Long-lost 1956 Stanley Kubrick script uncovered

Called Burning Secret, it's an adaptation of a 1913 novella about a rich baron who befriends a young boy in order to seduce his mother.

Burning Secret is an adaptation of a 1913 novella by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig

This undated picture shows iconic U.S. director Stanley Kubrick at work. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)
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A new Stanley Kubrick movie script has been unearthed, almost two decades after the iconic film director's death.

Nathan Abrams, a film professor at Bangor University in Wales, had just completed a book about Kubrick when the son of one of the filmmaker's colleagues reached out to say he had a copy of a long-lost Kubrick script.

"It was just fantastic," Abrams told As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. 

Called Burning Secret, it's an adaptation of a 1913 novella by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig about a rich baron who befriends a young boy in order to seduce his mother. 

Kubrick co-wrote it in 1956 with American novelist Calder Willingham.

Abrams said film buffs have long known that Kubrick had been working on this project in the '50s.

"But no one ever knew if he'd completed it and what state the script was in," he said. "Now here it is."

Jewish erasure 

Kubrick, he said, took liberties with the adaptation, moving it from turn-of-the-century Austria to 1950s America, and removing any reference to the female lead being Jewish.

That's characteristic of most of Kubrick's work, argues Abrams, whose book Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual explores how the filmmaker's Jewish identity affected his work. 

"Stanley Kubrick's working pattern is that the Jewishness of the source text that he adapted is erased," Abrams said. "The easy answer is self-hatred. I don't agree."

Nathan Abrams, right, explores Kubrick's Jewish roots in his book Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual. (Rutgers University Press, Submitted by Nathan Abrams/Bangor University )

Rather, he said, Kubrick was making films at a time when Hollywood was keen to erase Jewish identities.

"In mid-'50s America, he correctly calculates people didn't want to watch Jews on screen," Abrams said.

"Remember, this is the period of the Hollywood moguls putting Jews on the screen, but not as Jews."

What's more, he argues, Kubrick had "an ambivalent relationship with his Jewish identity."

"What he did in his films is he took the Jewishness out explicitly and then re-inserted it under the surface for those who can read the code," he said. "And that's what I argue in my book."

'Not a Kubrick film'

Despite a new script being uncovered, Abrams said fans should not expect a brand new Kubrick movie.

"It's a Kubrick script, but it's not a Kubrick film. With no direction on there, or very little direction, there's no way we could have known what he would have done with it, who he would have cast," he said.

The novella has previously been adapted to film in 1933 by German director Robert Siodmak and in 1988 by English screenwriter Andrew Birkin, a former assistant to Kubrick.

Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig has previously been adapted for film in 1933 by German director Robert Siodmak and in 1988 by English screenwriter Andrew Birkin. (Deutsche Universal-Film, Re-Image Publishing, Vestron Pictures Ltd. )

If it gets adapted again, Abrams believes the script will need an update by "someone who can deal with contemporary sexual matter that's going to have a very different reading in today's society than it did 60 years ago."

"If you've seen the Andrew Birkin film, it's a period piece and it's quite stilted," Abrams said. "And I think this script would be that way."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Ashley Mak.

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