to solve this problem by structuring the narrative as a flashback. In both Nabokov’s screenplay and Kubrick’s film, the story opens with a scene from the novel’s epilogue in which the narrator, Humbert Humbert, shoots his nemesis, Quilty. But even before this scene, Kubrick establishes the film’s mixture of romantic and erotic elements, tinged with an undertone of playful whimsy, in one of the most daring opening credit sequences in film history. The foot of a young woman, held by a man’s hand, takes up the entire screen as the title Lolita appears. Th e man’s hand holds the foot with excruciating care, sensuously stuffing a bit of cotton into the crevices between each toe, and delicately painting each nail, all to the accompaniment of Bob Harris’s sweepingly romantic string score. The combination of eroticism and fetishism inherent in such a scene was unprecedented in 1962. Years later, Susan Seidelman used a similar opening in Desperately Seeking Susan (1987), perhaps as an intentional or unconscious homage to Kubrick. Th e tender prurience of the scene, combined with the ironic use of the soundtrack, encapsulates the nature of the relationships in the film. The incongruity of this opening, which juxtaposes the close-up of a man subserviently painting a woman’s toenails and the standard romantic music of melodrama, alerts viewers immediately to the dark humor that marks Kubrick’s treatment of the narrative.

In a sense, Kubrick’s opening flies beneath the radar of such censoring groups as the Catholic Legion of Decency, which barely recognizes the underworld of submissive/dominant relationships or foot fetishists. Kubrick regretted that he was unable to emphasize the erotic attraction as much as the novel had done, explaining that

the eroticism of the story serves a very important purpose in the book, which was lacking in the film: it obscured any hint that Humbert Humbert loved Lolita. One was entirely satisfied to believe that he was erotically obsessed with her, and one believed his repeated comments that it would be necessary to get rid of her when she was no longer a nymphet. It was very important that Nabokov delayed an awareness of Humbert’s love for Lolita until the end of the story. I’m afraid that this was all too obvious in the film. But in my view this is the only justifiable criticism.30

Kubrick believed that the film should be as erotic as the novel, but he was constrained by censors to eliminate most of the sexual content.

One of the most frequent criticisms of Kubrick’s version is common to practically every adaptation of a great novel, and that is infidelity to the original. This might be countered by the fact that Nabokov nominally wrote the screenplay, but the film version nevertheless strays dramatically from Nabokov’s novel and screenplay throughout. In describing the “instabilities of textual production,” Robert Stam queries, “If a novelist has written a novel, but also provided a screenplay which is already ‘unfaithful’ to the novel, to which text is the filmmaker to be ‘faithful?’”31 In spite of numerous gaps in interpretation and artistic vision, Kubrick and Nabokov maintained a remarkably amicable relationship, which was no doubt lubricated by the $150,000 Kubrick and James Harris paid for the rights to the novel, the Acadamy Award nomination for Nabokov’s adapted screenplay, and subsequent recognition the film garnered. In his 1973 forward to his original screenplay, Nabokov states, somewhat sardonically:

A few days before, at a private screening, I had discovered that Kubrick was a great director, that his Lolita was a first-rate film with magnificent actors, and that only ragged odds and ends of my script had been used.32

Not wanting to bite the hand that fed him, Nabokov continues, “My first reaction to the picture was a mixture of aggravation, regret, and reluctant pleasure.”33

Nabokov expresses some frustration over the fact that he labored so long over scenes that never made it into the film, and he seems unwilling to admit that Kubrick improved the script by slimming down his original product, not simply in terms of size but also in terms of what was eliminated. Particularly in the opening, Nabokov’s original screenplay would have produced a slow, talky and painful film. Kubrick conveys the description of Quilty’s mansion with a few shots, whereas Nabokov’s version would have Lolita’s voice-over describe the place. Then, instead of demonstrating Humbert’s singleminded madness, as Kubrick does, Nabokov’s screenplay inserts the character of Dr. Ray, who begins to explain his pathology. Next, in a lengthy narration by Humbert himself, Nabokov’s screenplay explains Humbert’s original fixated attachment to his first love, the adolescent Annabel.

This prologue—which details their abrupt separation and his subsequent failed marriage to Valeria, then returns to Dr. Ray’s analysis—goes on for twenty pages. Kubrick does Nabokov the enormous favor of cutting all this. In defense of Nabokov’s intentions, it must be acknowledged that many viewers feel the need for some explanation for Humbert’s obsession, especially those who have read the book and thus know his backstory. The effect of omitting this key information is to diminish the viewer’s sympathy for Humbert, and it is precisely this skepticism and distance that Kubrick cultivates, perhaps as a substitute for the more blatant sexual predation that the book could recount and the censor-ridden film could not. Despite the fact that Kubrick ignores large chunks of Nabokov’s screenplay version, the opening of the film sets the comically black tone for the film in a way that is remarkably true to the ironic flavor of the novel.

