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Meet Harris and Kubrick, two can-do guys growing up babyface smart in New York.

It's 1955. Jimmy is looking for his break licensing films to broadcasters when Stanley, an aquaintance through a mutual pal, inquires if there is a chance to place his 68-minute first feature "Fear And Desire" somewhere on the glowing box. No dice. It turned out the rights are hopelessly tied up in an estate dispute. "We were like the characters in 'Marty,'" says Harris. "What are you gonna do? I don't know. What are you gonna do?"

harris and lyonJimmy screens Stanley's home-made second feature "Killer's Kiss." He's impressed. Here is a guy who knows what he's doing with a film camera. Likewise, Stanley senses that James B. Harris has the goods to play ball in the game of film finance and production. Jimmy proposes a partnership, Stanley agrees and Harris-Kubrick is born.

Now Harris realizes with some alarm that he better get some hot property onboard for his partner to direct. He makes a beeline to the mystery section at Scribner's on 5th Avenue and pulls a book off the shelf. By some serendipity it's ideal. Stanley listens to the pitch and says, "Absolutely."

Clean Break by Lionel White is a hard-knock pulp that uses a nested structure to unlock the edgy game of a racetrack heist gone bad. To reduce a lot of work into one sentence, the two New Yorkers went to Hollywood and made a hell of a good movie — a domino effect of action, suspense, comedy and tragedy. It was called "The Killing" (1956). Shot in 24 days for $330,000, it featured a firecracker cast of noir vets like Sterling Hayden and Marie Windsor. Thanks to Stanley's visual know-how and a Gatling gun script belt-loaded by pulp writer Jim Thompson, "The Killing" joins ranks with "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Touch of Evil" as the requiem for classic noir cinema. The title hit the Top 10 list with Time's yearly critic, a major coup — but as the B-feature behind a Robert Mitchum actioner called "Bandido," it was basically undistinguished in its initial run.

kubrick hyman masonThe partnership had found its rhythm, however, and Harris-Kubrick hit the bull's-eye with their follow-up. "Paths Of Glory" was adapted from a novel Stanley remembered from age 14. Where "The Killing" was effective genre stuff, this was the war picture par excellence, thematically ambitious, technically superb, affectingly played, showcasing Kirk Douglas at the height of his screen powers, a palpable hit with critics and exhibitors alike. It had violence, it had Kirk, it had tragic pathos. It made people cry.

Harris-Kubrick was on the map and on a creative roll. Jimmy had their next project in his sites. It was the talk of the city's literary scene — a notorious, possibly immoral, not-yet published new novel by someone named Nabakov.

Harris was intrigued. Then Stanley's friend and co-scripter on "Paths Of Glory," Calder Willingham, paths of glorypiped up he knew about Nabakov from Cornell University and he had heard about this. The trio wanted to read this novel damn fast. It arrived in the post from Putnam's and the three friends split the manuscript of Lolita into thirds and relayed their way through the novel.

"We loved it," says Jimmy. "I said, 'my God, we have got to do this. I don't know how we are going to get it made but we have got to do this.'"

Lolita was the ideal change of key for Harris-Kubrick, from crime and war to a bizarre love story; a subversive tragedy leavened with wit; and a dangerous liaison with roots in DeSade and Restoration English drama and branches in Kubrick's later titles "Barry Lyndon" and "Eyes Wide Shut."

Right at the start Jimmy and Stanley agreed on their approach. The public knew the book was controversial. They would expect a dirty old man, a deviant, someone to despise. Instead, in "Lolita" they would find a man destroyed by unrequited love – by fate, folly, vanity. Whether you called it a perversion or a fatal flaw, he was someone you could actually feel for. Stanley delivered the dramatic goods with the kind of genius for which he was quickly becoming famous.

Meanwhile it was Jimmy's job navigating the rocky straits between nay-saying agents, fickle financiers, The Legion of Decency, the MPAA censor, and scores of critics who demanded perfect fidelity to the novel (at the time the auteur theory favored the novelist). It took years to get the cameras rolling. There were lengthy delays (Harris labored on setting up "Lolita" while Stanley shot "Spartacus" for Kirk Douglas). Lead actors fell in and out. Studio deals collapsed.

kubrick and lyonBut Harris kept up the fight to make a new, better, more challenging picture with "Lolita." He ran the risk of the public hating it because they hated the subject and critics hating it because they loved the novel. Instead the title turned a profit and critics recognize it as vital, the black comedy, or comic tragedy, that preceded "Dr. Strangelove."

It's a tribute to Jimmy it exists.

lolita  kubrick  mr. white's confession
        >> What's Next for James B. Harris?

Issue One
Previously on Five-O
Evel Knievel & more!
hitman elvis
Dark Elvis
Compelled to Kill
by the King!
swingtime strippers
Swingtime Strippers
Babes Ahoy!
isaac hayes
Isaac Hayes
Shaft vs. South Park
at the Hollywood Bowl
jason priestley
Jason Priestley
Man of Action!
The Five-O Salute
mexican wrestling
¡Viva el Santo!
L.A.'s Lucha Libre
Cinema Slam
stanley rubin
Ace Producer Stanley Rubin
With the RKO
Studio Scoop!
 werner herzog
Werner Herzog
Plotted to Kill Kinski!
Condemns Psychoanalysis!
Five-O July/Aug
Evel Knievel & more!
jeter girl
Jeter Girl
Kristielee Wilcox
From Box Seats
to the Bronx Jail!
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Lawrence Tierney
Noir Superpower
The Five-O Farewell
burning man
Burning Man
Pagans Take Nevada
Five-O Undercover
40 Years
August/September 1962
Playboy Magazine
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30 Years
Jermaine Jackson
Debut Album
20 Years
william shatner
10 Years
William Shatner
National Lampoon's
Loaded Weapon
my bloody valentine
10 Years
My Bloody Valentine
U.S. Tour 1992
theron productions