One of Hollywood’s greatest swords and sandals epic, Spartacus recounts the classic tale of a man born and raised in bondage, trained and tested as a gladiator, and ultimately lionized as a the leader of a slave revolt. After working for only a few weeks with seasoned genre auteur Anthony Mann, Kirk Douglas, star and executive producer of the film, jettisoned him in favor of a thirty-one-year-old replacement: Stanley Kubrick. Spartacus offered Kubrick the opportunity to prove to Hollywood that he could direct a major motion picture . . . and few motion pictures are more major than Spartacus. The first Kubrick film not independently financed, Spartacus had a $12-million budget, which was more than its financier (Universal Studios) itself was worth at the time. The film’s scenes of combat are visceral and its climactic battle, with ten thousand soldiers that Kubrick shot from a half-mile away, is nothing short of spectacular. The wattage of star power on screen—Douglas, in the title role, is joined by Sir Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis, and Peter Ustinov in an Oscar-winning turn as the devious slave trader Batiatus, and B picture icons such as John Ireland, Charles McGraw, and John Dall—is rivaled only by the luminaries behind the scenes: Saul Bass designed the film’s chiaroscuro title sequence, Touch of Evil cinematographer Russell Metty won an Academy Award for his lensing, production designer Alexander Golitzen received his sixth Oscar nomination, while composer Alex North garnered his seventh nod. Spartacus is also noteworthy for giving Dalton Trumbo, a member of the Hollywood Ten, his first screenwriting credit since being jailed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, effectively ending the “blacklist.” Kubrick, frustrated by the creative control Douglas exerted as the film’s executive producer, would never again direct another film without total autonomy.
Make a night of it! Learn more about the pop-up dinner before the screening and make a reservation.
Bing Theater | $10 for the general public; $7 for LACMA members, seniors (62+), and students with valid ID; $5 LACMA Film Club members and Academy members with valid ID. | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.
70mm print provided courtesy of the Academy Film Archive’s Film-To-Film program, an initiative to acquire and create new archival film masters and prints for conservation, research and exhibition.