After the toe-painting opening credits, the film flashes forward to a foggy point-of-view shot of Humbert driving through mist to Quilty’s mansion. A number of critics have noted Kubrick’s penchant for fairy-tale references, and certainly the opening scene establishes a surreal quality to the otherwise realistic narrative style.34 The mistiness of the setting mirrors the murkiness of Humbert’s mental state. The shot of Humbert’s car traveling along an isolated road and up to a castle-like mansion also recalls the fairy-tale journey to the house of the beast. His entrance into the house, uninvited, resembles the opening sequence of Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946), and Quilty’s sudden appearance as he emerges from an armchair covered with a sheet recalls the mysterious human furniture of Cocteau’s film as well. Thematically, the ghostly scene also establishes Quilty as the doppelgänger who will shadow and taunt Humbert throughout the film. Robert Stam notes that “through a kind of displacement from narrative to character, Quilty becomes a kind of ambulatory intertext, a performative embodiment of the Nabokovian style, no longer as literary citation but rather as allusive improvisation.”35  While Nabokov’s original screenplay opening made extensive use of voice-over, Kubrick was surprisingly stingy in employing a device that directors adapting novels often use excessively. Mario Falsetto observes that, of the thirty-five narrative units or scenes, only five involve Humbert’s voiceover. One shows Humbert writing in his diary, and the other four are direct addresses to the viewer. The audience first receives information specifically excluded from Humbert’s view in scene eight, in which the camera closes in on a photograph of Clare Quilty. Falsetto argues, “There is a clear difference between how the viewer and Humbert interpret many events depicted in the film, and this difference of interpretation is tied specifically to many of its narrative patterns. Complexities in structure and narrative organization help make Lolita one of Kubrick’s most accomplished and resonant films.”36  The casting of actors is another artful element of Kubrick’s film, for he had to strike a balance between biting humor and a certain tenderness for his subject. After looking at photos of more than eight hundred girls, Kubrick picked “Sue Lyon after seeing her on The Loretta Young Show.”37 Lyon as Lolita was a choice that Nabokov himself approved immediately, describing her as a “demure nymphet.”38 Kubrick reassured Nabokov that she could be made to appear more “grubby,” in keeping with the tomboy nature of her character. Given censorship and commercial pressures, it is not surprising that Kubrick cast an older actress and failed to make her look even slightly grubby. One of the most frequent objections to the film was the casting of Lyon as a much older Lolita, a change that made Humbert’s passion “normal, not perverse.”39 The first version of the screenplay, by Calder Willingham, bowed to censors by having Humbert and Lolita marry in the end. Originally, Kubrick and producer James B. Harris offered to show Lolita and Humbert getting married in a state where marriage to minors was legal, so that the Production Code Authority would approve the film. Ultimately, this ending didn’t appeal to anyone, so Kubrick returned to the original version, agreeing to change Lolita’s age from preteen to teenager to placate the censors.

In looking at the effect of censorship on the production history of Lolita, another issue that arises is whether Sue Lyon was unduly exploited by having her appear in a film that may have either stunted or prematurely jumpstarted her acting career. Sue Lyon was fourteen when the film was cast, and it certainly does not call on her to display any overt expressions of sexuality with her aging co-star. Nevertheless, this was a topic of concern at the time of the film’s release. As for Nabokov, he declared himself to be completely satisfied with the casting of Lyon, whose pouty mouth and heart-shaped sunglasses featured prominently in publicity posters for the film. Whether or not Lyon was a true nymphet, movie stills of Sue Lyon as Lolita occupy a number of Web sites today, testimony to the visual magnetism of her portrayal. What may have begun as a concession to censors ended up creating a distinctive female icon for generations of film and nymphet aficionados. At the time, the most common assessment of her performance was that it was merely “acceptable.”

