Harris, Robert A.

Harris, Robert A.
   One of the country’s leading practitioners of motion picture restoration, Robert A. Harris has supervised some of the best known and most financially successful restorations of film classics. They have included: SPARTACUS (1960); My Fair Lady: Abel Gance’s 1927 silent epic, Napoleon (with Kevin Brownlow); David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1976; with Jim Painten, Harris’s fellow producer on The Grifters); and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) and Rear Window (1954) (both with James C. Katz).
   Universal Studios agreed in 1990 to finance Harris’s reconstruction of the original, uncut version of Spartacus. Originally, a 202-minute version was testscreened in 1960. That was cut down to a version that ran 197 minutes, including ALEX NORTH’s overture, intermission, and closing music. An additional five minutes of footage was cut because it was considered too violent or sexually suggestive. Harris spent months doing research before he ever touched a single frame of film. He went through roughly 15,000 pieces of paper from studio and lab records in order to determine what footage had been removed. Once Harris had figured out what the original version should be, he then faced the equally daunting task of determining what materials were available. Harris relied on Universal’s 300-page inventory of duplicate negatives, interpositives, color separations, and A&B rolls to begin his reconstruction. He also received invaluable help from private collectors around the world who had copies of materials no longer to be found in the Universal archives. The most noticeable scenes restored in Harris’s version are: the homoerotic “oysters and snails” scene between LAURENCE OLIVIER and TONY CURTIS; the blood of WOODY STRODE’s character hitting Olivier’s face; the slave couple’s burial of their baby; and the extended crucifixion scene. But much of the added footage is not as noticeable, because some of the extensions are only a few seconds in length. Harris explains:
   For example, the close-up of Kirk’s hands on the back of Chuck McGraw’s head as he holds him in the soup pot is extended. Another extended scene, during the revolt at the gladiators’ school, is when Kirk falls into an indoor pool with a guard and stabs him. This time you see the blood, and he stabs him again, and then the camera follows Kirk as he runs off. There are many other scenes like that which involve the restoration of little trims and cuts. STANLEY KUBRICK made himself available to Robert Harris during the restoration process, but according to Harris, Kubrick’s participation was not extensive: “There weren’t real choices to be made, although Stanley was available. I just had to pick up the phone, and he was generally there. We went over technical problems, optics and things like that, and how to solve them. Technically, he is very, very savvy. ”
   Kubrick did direct ANTHONY HOPKINS for the dubbing of Olivier’s “oysters and snails” lines, but he did so by means of a fax, now in Harris’s possession: October 10, 1990
   Dear Anthony,
   I’m very sorry I can’t get down there tonight, though I’m not at all sure you’re in need of my presence. I greatly admire your work and would like to have met you. The scene is, of course, a play on Socratic questioning of the unsuspecting victim, except that Larry’s performance had a troubled and somewhat remote edge to it, and Tony was not altogether unsuspecting. There was nothing suggestive or camp about Larry. Thank you very much for
   doing this.
   Best regards,
   Harris refers to himself as an activist—“restoration police”—in the effort to save deteriorating classic films. Together with James C. Katz, he has reportedly compiled a list of two dozen large-format films, including Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), West Side Story (1961) and The Alamo (1960) that he would like to see restored.
   ■ “Harris, Robert A. ,” Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com;
   ■ Harris, Robert A. , “Resurrecting Spartacus,” interview with Gary Crowdus and Duncan Cooper, Cineaste (undated clipping file);
   ■ “Rear Window To Get A Cleaning,” Studio Briefing, September 29, 1997.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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