Flying Padre (Stanley Kubrick, 1951, USA)

Flying Padre is Stanley Kubrick's 1951 follow-up to his debut short documentary Day of the Fight. Kubrick, who sold Fight to RKO, was commissioned to make a short follow-up by the studio for its "Pathe Screenliner" series. While Kubrick later dismissed the short, it was instrumental to his burgeoning career as a filmmaker, and it was the first film that allowed Kubrick to begin working as a filmmaker full time. The full open with a vista of northeastern New Mexico, where the narration tells us that our story begins. We see an airplane overhead, and the narration tells us that we are witnessing the story of a priest, Frederick Stadtmuller, and his plane - The Spirit of St. Joseph

Flying Padre plays much more conventionally than Kubrick's prior short. While that film was moody, concentrated on light and shadow, and had a deeply photographic style, Padre plays much more like a conventional short subject documentary of the period. The voiceover, by CBS reporter Bob Hite, is also quite conventional in comparison to the more dramatic style of Kubrick's prior short. We witness Stadtmuller conducting a service, with Kubrick focusing on the wizened faces of the local parishioners. We see the Father conduct evening devotions, with his community of Mexican-American observers. He then reprimands a local child after a fight between children.

We also see Stadtmuller's hobbies - his bird collection and shooting guns, but mainly keeping his plane ready. While Kubrick would later dismiss this short film as a "silly thing," it at least demonstrated his ability as a commercial filmmaker and likely helped him get more projects to work on. The film is one of his most workmanlike and least distinctive, but this can be mainly attributed to the particular conditions of its making. Kubrick completists should seek it out.



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