When Stanley Kubrick died at his St Albans estate on Sunday March 7 2001, aged 70, he left behind a legacy of 13 classic movies. But he also left an endless stream of myths about his enigmatic life. Allow us to separate fact from fiction.
MYTH Kubrick was a Howard Hughes-esque recluse who made increasingly rare journeys away from his Hertfordshire mansion. He is also said to have had a germ phobia.
TRUTH After moving to England in the early 60s, Kubrick increasingly divided his time between film sets and the luxurious home where he had an office. He went to bed late, working late into the night in order to contact people on the US west coast. Being the son of a doctor he almost always had a homemade remedy for other people’s ailments.
MYTH Kubrick was a control freak who demanded final cut on all of his movies.
TRUTH Following battles with the studio over Spartacus, Kubrick announced that he would never make another film without having complete artistic freedom. To avoid studio interference, he made Lolita in England under the now defunct Eady fund (which encouraged UK production). After completing 2001 he secured a deal with Warner Brothers who funded his films for the next 30 years.
MYTH Kubrick is not actually dead. His ‘demise’ was, in fact, an elaborate publicity stunt for his final movie, Eyes Wide Shut.
TRUTH Kubrick died in his sleep on Sunday March 7, 2001 days after delivering the final print of Eyes Wide Shut to Warner Brothers. Although unofficially he died of a massive heart attack.
MYTH The director had a fear of flying and refused to travel anywhere by plane. He is alleged to have demanded that drivers not exceed 30 mph when he was in a car.
TRUTH Kubrick held a pilot’s licence. When he tuned into the air traffic control frequency on a short wave radio he became alarmed at the risks of taking off and landing and developed an aversion to unnecessary travel and excess speed. He observed the UK speed limits — 30 mph in an urban area, 70 mph on the motorway.
MYTH Kubrick was working on a biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte, an historical figure he identified with.
TRUTH Napoleon was one of the long-standing projects Kubrick worked on. The Napoleon project had been shelved. Many observers believe his next movie would have been the science fiction saga A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), based on a short story by Brian Aldiss.
MYTH Kubrick treated his actors like automotons.
TRUTH Although one of the few documentaries recording him at work depicts him bullying a performance out of Shelley Duvall in The Shining, 2001 star Keir Dullea noted, “Kubrick was such a stickler for detail, but there was nothing tyrannical about him. Stanley was a true Renaissance man.” The stars of Eyes Wide Shut concurred, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman going so far as to say that the director was “like family to us”.
MYTH Kubrick once made Jack Nicholson do 134 takes on a scene in The Shining.
TRUTH As the years progressed, Kubrick liked to explore alternative readings and multiple takes. “Stanley’s demanding, he’ll do a scene 50 times,” Nicholson once observed. “There are so many ways you can walk into a room, order breakfast, or be frightened to death in a closet. Stanley’s approach is, ‘How can we do it better than it’s ever been done before?'”
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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