The casting of Humbert’s character was another challenge, for the part called for a European type who could convey a combination of naiveté, salaciousness, sophistication, and charm. Laurence Olivier and David Niven were considered for the part, but James Mason was cast as Humbert, perhaps because his physical appearance was more in keeping with the character’s beastly qualities. This was an important enough feature for Kubrick to insert a reference to his hairiness into the screenplay, when Lolita asks why Humbert shaves twice a day, to which he replies, “All the best people do.” What might seem to be a comic throwaway line actually underscores themes that pervade the novel and the film as well: the distinction between Humbert’s upper-class persona and the contrasting bourgeois American quality of his surroundings, and the delicate line between man and beast, in a subtle allusion to Humbert’s resemblance to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A blowzy Shelley Winters was cast as Mrs. Charlotte Haze, whose doomed aspirations to acquire the status and sophistication of her European lodger make her simultaneously pitiable and laughable. The audience learns eventually that both Charlotte and her daughter Lolita admire intellectual, artistic types. Before the action of the film, Charlotte has brought the genius Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) into her home, where Lolita first becomes infatuated with him. Later, when the suave European professor Humbert arrives, Charlotte hopes to impress him by waving her cigarette holder at the works of art in her home and making proclamations about the “advanced” culture of the town. With the help of her greatest work of art—Lolita—she draws yet another sophisticated predator into her home, where he tries to dupe both mother and daughter.

Nabokov makes Humbert witty and oddly appealing, but he also makes perfectly clear the moral depravity of his character. Kubrick’s Humbert is less depraved and more suave, and the threat of his murderous impulses is diminished by the film’s portrayal. One significant alteration in this regard is Kubrick’s depiction of Humbert’s failed and half-hearted murder fantasies. Rather than show Humbert attempting to leave Mrs. Haze stranded and drowning, he shows Humbert contemplating a shooting “accident.” Changing the drowning scene to a scene of guns in the home presents fewer logistical challenges, and it also focuses attention on the American setting and its contrast to the very European Humbert. Charlotte talks of her deceased husband as a great lover of firearms, and Humbert’s deadpan quizzical response constitutes part of the subtle humor of the exchange. Charlotte’s absurd hypocrisy makes her annoying enough that Humbert seems justified in wanting to get rid of her. When Charlotte snoops in Humbert’s diary and reads his description of her as “the Haze woman” and the “fat cow,” viewers tend to identify with Humbert’s anxiety rather than with Charlotte’s pain and humiliation.

In this scene preceding Charlotte’s death, Kubrick embellishes Nabokov’s screenplay very slightly to make it much more effective dramatically. Instead of muttering to himself, as Nabokov’s version suggests, Kubrick has Humbert speaking to Charlotte, whom he assumes is in the other room. This exchange, where Humbert and the viewer imagine an off -screen Charlotte in the house, heightens the surprise of Humbert arguing on the telephone that his wife cannot be dead. Nabokov’s screenplay suggests crosscutting at this point to a shot of an instructor explaining the details of the accident to a roomful of police officers. Kubrick wisely eliminates this distracting and somewhat confusing narrative tactic and simply makes it clear dramatically how the car hit Charlotte. Kubrick goes on to place the audience in the position of co-conspirator with Humbert, as the viewer witnesses him playing the role of grief-stricken husband. The next shot—pure Kubrick— shows Humbert in a bathtub, attempting to tilt a full martini resting on his hairy chest to his lips without using his hands. When friends Jean and John Farlow (Dianna Decker, Jerry Stovin) come into the bathroom to comfort Humbert, they see the gun that he had considered using on Charlotte right before her death. Assuming he is contemplating suicide, they urge him not to do anything rash in the aftermath of his grief. At this point, the father of the man who ran over Charlotte rushes in, hoping to avoid a lawsuit, and offers to pay funeral expenses. Humbert explains graciously that he wouldn’t dream of filing a lawsuit. The man seems quite relieved until Humbert continues that he would be happy to have the man pay for burial costs. The entire scene prompts laughter and an unwilling viewer identification with Humbert, who has garnered sympathy from his fellow characters, even as he delights in what for him is nothing but a series of lucky accidents giving him sole control over Lolita.

Humbert’s cool indifference in this scene begins to suggest a villainous cynicism that is quickly undermined through ironic humor. The scene implicates the viewer, insofar as he or she finds this sequence comical. The viewer’s attitude aligns itself with Humbert’s cold-blooded distance and sense of superiority or indifference to poor Charlotte, who is shown to be a cold mother, ready to ship out her own daughter to camp and boarding school until she grows up. The dramatic irony of the neighbors’ sympathy for the secretly relieved Humbert makes the viewer complicit with Humbert. Because Kubrick’s film and Shelly Winters’s performance make Charlotte a buffoonish and exaggerated figure, the audience is unlikely to feel much sympathy for her plight or sense of loss over her death.

