Stanley Kubrick has reserved his place in the pantheon of great filmmakers, having created unparalleled projects such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Barry Lyndon which are routinely cited as the apotheosis of cinematic art. Due to his popularity and status within the world of cinema, many fans have also started exploring his early projects.
Many iconic filmmakers have shorts that they made during their college years as a student but that wasn’t the case with Kubrick. Instead, he began by starting out as a photographer for Look magazine before he eventually ventured into filmmaking and made his first couple of short films in 1951 under severe financial restrictions.
Kubrick recalled: “After I quit Look in 1950 — where I had been a staff photographer for five years, ever since I left high school — I took a crack at films and made two documentaries, Day of the Fight, about prize fighter Walter Cartier, and The Flying Padre, a silly thing about a priest in the Southwest who flew to his isolated parishes in a small airplane.”
Flying Padre was the second short film that Kubrick ever directed after he finished working on his directorial debut Day of the Fight. Set in rural New Mexico, the film revolves around a Catholic priest who has to travel in an airplane in order to provide spiritual guidance to extremely isolated communities that spread out across the map.
The director added: “I did all the work on those two films, and all the work on my first two feature films, Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss. I was cameraman, director, editor, assistant editor, sound effects man — you name it, I did it. And it was invaluable experience, because being forced to do everything myself I gained a sound and comprehensive grasp of all the technical aspects of filmmaking.”
Like some of his other early efforts, Kubrick later denounced Flying Padre but it’s still fascinating to explore the formative years of one of the greatest filmmakers in history. The film helped him realise that he wanted to be working as a director and he quit his job in order to make his first feature film – Fear and Desire.
Watch the short film below.