Flying Padre

Flying Padre
   RKO Radio, 9 minutes, 1952. Photography, Editing, Sound: Stanley Kubrick; Music: Nathaniel Shilkret.
   This short documentary was STANLEY KUBRICK’s second film. Earlier he had spent his savings, $3,900, to make his first short documentary, “DAY OF THE FIGHT” (1950), which the RKO circuit bought for $4,000. By the age of 22, Kubrick had made a film on his own which had shown a profit, however modest. From that time onward he was hooked for life on moviemaking. RKO advanced him $1,500 for the second short, Flying Padre, for its RKO Pathé Screenliner series.
   “It was about Father Fred Stadtmueller, a priest in New Mexico who flew to his isolated parishes in a Piper Cub,”Kubrick explained. The opening shot is a pan over the vast plateaus and canyons of New Mexico, after which the camera tilts upward to encompass the little plane coming in for a landing. Two lone cowboys on horseback await the priest to escort him to a funeral service which he is to conduct. Even at this early stage of his career Kubrick was interested in bringing the viewer into the action as much as possible. Here, for example, he photographs Father Stadtmueller inside the cockpit of his plane from various angles, even shooting upward at one point from the floor through the controls. He was also aware of the importance of catching the significant details that bring a scene to life. Consequently, the burial scene is punctuated with close-ups of an aged man and woman watching the ceremony as the little group of mourners huddles together around the grave. Later, when the priest has to fly a mother and her child to a hospital, Kubrick puts us in the cockpit of the plane with the priest, showing the land below rushing by and finally disappearing as the Piper Cub gains speed and takes flight.
   Although Kubrick did not make a profit on Flying Padre, as he had on “Day of the Fight,” he did break even. As a result, he made one final documentary short, THE SEAFARERS (1953), before finally moving on to features.
   ■ Baxter, John, Stanley Kubrick:A Biography (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1997), pp. 38–39;
   ■ Howard James, Stanley Kubrick Companion (London: Batsford, 1999), p. 31;
   ■ LoBrutto,Vincent, Stanley Kubrick:A Biography (New York: Da Capo, 1999), pp. 71–72.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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