Another significant change in Kubrick’s rendition of Nabokov’s novel is the downplaying of Humbert’s violence toward Valerie, his first wife, and later against Lolita. Again, censorship considerations influenced Kubrick and all filmmakers at the time, making them hesitant to portray on-screen violence against women. Kubrick also diminishes sympathy for Lolita in subtle ways. For example, throughout the scenes of traveling across the country with Lolita, the musical “Yaya” score in the background makes Lolita’s character seem like a shallow, spoiled teenager, and it makes Humbert’s arrangement of this journey seem like a harmless romp. At the same time, these changes and other minor omissions soften and normalize Humbert’s character, thus removing a great deal of the moral ambiguity and shock value of the story, an effect that Kubrick wants to counteract. Kubrick’s solution to this dilemma is to infuse the narrative throughout with black humor and thereby undermine the melodramatic potential of the story. If he errs on the side of slapstick in creating a caricature in Charlotte or in flattening Lolita’s personality, Kubrick nevertheless draws viewers into a deeper engagement with moral issues by encouraging audiences to laugh at the exploits of a murderous pedophile.

Kubrick does not create Lolita as a victim or an object of sentiment. Richard Corliss observes that Lyon’s Lo is “in charge.” In his words:

In a 1962 interview, Lyon said of Lo, “I feel sorry for her. She’s neurotic and pathetic and she’s only interested in herself.” Yet as an actress she never editorialises (as Shelly Winters sometimes does), never lets you see her disapproval of the character. She shows imagination and authority in all Lolita’s gestations: temptress, dominatrix and brat. Lyon fails only in suggesting, at the end, that the girl, like Humbert, is a victim of misapplied passion. But then, in this Lolita, she is meant to be nothing like that. Humbert is the injured party; Lo is one of the conspirators in his misery.40

The literate viewer may chuckle at Humbert as a scoundrel and see in subtle details of mise-en-scène limitations in the character’s perceptions. For example, while Humbert moons over Lolita in her abandoned bedroom, the camera shows us photographs of Vladimir Nabokov and Peter Sellers (as Quilty) in the background. This sly, self-reflexive poke in the ribs from Kubrick is the cinematic equivalent of Nabokov’s humorous allusions throughout the novel.

Robert Stam argues convincingly that Adrian Lyne’s self-conscious manipulation of the camera comes closer to capturing the self-reflexiveness of Nabokov’s novel than Kubrick’s realist style does. However, when Nabokov uses distancing mechanisms, he does so to undermine and ironize the romantic aspects of his tale. Lyne’s 1997 Lolita, on the other hand, uses equivalent filmic techniques in the service of enfolding viewers more securely in the story, with all its romantic and sentimental elements intact. Lyne’s rendition is a much more somber tale, placing greater emphasis on the misery of both Humbert and Lolita. The most important difference between Lyne’s version and Kubrick’s version is in characterization. At one end of the spectrum, Kubrick tries to alienate his viewer from the material and the players, maintaining a cool distance. At the other end, Lyne does everything he can to manipulate, direct, and draw his viewers into a strong identification with the emotions and situations of the characters. Thirty-four years after Kubrick’s dry satirical work, Lyne was left to create another Lolita in the shadow of two artistic giants, and the result of that double anxiety of influence on adaptation is a work that captures a surface disruption and sense of self-consciousness. Respectful of his source material to the point of being worshipful, Lyne’s version looks as if he had read the many critiques of Kubrick’s film that lament the loss of Nabokov’s lovely prose. Consequently, he weights the picture with excessive voice-over narration, even at times when the on-screen action would readily convey the sentiment expressed through Nabokov’s and Jeremy Irons’s mellifluous voices.

Kubrick’s spare use of interior monologue discourages viewers from identifying with Humbert’s point of view. Another element that may distance viewers from the characters in Kubrick’s film is the apparent cynicism of both Humbert and Lolita. Kubrick makes Humbert more urbane than the character in Nabokov’s novel, and the same sort of slant occurs with Kubrick’s jaded depiction of Lolita herself. From the initial shot of Sue Lyon’s Lolita peering seductively over her sunglasses, the viewer has a sense that this girl is wise beyond her years. Lyon’s version of Lolita is more flat and wisecracking than Nabokov’s character, more cynical and calculating than Dominique Swain’s portrayal. In contrast to the knowing, seductive gaze of Lyon’s Lolita, Swain’s grin at a complete stranger is surprisingly wholesome, revealing a retainer that was added to make her seem younger than her actual years. Some viewers find Swain’s depiction more satisfying and rich, because of the character’s complexity and depth. Jeremy Irons’s tortured Humbert takes a page from a series of other characters in the actor’s repertoire, from his early role as a hopelessly infatuated gay man in the BBC’s Brideshead Revisited (1981) to the unwitting lover of a female impersonator in David Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly (1993). Lyne’s casting certainly elicits more sympathy for Humbert and Lolita, but in the process, layers of irony are stripped from the work.

