When Stanley Kubrick died, in 1999, he left behind not just paradigm-changing film masterpieces like Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also more than a thousand boxes filled with screenplay drafts, letters, fan mail, photos, and memorabilia. Kubrick’s archive, at the University of the Arts in London, is a treasure trove, and new material keeps drifting in. While researching my Yale Jewish Lives volume about Kubrick, I found many gems in the archive. One day, I struck pay dirt: script outlines from the mid-1950s centering on his turbulent second marriage to the ballet dancer and designer Ruth Sobotka.
I knew already that Kubrick had been heavily influenced by Sobotka. When he met her, in 1952, she was far ahead of him in her artistic career. She had studied with Lee Strasberg, acted in avant-garde film, and danced for Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, where she also designed costumes for The Cage, Jerome Robbins’s savage, hieratic shocker of a ballet. When Kubrick and Sobotka married, she left dance to work as the art director on his third movie, The Killing (1956).