"If the little sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll face French ones."
- General Mireau (George Macready)
"There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating than seeing someone else die."
- General Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) to Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas)
"Come, come Colonel Dax, don't overdo the surprise. You've been after this job from the start. We all know that, my boy."--Broulard "I may be many things, sir, but I'm not your boy."
"Would you like me to suggest what you can do with that promotion'"
- Dax to Broulard
"I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man, and you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!"
- Dax to Broulard
Total Film - 06/01/2000
"Even though Kubrick made this while still in his 20s, it is arguably his best film..." -- 5 out of 5 Stars
USA Today - 11/02/2004
"This is the masterpiece from Humphrey Cobb's novel that put Kubrick on the map."
Chicago Sun-Times - 02/25/2005
"[T]he film by which Stanley Kubrick entered the ranks of great directors, never to leave them."
Sight and Sound - 01/01/2011
"PATHS remains the definitive WWI-set anti-war scorcher, much copied but never equalled, thanks largely to the bullet-train story cascade and Kubrick's relentlessly ultra-real, disarmingly composed images."
PATHS OF GLORY is among the most powerful antiwar films ever made. The story takes place in 1916 France, as the French command orders an exhausted unit to wrest control of an anthill from the Germans--expecting a casualty rate of 60 percent. The battle--during which the Germans are never seen, indicating that the French are their own worst enemy--turns into a bloody massacre. Looking for a scapegoat, General Mireau (George Macready) orders Colonel Dax (a never-more-intense Kirk Douglas) to select three of his men to face a court-martial and possible firing squad for the troops' cowardice. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, PATHS OF GLORY, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobbs, is a gut-wrenching, unforgettable drama. Every scene is awash in grays, covered in doom. Kubrick marvelously contrasts the ornate palace where the generals sip their cognac with the ramshackle trenches where injured men stumble about, demoralized and shellshocked. Douglas gives a tough, gritty performance; his tense sparring with the high command features sharp, biting dialogue. The entire cast is outstanding; watching so many men die for no reason is maddening. Kubrick captured the Vietnam War in FULL METAL JACKET, the cold war in DR. STRANGELOVE, the Seven Years' War in BARRY LYNDON, and a slave uprising in SPARTACUS, but PATHS OF GLORY is his crowning achievement when it comes to depicting the devastation, both physical and psychological, that war wreaks on the individual--as well as the state.
Stanley Kubrick brings Humphrey Cobbs's scathing, fact-based antiwar novel to life with stunning results. Amid the insufferable trench warfare of WWI, a French general orders his men to attack an obviously impenetrable German position and accuses them of cowardice when the attack fails. To soothe his wounded vanity, three men are picked at random to stand trial and face the firing squad. The script was cowritten by noir author Jim Thompson.
Essential Cinema |
Theatrical Release |
World War I
Theatrical Release: January 25, 1958
Shot at Bavarian Filmkunst Studios, Munich, Germany, and at Geiselgasteig Studios and Schleissheim Castle.
PATHS OF GLORY was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1992.
Susanne Christian, the singer at the end of the film, later became Christiane Kubrick, Stanley's third wife; they were married until Kubrick's death in 1999, and she maintains the official Stanley Kubrick Web site.
Gerald Fried composed a different theme song for countries that might be offended by hearing the French national anthem, "Marseillaise," which appears as the theme song in most versions of the film.
When Kubrick asked Kirk Douglas to star in PATHS OF GLORY, Douglas responded, "Stanley, I don't think this picture will ever make a nickel, but we have to make it." Douglas's own production company, Bryna Productions, produced the film. Bryna later made SPARTACUS, again with Kubrick at the helm.
The last-meal scene took 68 takes.
As a stunt to get the screenplay read, Kubrick and his production partner, James B. Harris, took a picture of themselves and some friends in military uniforms and attached the photo to each screenplay copy that went to the studios.
The trenches built for the film were six feet wide instead of the standard WWI width of four feet in order to allow room for tracking shots.
Harris appears in the film as a lowly private in the attack sequence; most of the cast was happy to outrank him.
In order to shoot the battle sequence on a specific farm, Kubrick had to pay to the owner the market value of the crops that would have been grown there during the shoot.
Joseph Turkel also appeared in Kubrick's THE KILLING and THE SHINING; Timothy Carey also appeared in THE KILLING.
Baron von Waldendels served as the military consultant on the film.
The hundreds of French soldiers were played by German policemen.
France banned the film until 1974; the Swiss army censored it until 1970.
Richard Anderson, who played Major Saint-Auban, went on to have a successful career as Oscar in THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN television series.