The hair, clothing, and makeup styles of the two Lolitas have a profound effect on character as well. Whereas Kubrick’s Lolita wears her hair in a slightly bouffant flip, with the Peter Pan collars and full gathered skirts of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lyne’s Lolita has braids and wears clothes reminiscent of the pinafores of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Lyne’s authentic period clothing fails to ring true, however, because he uses a film style that is distinctly characteristic of the late twentieth century. Soft focus, pastel hues, and the use of slow motion and lens distortion all mark the film as a product of the late 1990s. Kubrick’s use of black-and-white photography and a relatively static camera sets the action in a sort of timeless “beatnik” era of American filmmaking. The black-and-white photography also emphasizes the film’s noir elements of mystery, a femme fatale, seedy locales, and even seedier activities. The foregrounding of Clare Quilty’s character, with his mysterious companion Vivian Darkbloom (Marianne Stone), spoofs the noir and beatnik traditions by making the duo look a bit like the spies Boris and Natasha in the Rocky and Bullwinkle television cartoons (1959–1961). When Quilty imitates a police officer, his nervous laugh and pseudo-intellectual repetition of phrases make him seem at least as disturbed as Humbert. His imitation of a psychiatrist also sends up Freudian jargon, a jab at psychoanalysis that would please Nabokov, who often declared his disdain for modern psychiatry and psychological symbolism.

Quilty’s character is far less important in Lyne’s film, no doubt in part because he did not have the brilliant Peter Sellers to improvise and flesh out the character. Lyne comments on this influence in an interview: “Kubrick’s film is much more about performance bravura by Peter Sellers as Quilty. I wanted to make a movie where Quilty was much more in the background and where you focus really on Humbert and his relationship with Lolita, which was what I thought was important.”41 While Frank Langella did not contribute substantially to the character of Quilty, Lyne acknowledges that a number of the mannerisms of Lolita were contributed by the improvisations and suggestions of Dominique Swain. Both Kubrick and Lyne took full advantage of the talents and ideas of their actors, and their collaborations resulted in additions beyond both the novel and the original screenplays. Stephen Schiff  comments on the actors “stumble[ing] into an inspired improvisation,” while they and Lyne remain “as true to [the] screenplay as they can be.”42

Although Lyne, Schiff, and the actors all attempted to capture Nabokov’s subtle humor, Lyne’s Lolita contains barely a hint of irony from opening to closing. Ennio Morricone’s sentimental score plays at key points throughout, with a haunting opening melody reminiscent of the score from Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Lover (1992) and the Lolita theme song an echo of Andrea Morricone’s melody from Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1989). Lyne pays tribute to Kubrick in several key scenes, even though screenwriter Stephen Schiff  claims that he avoided viewing the original Kubrick film before writing the screenplay. Lyne reread Nabokov’s work a number of times, and in the places where he deviates from the novel, it is clear that he is intimately familiar with Kubrick’s film as well. The opening scene, in which Humbert (Jeremy Irons) weaves along a small road in the misty countryside, is an homage, however unconscious, to Kubrick’s opening scene. The action is sensationalized a bit by featuring a blood-spattered Humbert, a near accident with a haywagon, and some endangered livestock. Irons delivers the voice-over in a much more guilt-ridden, elegiac tone than the dispassionate timbre of Mason’s Humbert. Throughout Lyne’s film, the voice-over and acting emphasize Humbert’s sense of guilt and remorse, and in the pivotal hotel scene, minor alterations establish a religious backdrop to the action. Instead of populating the hotel with the state police convention of Kubrick’s film, the hotel is filled with guests from a flower show and a “Glory of Christ” convention, a nod to Nabokov’s description of the lobby as filled with “old ladies and clergymen.”43

Both filmmakers soften the character of Humbert, in a variety of ways, and probably for multiple reasons. Certainly Kubrick was constrained by censors to eliminate the more sordid aspects of Humbert’s sexual obsession. Given the loosening of censorship by the 1990s, it is not clear why Lyne contrives to have the sexual relationship between Humbert and Lolita appear more consensual than as depicted in the novel. The narrator of the novel describes Lolita’s lack of enjoyment of their sexual encounters: “Never did she vibrate under my touch, and a strident ‘what d’you think you are doing?’ was all I got for my pains.”44 One scene described in the novel, in which Lolita reads the comics while sitting on Humbert’s lap having sex with him, is altered significantly by Lyne’s film. At the beginning of this scene she appears at first to be laughing at the comics and then laughing at Humbert, but by the end of the encounter, she is pictured in close-up, her face quivering with apparent sexual passion.

