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Kubrick brainstorms subtitles for Dr Strangelove

Soon after completing Lolita in 1962, Stanley Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern took a straight-laced Cold War thriller novel published in 1958 as Red Alert, renamed all the characters for maximum absurdity, and created the satiric masterpiece Dr. Strangelove.  But Kubrick needed a subtitle to give the movie a mockumentary sting.

By the 1960s, the formula for non-fiction subtitles was well-entrenched.  Among the biggest self-help bestsellers in mid-century American bookstores were Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living; Betty Crocker: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

Endpaper has a page from one of Kubrick’s diaries that dates back to the early-60′s as he groped toward a mash-up that made the catchiest combination of those stock phrases.

This is fascinating for a number of reasons – the opportunity to look at a genius’ brainstorming process, the chance to imagine the classic film existing with any of these alternate titles – but it’s probably most interesting because this page ultimately led to what is arguably one of the greatest names for a movie of all time: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

It can now be revealed how close we came to Dr Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus.  After the cut are a list of some of the other titles Kubrick came up with:

  • Doctor Doomsday
  • Don’t Knock the Bomb
  • Dr. Doomsday and his Nuclear Wiseman
  • Dr. Doomsday Meets Ingrid Strangelove
  • Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying
  • Dr. Strangelove’s Bomb
  • Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus
  • My Bomb, Your Bomb
  • Save The Bomb
  • Strangelove: Nuclear Wiseman
  • The Bomb and Dr. Strangelove or: How to be Afraid 24hrs a Day
  • The Bomb of Bombs
  • The Doomsday Machine
  • The Passion of Dr. Strangelove
  • Wonderful Bomb

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6 Comments

  1. The Pope
    March 7, 2013

    Slightly off topic I know but with regard the news that Spielberg has said be is aiming to do a mini-series developing on the screenplay Kubrick wrote for Napoleon, I see that Todd McCarthy has made some interesting suggestions for directors: Paul Thomas Anderson, Peter Weir, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Kathryn Bigelow… and Michael Haneke. That last suggestion is truly inspired and all the more tantalizing because in all likelihood Haneke won’t do it. In which case, has anyone suggested the Coens? Or Soderbergh?
    Slightly off topic I know and for those offended, consider ourselves lucky that no one has mentioned Mel Gibson.

  2. moviewatcher
    March 7, 2013

    ^The mention of PTA directing a Kubrick script makes me gush…

  3. steve50
    March 7, 2013

    I’m glad he went for the most absurd title (Uranus would never have made it through the censors).

    I’ve been reading the Napoleon script and I hate to say, not that impressed so far. Structure-wise, it’s extremely similar to Abel Gance’s silent film. Dialog-wise, it’s a bit light. I’m afraid that, without Kubrick’s obsessive and controlled style of directing, which can actually makes something interesting from weak scripts, the whole thing could end up looking silly and/or tedious in the wrong hands.

    But, yeah – PTA could make something of it. Nice to see that McCarthy also was thinking Weir (and Fincher, who already has too much on his plate). Haneke, maybe, but the others – please, no.

  4. Mr. E
    March 7, 2013

    I’m a fan of “Dr. Strangelove and His Nuclear Wisemen”

  5. December 12, 2013

    Wheres Han and gisele,? wow as if they are not main characters

  6. December 23, 2013

    Some genuinely great blog posts on this site, thank you for contribution. “My salad days, When I was green in judgment.” by William Shakespeare.

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