Kubrick, Christiane

Kubrick, Christiane
(1932– )
   STANLEY KUBRICK’s third wife was born Suzanne Christiane Harlan in Braunschweig, Germany. As a child she was interested in drawing and sketching. She was compelled to join the Nazi youth movement as were all children at the time.
   In 1941 Christiane and her younger brother JAN HARLAN (who was to become Kubrick’s executive producer in the years ahead), were separated from their parents and evacuated to a village near Heidelberg with other children. She entertained the others by putting on puppet shows, constructing all of the puppets herself and playing all of the parts in the shows that she put on.
   When the war ended in 1945, she was in her early teens. Her parents enrolled her in Salem Boarding School, where she designed the sets for school plays. Because of the postwar depression in Germany, Christiane’s family was in dire financial straits, so she had to leave school at age 16 and seek employment. She always wanted to be a painter, but decided to become an actress, under the stage name of Suzanne Christian; that she chose the acting profession was not surprising, since she came from a family of opera singers and stage personalities. Christiane was soon earning major roles in operettas, on radio and TV, and in films.
   In 1952 Christiane married German actor Werner Bruhns and gave birth to a daughter, Katharina, the following year. The marriage was dissolved in 1956. Around that time, Stanley Kubrick got his first glimpse of Christiane. “He saw me on television in Munich,” where he was shooting PATHS OF GLORY, she told Peter Bogdanovich. He immediately thought of using her in the epilogue which he had already planned for the movie. “He called my agent and hired me,” she says.
   In the epilogue that Kubrick had in mind for the film, a captured German peasant girl is forced to sing a German folk song, “Der Treuer Husar” (“The Faithful Hussar”) for some drunken French soldiers in a café. The soldiers initially intend to ridicule the hapless girl, but they are moved to tears when she sings the ballad about love in wartime, and instead hum along with her. JAMES B. HARRIS, the film’s producer, told MICHAEL HERR that Kubrick came to him with this concept for an epilogue for Paths of Glory, which he knew would make the ending of his stark antiwar film less grim. Testifying to the power of the epilogue, Tim Cahill writes in his interview article about Kubrick that this scene, “on four separate viewings, has brought tears to my eyes. ” In late 1957 Christiane came back with Kubrick to Hollywood, where he made SPARTACUS. Stanley Kubrick married Christiane in 1958, when Kubrick’s divorce from his second wife, RUTH SOBOTKA, became final. In 1959, while Spartacus was still in production, Kubrick became a father when ANYA KUBRICK was born; a year later VIVIAN KUBRICK was born, just as her father was finishing up Spartacus. In 1962, after completing LOLITA in London, Kubrick moved his family to a large apartment on the Upper East side of Manhattan, where Christiane studied painting at the Art Students League of New York. The Kubricks returned to England, where the director shot DR. STRANGELOVE, but came back to New York afterward. Christiane took further courses in drawing and painting at the Art Students League in 1964.
   While working on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Kubrick finally decided to take up permanent residence in England, where he could make films more economically, and consequently more easily obtain the backing of American capital. He moved his family into a large house in Elstree, just outside London. Kubrick commandeered some rooms in the house for his production facilities, while Christiane set up a studio in one of the rooms, in which she could maintain her career as an artist. She has exhibited her work at the Grosvenor Gallery and the Royal Academy in London.