Other omissions further normalize Humbert and the relationship. For instance, neither filmmaker includes Humbert’s fantasy of impregnating Lolita in order to produce future nymphets for his enjoyment. The films also fail to depict Humbert’s habit of paying Lolita to caress him while he gazes at other young girls, a practice that might have been easily captured in a scene that serves as a turning point in the novel: “I sat beside Dolly just behind that neck and that hair, and unbuttoned my overcoat and for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the school play, had Dolly put her inky chalky, red-knuckled hand under the desk.”45

Both filmic portrayals of the couple’s odyssey across America eliminate one of the most moving descriptions of Lolita’s unhappiness, as Humbert describes it in the novel: “Our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night—every night, every night— the moment I feigned sleep.”46 This statement captures a major theme of Nabokov’s novel, demonstrating how Humbert destroys Lolita even as he captures her, a deterioration that is embodied through the increasingly tawdry settings. The couple’s physical journey is effectively detailed by Lyne’s American location shots, in contrast to Kubrick’s English countryside montage, but both directors gloss over the hidden sadness of Lolita’s character. Nabokov, hardly a proto-feminist, nonetheless at least hints at the absence of Lolita’s point of view in the narrative. In contrast, both Kubrick, the Enlightenment director, and Lyne, the romantic director, produce works that are firmly rooted in the phallocentric vision of woman as an obscure object of desire, implacable and ultimately inscrutable—a face without interiority.  If there is a certain degree of realism in Lyne’s depiction of American landscapes, the director undermines this quality by calling attention to the filmmaking process, stylizing editing, color saturation, and camera speed. His nighttime scenes are shot with a heavy blue filter that gives them a surreal comic book aspect. In a dream sequence, the camera lens distorts and warps the picture drastically. In the climactic scene at the hotel Enchanted Hunters, Lyne violates the laws of continuity editing by creating a jump cut, showing Humbert entering the bathroom clothed and immediately exiting in pajamas, in imitation of Nabokov’s own cinematic description of the moment: “I seemed to have shed my clothes and slipped into pajamas with the kind of fantastic instantaneousness which is implied when in a cinematographic scene the process of changing is cut.”47 Th e manipulation has a distancing effect, even though it captures the character’s subjective experience of the moment. Kubrick creates similar distance during this scene by adding a slapstick routine with a folding cot collapsing as he tries in vain to fall asleep, tortured by his desire for Lolita. Nabokov disliked Kubrick’s rendition, but Nabokov himself emphasizes the humor of the moment by writing of the hotel sounds—deep-throated toilets flushing and couples making vociferous love in nearby rooms.

Lyne plays most of the film for sentiment and sensuality, punctuated by whimsical moments of the couple playing tennis or Humbert pushing Lolita’s feet out of his face as she lounges in the backseat of the car. Lyne’s detailing of the couple’s deteriorating relationship makes Humbert’s physical violence toward Lolita look like part of the couple’s passionate play, a sadomasochistic pattern that Lyne set in his earlier blockbusters Nine and a Half Weeks (1986) and Fatal Attraction (1987). Because most of the film is awash in so much melodrama, tears, and sentiment, the ending seems anticlimactic. In contrast, Kubrick’s Lolita plays most of the film for laughs, practically eliminating the physical violence of Nabokov’s novel and laying on slapstick at the most embarrassing and anxiety-laden moments. In the conclusion of Kubrick’s work, however, the film surprises the viewer with a moment of real emotion, as we watch the cynical, rascally Humbert try to cover his sadness and desperation. He makes his first and last act of true generosity in the entire narrative, as the sentimental score swells, this time playing without irony, to stunning effect. For Kubrick, this scene is the climax, and the ensuing pursuit and murder of Quilty are merely the denouement. Lyne, on the other hand, makes ineffective use of the poignant reconciliation between Humbert and Lolita, focusing instead on the gore and melodrama of the final confrontation between the two men. In Lyne’s universe, the climax is the shootout (if a lopsided affair), and Quilty’s gushing blood is engineered to serve as the visual high point in much the same way that slow-motion depiction of death works in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Lyne’s use of stylized visuals in the closing scenes undermines his claim that he wished to keep the focus on the relationship between Humbert and Lolita. The extended gun play, spurting blood, and hysterical emphasis on Quilty’s violent ending seem at odds with the earlier role of the character, whom Robert Stam describes as seeming “like a generic extraterrestrial, someone who seems to have wandered in from another studio’s backlot.”48

