Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Shelley Duvall – The Shining

Shelley Alexis Duvall (born July 7, 1949) is an actress best known for her roles in 70’s Robert Altman movies: Brewster McCloud (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Nashville (1975) and as Olive Oyl in ‘Popeye’ (1980). She followed up with roles in ‘Annie Hall’ (1977), ‘Time Bandits’ (1981), the Tim Burton short film ‘Frankenweenie’ (1984) and ‘Roxanne’ (1987). She is also an Emmy-nominated producer, responsible for ‘Faerie Tale Theatre’ (1982-86) and other kid-friendly programming.

However she is remembered most famously as Wendy Torrance in ‘The Shining’ (1980) opposite Jack Nicholson. The Shining is a classic psychological horror film about a writer Jack (Nicholson) who with his wife (Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd), accepts a job as an off-season caretaker in an isolated hotel, the Overlook. Danny possesses psychic abilities and is able to see into the past and future as well as see the ghosts who inhabit the Overlook. A massive winter storm hits the region soon after the family move in, effectively cutting them off and isolating them for the winter. Jack soon descends into madness and convinced that his family are holding him back, he tries to kill them.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King. The Shining is widely regarded as a classic in the genre although novelist Stephen King has been quoted as saying that although Kubrick made a film with memorable imagery, it was not a good adaptation of his novel and is the only adaptation of his novels that he could “remember hating”. Notably, before this King often said he did not care about the film adaptations of his novels, although now, he apparently loves Brian DePalma’s version of ‘Carrie’ (976). The film differs from the novel significantly with regard to characterization and motivation of the action. The most obvious differences are with regard to the personality of Jack Torrance, mainly Kubrick pulling back on the alcoholism from the novel as these are the source of much of author Stephen King’s dissatisfaction with the film.

During the making of this film, Kubrick and Duvall would often become very frustrated with each other. The most obvious example is when Kubrick shot the famous “baseball bat scene” with Duvall and Nicholson 127 times, which is the world record for most number of takes in any film set.

Nicholson states in the documentary ‘Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures’ (2001) that Kubrick was great to work with but that he was “a different director” with Duvall. Due to Kubrick’s highly methodical nature, principal photography took a year to complete. Despite their differences, Duvall admitted that she learned more from Kubrick than any of her previous films and that she “wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.” Kubrick also knew that he pushed Shelley and treated her the way he did for a significant reason, as the role of “Wendy Torrance” was even said by Jack Nicholson, “the hardest role anyone has ever had to play.”

4 responses

  1. I was watching this movie just the other day, and i’d forgotten how amazing it is.
    Despite there being differences with the book, i find it quite surprising that King hated the movie, yet was pleased with the awful television version, made in the 90’s.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:13 am

    • I was never a huge fan of it when I first saw it 30 years ago… Jeez that makes me feel old… I probably didn’t get it; now though I think it’s one of the best films in the genre. King’s opinion can’t be taken too seriously, apart from his devotion to the Ramones 🙂

      July 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

  2. Great article. It’s nice to see Shelley Duvall recognized for her work in this picture!

    August 5, 2011 at 7:34 am

  3. Pingback: Tim Burton – The Early Years « socialpsychol

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