Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spartacus



Spartacus (50th Anniversary Edition)

Spartacus is a 1960 American epic historical drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the novel of the same name by Howard Fast. The life story of the historical figure Spartacus and the events of the Third Servile War were adapted by Dalton Trumbo as a screenplay.

The film stars Kirk Douglas as rebellious slave Spartacus and Laurence Olivier as his foe, the Roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus. Co-starring are Peter Ustinov (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as slave trader Lentulus Batiatus), John Gavin (as Julius Caesar), Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, John Ireland, Herbert Lom, Woody Strode, Tony Curtis, John Dall and Charles McGraw. The film won four Oscars in all.

Anthony Mann, the film's original director, was replaced by Douglas with Kubrick after the first week of shooting.

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted at the time as one of the Hollywood Ten. Kirk Douglas publicly announced that Trumbo was the screenwriter of Spartacus, and President-elect John F. Kennedy crossed picket lines to see the movie, helping to end blacklisting

* Kirk Douglas as Spartacus, a Thracian slave working in Libya, who is purchased by the lanista Lentulus Batiatus, and trained as a gladiator. He later leads the revolt at the gladiatorial school, which spreads throughout the countryside.
* Laurence Olivier as Crassus, a patrician with an obsessive love of the city of Rome and its old tradition of patrician rule.
* Jean Simmons as Varinia, a slave girl from Britannia working for Batiatus, who falls in love with Spartacus and eventually becomes his loving wife, and gives birth to a son.
* Charles Laughton as Gracchus, a dedicated Roman senator who is Crassus' only real opposition. He is a Republican and a crooked pragmatist whose lack of scruples in his political dealings is his ultimate downfall. But he also has sympathy for Varinia's plight, and he helps her and her newborn child escape Crassus. Knowing that he will be killed for this, he chooses to commit suicide.
* Peter Ustinov as Lentulus Batiatus, a shrewd, manipulative slave dealer, who purchases Spartacus, and ends up paying dearly for it. He blames Crassus for Spartacus' rebellion and for his poverty; therefore, he seeks revenge against Crassus and eventually settles that account with a little help from the Roman senator Gracchus. Peter Ustinov won his first Oscar for his role in this film; his performance was the only one to win an Oscar in a film directed by Kubrick.
* John Gavin as Julius Caesar, the young ambitious protege of Gracchus, who gains command of the Garrison of Rome during the chaos of the Spartacus rebellion.
* Nina Foch as Helena Glabrus, a shrewd, manipulative sister of Marcus Publius Glabrus, who insists that Batiatus entertain them with two pairs of gladiators fighting to the death.
* John Ireland as Crixus, one of Spartacus' most loyal lieutenants, who serves him until he is slain in the final battle.
* Herbert Lom as Tigranes Levantus, a Cilician pirate who agrees to take the slaves out of Italy. When Spartacus and his forces reach Brundisium, Levantus is forced to betray them, and takes no pride in it.
* John Dall as Marcus Publius Glabrus, a naïve protege of Crassus, who unwittingly plays into the hands of Gracchus.
* Charles McGraw as Marcellus, the gruff gladiator trainer for Lentulus Batiatus. He dislikes Spartacus immediately and singles him out for extra training and punishment. He is killed by Spartacus during the revolt.
* Tony Curtis as Antoninus, a young Sicilian slave who leaves his master, Crassus, and joins Spartacus. At the conclusion of the movie, Spartacus and Antoninus are forced to fight to the death in a gladiatorial match, the survivor to be crucified.
* Woody Strode as Draba, an Ethiopian being trained at the gladiatorial school. Initially, Draba refuses to tell Spartacus his name, as he knows someday he might be matched with him in the ring, and each would be obliged to kill the other.