Lyne’s sense of what plays well with audience is keen, and many contemporary viewers prefer Lyne’s version to Kubrick’s, probably in part because it has a more modern feel, more explanatory backstory, and a clearer appeal to emotions. Some viewers who have read the novel prefer Lyne’s relative faithfulness to the original source. Lyne’s Lolita also contains the kind of visual interest and mobile camera that fans of MTV and VH1 appreciate, in stark contrast to the cool detachment of Kubrick’s distanced, unobtrusive camera. The theme of tragic obsessive love is an easier pill for modern audiences to swallow than is the bitter poison of Kubrick’s social satire on the decadence of American society and the impossibility of pure love. It is clear that for both filmmakers, adapting Lolita was both a labor of love and a daunting challenge. Nabokov acknowledges the tensions of adaptation, along with the difficulties inherent in the enterprise:

The modifications, the garbling of my best little finds, the omission of entire scenes, the addition of new ones, and all sorts of other changes may not have been sufficient to erase my name from the credit titles but they certainly made the picture as unfaithful to the original script as an American poet’s translation from Rimbaud or Pasternak. I hasten to add that my present comments should definitely not be construed as reflecting any belated grudge, any high-pitched deprecation of Kubrick’s creative approach. When adapting Lolita to the speaking screen he saw my novel in one way, I saw it in another—that’s all, nor can one deny that infinite fidelity may be an author’s ideal but can prove a producer’s ruin.49

Squabbles over whose Lolita is the real Lolita may obscure the important and often overlooked fact that the eponymous character of Lolita remains inscrutable and unknowable in all versions. One might argue compellingly that among the three faces of Lolita—Nabokov’s, Kubrick’s, and Lyne’s— each successive rendition of the spirit within the sylph becomes more blurred and distorted. Devotees of the great auteur Kubrick maintain that his Lolita, despite its bouts with censors, captures the essence of Nabokov’s wit and darkness more truly than Lyne’s sappy manipulation. Defenders of Lyne’s version might counter that he simply amplifies the sentimentality and steamy sensuality lurking in Nabokov’s rendition. I would assert that all three artists capture only a glimmer of the humanity behind the icon—the suffering, complexity, and wry wisdom masked by the haunting face of Lolita. So, although censorship prompted some of Kubrick’s omissions and sensationalism fueled some of Lyne’s excesses, what created the vagueness of all three artists’ portraits of Lolita was an utter inability to inhabit the interior of the female mind in the way that allowed Gustav Flaubert to say “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” Mario Falsetto argues that “the character of Quilty is a major presence in Lolita, perhaps the presence, and more often than not viewers feel his presence by his absence.”50 But even more absent is Lolita herself, for viewers see and hear more about the surface of what other characters see than they do of what she perceives. Just as Nabokov’s narrator Humbert expresses his failure to capture in words the essential object of desire, “I could not parade living Lolita,”51 the filmmakers are humbled before their subject. Even with this shortcoming, however, both films make a lie of Nabokov’s final words for Humbert: “And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.”52 Stanley Kubrick and Adrian Lyne bring to life two new faces of Lolita, lending her and Humbert’s vision of her yet another incarnation, yet another immortality, yet another face whose interior being eludes us.


