Lolita

  • Directors: Stanley Kubrick
  • Producers: James B Harris
  • Writers: Novel, Vladimir Nabokov, Screenplay, Vladimir Nabokov, Stanley Kubrick
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: James Mason, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon, Peter Sellers

Set somewhat indeterminately in the 1950s, the film begins in medias res with a confrontation between two men, which ends with one of them, Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers), being shot. The shooter was Humbert Humbert (James Mason), a 40-something British professor of French literature. The film then turns to events 4 years earlier and goes forward as Humbert travels to Ramsdale, New Hampshire, a small town where he will spend the summer before his professorship begins at Beardsley College, Ohio. He searches across the town for room to let, being tempted by widowed, sexually famished mother, Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters) to stay at her house. He declines until seeing her beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Dolores Haze (Sue Lyon), affectionately called “Lolita”. Lolita is a soda-pop drinking, gum-chewing, overtly flirtatious teenager, with whom Humbert falls hopelessly in love.

In order to become close to Lolita, Humbert accepts Charlotte’s offer and becomes a lodger in the Haze household. Soon, however, Charlotte announces that she will be sending Lolita to an all-girl sleep-away camp for the summer. On the morning of departure, Humbert receives a love confession note from Charlotte, asking Humbert to leave at once. The note says that if Humbert is still in the house when Charlotte returns from driving Lolita to camp, then he must join Charlotte in marriage. Humbert willingly marries Charlotte days later. After the wedding and honeymoon, Charlotte discovers Humbert’s diary entries describing his passion for Lolita, and has an emotional outburst. She threatens to leave forever, taking Lolita far away from Humbert. While Humbert hurriedly fixes martinis in the kitchen to smooth over the situation, Charlotte runs outside, gets hit by a speeding car, and dies.

Several days later Humbert drives to Camp Climax to pick up Lolita, and as they travel from hotel to motel across the United States, they begin a sexual relationship. In public, they act as father and daughter to avoid suspicion. During their travels, Humbert tells Lolita that her mother is not sick in a hospital (as he had previously told her), but dead. Deeply saddened and affected, she stays with Humbert, believing he is her only comfort. Months later, Humbert and Lolita’s car trips are followed by the same car. As Lolita becomes sick from the common cold, she is hospitalized, and eventually kidnapped by the follower, Clare Quilty (played by Peter Sellers), a famous playwright, on whom Lolita had a crush for some time. Years after the kidnapping, Humbert receives a letter from Lolita in which she says that she is now married to a man named Dick, and that she is pregnant and in desperate need of money. Humbert travels to Lolita and Dick’s home, where Lolita is waiting. Humbert finds that she is no longer the precocious young girl he once loved, but a 17-year-old heavily pregnant woman, in a happy relationship – only he is even more in love with her now. Humbert demands that Lolita tell him who kidnapped her three years earlier. She tells him it was “the man that was following us”, Clare Quilty. After meeting Dick, Humbert asks Lolita to come away with him. She declines, preferring her new life. Humbert, deeming Quilty responsible for taking his love, goes off to shoot him in his mansion—where the film began.

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