   The present writer remembers that when he interviewed Stanley Kubrick in the early 1970s, Christiane Kubrick impressed him as a handsome, gracious woman, very tastefully attired. She joked at the time that her husband, who always was too preoccupied with his work to care much about his wardrobe, dressed like “a balloon peddler,” adding that “Stanley would be perfectly happy with eight tape recorders and one pair of pants. ” Similarly, Kubrick has been described by one interviewer as having the bohemian look of a riverboat gambler. Her paintings include a portrait of her husband entitled Stanley, in which Kubrick is depicted relaxing in a chair, gazing intently at his artist-wife. In the background is an outdoor winter scene, so different from innumerable indoor photographs of him on movie sets. One of Christiane’s larger canvases, Seedboxes, is hanging in the home of the writer and his wife who are assaulted by a gang of toughs in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Kubrick meant the painting, filled with plants and flowerpots, to reflect the domestic bliss of the couple, thereby providing a sharp contrast to the savage violence inflicted on them by the gang. Paintings by Christiane and her daughter Katharina adorn the walls of the New York apartment of Dr. Bill Harford (TOM CRUISE) and his wife Alice (NICOLE KIDMAN) in Kubrick’s last film, EYES WIDE SHUT—a set which is a replica of the Central Park West apartment that the Kubricks inhabited in New York City in the early 1960s.
   After Kubrick’s death in 1999, Christiane, who had rarely spoken to the press while he was alive, granted some interviews, because she was convinced that much of what had been said about her husband over the years, and especially in the wake of his death, gave a mistaken impression of him. Christiane and two of her daughters, Anya and Katharina, were interviewed by Nick James for Sight and Sound. Christiane mentioned several oftrepeated misconceptions about Kubrick; for example, that he was afraid to drive more than 30 miles an hour:“Once he hurt his back and couldn’t move; so he drove at thirty miles an hour,” but only for a short period.
   Journalists often speculated why Kubrick did not make more films. Christiane responded to Bogdanovich on this point that Kubrick chose his projects very carefully. “A lot of scripts he wrote he never made because he ultimately decided it was a waste of time. It made him very sad—he wanted to make more films. But he didn’t want to launch a film unless he was 100 percent certain” that it was worthwhile. Some reporters were irritated because Kubrick did not talk much to the press. As for his avoiding journalists, Christiane told Bogdanovich that he was not comfortable when asked to make public pronouncements about his pictures:“The minute someone stuck a mike in front of his mouth, he said,‘My mind is blank; and I say nothing, or the most stupid stuff. ’ That’s why he didn’t want to give interviews. He said,‘Why should I work very hard on a film and then make a fool of myself ?’” He had a lot of friends, she maintains; he was often on the phone with them, “he just didn’t talk to the press. ” Christiane observes that her policy, since her husband’s death, has been to “tell nice things about Stanley, which is the only way to counter the allegations . . . Stanley was amazingly tolerant, taking the most extraordinary abuse. It takes strength to do that. ” Since Kubrick’s death, Christiane has at times made public appearances. She attended the screening of Eyes Wide Shut on the opening night of the Venice Film Festival in the fall of 1999, and she was present in October 2000, when STEVEN SPIELBERG received the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts—Los Angeles. The prize, previously known as the Britannia Award, was conferred on Kubrick himself under that name in 1999. It was then renamed the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award, and conferred on Spielberg under the new name. She also attended the premiere of the documentary STANLEY KUBRICK:A LIFE IN PICTURES, made by veteran members of his production team, when it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001.
   ■ Bogdanovich, Peter, “What They Say About Stanley Kubrick,” New York Times Magazine, July 4, 1999, pp. 18–25, 40, 47–48;
   ■ Cahill,Tim,“The Rolling Stone Interview,” in Stanley Kubrick: Interviews (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001), pp. 189–203;
   ■ Herr, Michael, Kubrick (New York: Grove Press, 2000);
   ■ Higgins, Bill, “BAFTA Hails Spielberg,” Daily Variety, November 6, 2000, p. 19;
   ■ James, Nick,“At Home with the Kubricks,” Sight and Sound, Special Kubrick Issue, 9 (n. s. ), no. 9 (September 1999), 12–18;
   ■ Kubrick, Christiane, Paintings (New York: Warner, 1980);
   ■ LoBrutto,Vincent, Stanley Kubrick:A Biography (New York: Da Capo, 1999);
   ■ Senat, Rick, “Kubrick’s KO Punch,” London Times, September 8, 1999, p. 37.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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