1. Robert Stam, “Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation,” in Film Adaptation, ed. James Naremore (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 75–76.
2. Tim Dirks, “Lolita,” in The Greatest Films, (2004).
3. Gene Phillips and Rodney Hill, The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick (New York: Facts on File, 2002), 126.
4. Alfred Appel, “Lolita: The Springboard of Parody,” in Modern Critical Interpretations: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987), 50.
5. Ibid., 35–51.
6. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita: A Screenplay, 1st international ed. (New York: Vintage, 1977), xiii.
7. Coury Turczyn, “Adrian Lyne’s Controversial Lolita Finds Its True Home—Cable TV,”–10–98/knox_guru.html.
8. Adrian Lyne, commentary track for Lolita, DVD (Vidmark/Trimark, 2002).
9. See discussions in Suellen Stringer-Hye, “Vladimir Nabokov and Popular Culture,” in Discourse and Ideology in Nabokov’s Prose, ed. David H. J. Larmour (London: Routledge, 2002), and “An Interview with Stephen Schiff,” in Zembla: The Nabokov Butterfly Net, CoLOlations, in The Lolita Effect, (accessed September 17, 2001).
10. Stephen Schiff, Lolita: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause Books, 1998), xiv.
11. Ibid., xii.
12. Turczyn, “Lolita,” 1.
13. See Schiff , introduction to Lolita, xix.
14. Turczyn, “Lolita,” 1.
15. Robert Stam, Literature Through Film (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 238.
16. Stanley Kauffmann, “Humbug Humbug,” New Republic, July 2, 1962, 29–30.
17. Francis Russell, “Petronius Redivivus,” National Review, September 11, 1962, 198–200, 199.
18. Hollis Alpert, “The Bubble Gum Siren,” Saturday Review, June 23, 1962, 40.
19. Stam, Literature Through Film, 228.
20. Stringer-Hye,
21. James Naremore, ed., Film Adaptation (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 13.
22. Schiff , Lolita, xv.
23. Tim Dirks, “Lolita,” in The Greatest Films, (2004).
24. Michael Marr, “The Reading Experience: Originality,” Times Literary Supplement, April 2, 2004, 1. See also .html.
25. Marr, “Reading Experience,” 1.
26. Alfred Appel, Jr., “The End of the Road: Dark Cinema and ‘Lolita.’” Film Comment 10, no. 5 (1974): 25–31; idem, “Lolita: The Springboard of Parody,” 50.
27. Appel, “Lolita,” 50.
28. Ibid., 51.
29. Nabokov, Lolita: A Screenplay, xiii.
30. Phillips and Hill, Encyclopedia, 236.
31. Stam, Literature Th rough Film, 229.
32. Nabokov, Lolita: A Screenplay, xii.
33. Ibid., xiii.
34. See Mario Falsetto’s discussion in Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis, 2nd ed. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001), 8.
35. Stam, Literature Th rough Film, 230.
36. Falsetto, Stanley Kubrick, 12.
37. “A Tribute to Stanley Kubrick—Lolita,” (accessed April 4, 2004).
38. Nabokov, Lolita: A Screenplay, xi.
39. Bosley Crowther, “Screen: Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov’s Adaptation of His Novel,” New York Times, June 14, 1962, 23.
40. Richard Corliss, Lolita (London: British Film Institute, 1977), 2.
41. Rod Armstrong, “Adrian Lyne on Kubrick, Nabokov, and a Girl Named Lolita,” (2004).
42. Stringer-Hye, 2.
43. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 2nd international ed. (New York: Vintage, 1997), 117.
44. Ibid., 166.
45. Ibid., 198.
46. Ibid., 176.
47. Ibid., 128.
48. Stam, Literature Th rough Film, 240.
49. Nabokov, Lolita: A Screenplay, xii, xiii.
50. Falsetto, Stanley Kubrick, 111.
51. Nabokov, Lolita, 308.
52. Ibid., 309.

Works cited

Alpert, Hollis. “The Bubble Gum Siren.” Saturday Review, June 23, 1962, 40.
Appel, Alfred, Jr. “The End of the Road: Dark Cinema and ‘Lolita.’” Film Comment 10, no. 5 (1974): 25–31.
Appel, Alfred. “Lolita: The Springboard of Parody.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, edited by Harold Bloom, 35–51. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Armstrong, Rod. “Adrian Lyne on Kubrick, Nabokov, and a Girl Named Lolita.” (accessed September 4, 2004).
Caldwell, Christopher. “Who Invented Lolita?” New York Times Magazine, May
23, 2004, 11.
Cleaver, Hannah. The Telegraph, March 22, 2004. www.smh/ (accessed February 24, 2004).
Corliss, Richard. Lolita. London: British Film Institute, 1977.
Crowther, Bosley. “Screen: Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov’s Adaptation of His Novel.” New York Times, June 14, 1962, 23.
Dirks, Tim. “Lolita.” (accessed January 14, 2004).
Falsetto, Mario. Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis. 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.
Kauffmann, Stanley. “Humbug Humbug.” New Republic, July 2, 1962, 29–30.
Kubrick, Stanley, dir. Lolita. DVD. Los Angeles: Warner Bros, 1961, 2001.
Lyne, Adrian, dir. Lolita. DVD. Pathe, Showtime, Trimark Home Video, 1998.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. 2nd international edition. New York: Vintage, 1997.
———. Lolita: A Screenplay. 1st international edition. New York: Vintage, 1977.
Naremore, James, ed. Film Adaptation. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.
Phillips, Gene, and Rodney Hill. The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. New York: Facts on File. 2002.
Russell, Francis. “Petronius Redivivus.” National Review, September 11, 1962, 198– 200.
Stam, Robert. “Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation.” In Film Adaptation, edited by James Naremore. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.
———. Literature Through Film. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
Stringer-Hye, Suellen. CoLOlations. 9/17/2001. In The Lolita Effect. (accessed April 10, 2004).
Turczyn, Coury. Movie Guru. “Adrian Lyne’s Controversial Lolita Finds Its True Home—Cable TV.”–10–98/knox_guru.html (accessed February 22, 2008).
“A Tribute to Stanley Kubrick—Lolita.” (accessed April 4, 2004).

Source: Jack Boozer [Edited and with an Introduction by], Authorship in Film Adaptation, University of Texas Press Austin, 2008, pp. 203-228


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