Stanley Kubrick (Lolita , 2001: A Space Odyssey , A Clockwork Orange ) is famous for directorial epics, yet started his film-making career with the radically different format of short documentaries.
After leaving school with mediocre grades, Kubrick began a career in journalistic photography, something he'd pursued since getting his first camera at the age of 13. He struggled to find buyers for his photos and had to earn money playing chess around New York. He eventually became an apprentice staff photographer at Look magazine. The photo essays formed the basis of his first short, expanding a picture story he had done on local boxer Walter Cartier. Day of the Fight (1951) follows Walter, and his twin Vincent, during his preparations for his middleweight fight. Kubrick found the experience exhausting, but left excited about his new found medium. "I had no idea what I was doing” Kubrick remembers, “but I knew that I could not make films any worse that the run-of-the-mill Hollywood movies I was seeing at the time. In fact, I felt that I could do them a lot better. “
The success of Day of the Fight, and the proof that he could make profitable films, enabled Kubrick to secure funding for his next documentary short, Flying Padre (1951). Kubrick followed Father Fred Stadtmueller, the priest of a 4000 square mile parish who uses his small plane to perform his duties.
As John Baxter argues in his biography of Kubrick, despite being a vast different medium of storytelling to his later work, and one to which he never returned, many of his techniques are already clear. For example, Kubrick was interested in bringing the viewer right up close to the action, for example in the upward shots scene in Cartier's fight, in Father Stadtmueller's cockpit, or the refrigerator scene of The Shining (1980) nearly 30 years later