The tag line for Stanley Kubrick’s sixth feature was “How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?” And it’s a good question. Vladimir Nabokov’s infamous novel, first published in 1955, is a delirious account of a middle-aged sophisticate’s obsession with a 12 year-old “nymphet.” The book was both praised and pilloried when it came out. Graham Greene called it one of the best books of the year while an English newspaper called it “sheer unrestrained pornography.” With press like that, Lolita quickly became a best-seller.
So when Kubrick, along with his producing partner James B. Harris, bought the rights to the book in 1958, they first had to prove that it could be filmed in a way that could get past the censors. The Hays code was still in effect in Hollywood, which suppressed any hint of sex between two adults. A love story between a prepubescent girl and a middle-aged pervert was going to be a tall order. “If I realized how severe the [censorship] limitations were going to be,” Kubrick stated later, “I wouldn’t have made the film.”
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