The development of Spartacus was partly instigated by Kirk Douglas's failure to win the title role in William Wyler's Ben-Hur. Douglas had worked with Wyler before on Detective Story, and was disappointed when Wyler chose Charlton Heston instead. Shortly after, Edward (Eddie) Lewis, a vice-president in Douglas's production company, Bryna (named after Douglas's mother), had Douglas read Howard Fast's novel, Spartacus, which had a related theme—an individual who challenges the might of the Roman Empire—and Douglas was impressed enough to purchase an option on the book from Fast with his own financing. Universal Studios eventually agreed to finance the film after Douglas persuaded Olivier, Laughton and Ustinov to act in it. Lewis became the producer of the film, with Douglas taking executive producer credit. Lewis went on to produce several more films for Douglas.

Originally, Howard Fast was hired to adapt his own novel as a screenplay, but he had difficulty working in the format. He was replaced by Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted as one of the Hollywood Ten. He used the pseudonym "Sam Jackson".

Kirk Douglas insisted that Trumbo be given screen credit for his work, which helped to break the blacklist.Trumbo had been jailed for contempt of Congress in 1950, after which he had been surviving by writing screenplays under assumed names. Douglas' intervention on his behalf was praised as an act of courage.

In his autobiography, Douglas states that this decision was motivated by a meeting that he, Edward Lewis and Kubrick had regarding whose name/s to put against the screenplay in the movie credits, given Trumbo's shaky position with Hollywood executives. One idea was to credit Lewis as co-writer or sole writer, but Lewis vetoed both suggestions. Kubrick then suggested that his own name be used. Douglas and Lewis found Kubrick's eagerness to take credit for Trumbo's work revolting, and the next day, Douglas called the gate at Universal saying, "I'd like to leave a pass for Dalton Trumbo." Douglas writes, "For the first time in ten years, [Trumbo] walked on to a studio lot. He said, 'Thanks, Kirk, for giving me back my name.'"

The filming was plagued by the conflicting visions of Kubrick and Trumbo. Kubrick complained that the character of Spartacus had no faults or quirks, and he later distanced himself from the film. Despite the on-set troubles, Spartacus's critical and commercial success established Kubrick as a major director.

After David Lean turned down an offer to direct, Spartacus was to be directed by veteran Anthony Mann, then best-known for his Westerns such as Winchester '73 and The Naked Spur. Douglas fired Mann at the end of the first week of shooting, in which the opening sequence in the quarry had been filmed. "He seemed scared of the scope of the picture," wrote Douglas in his autobiography; yet a year later Mann would embark on another epic of similar size, El Cid. The dismissal (or resignation) of Mann is mysterious since the opening sequences, filmed at Death Valley, Nevada, set the style for the rest of the movie.

Thirty-year-old Stanley Kubrick was hired to take over. He had already directed four productions (including Paths of Glory, also starring Douglas), but only two had been feature-length films. Spartacus was a bigger project by far, with a budget of $12 million and a cast of 10,500, a daunting project for such a young director (although his contract did not give him complete control over the filming). Cinematographer Russell Metty complained about Kubrick's unusually precise and detailed instructions for the film's camerawork. But Metty remained on the production and later won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Color for the film.

Spartacus was filmed using the 35 mm Technirama format and then blown up to 70 mm film. This was a change for Kubrick, who preferred using square-format ratios. Kubrick found working outdoors or in real locations to be distracting and thus preferred to film in the studio. He believed the actors would benefit more from working on a sound stage, where they could fully concentrate. To create the illusion of the large crowds that play such an essential role in the film, Kubrick's crew used three-channel sound equipment to record 76,000 spectators at a Michigan State – Notre Dame college football game shouting "Hail, Crassus!" and "I'm Spartacus!"

The intimate scenes were filmed in Hollywood, but Kubrick insisted that all battle scenes be filmed on a vast plain outside Madrid. Eight thousand trained soldiers from the Spanish infantry were used to double as the Roman army. Kubrick directed the armies from the top of specially constructed towers. However, he eventually had to cut all but one of the gory battle scenes, due to negative audience reactions at preview screenings.

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