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Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory (1957) is an anti-war film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb. Kubrick and his partners purchased the film rights from Cobb's widow for $10,000. more...

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The book had no title when it was finished, so the publisher held a contest. The winning entry comes from the ninth stanza of the famous Thomas Gray poem Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th'inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Plot summary

Paths of Glory is based loosely on the true story of five French soldiers executed for mutiny during World War I; their families sued, and while the executions were ruled unfair, two of the families received one franc each, while the other three families received nothing.

A French general seeking a promotion during World War I orders a regiment on a suicidal mission to take a hill. The mission is a failure, with half the soldiers refusing to leave the trench. The general orders his artillery to open fire on his own troops.

Kirk Douglas portrays Colonel Dax, who leads the soldiers in the attack and defends three soldiers to be court-martialed on charges of cowardice. The trial is a farce, and although Dax does reveal the general's treachery to his higher-ups, he ends up disillusioned with the army's leadership.


  • The original 1935 novel by Humphrey Cobb was a minor success at the time, with a film planned. However, it was soon forgotten until Stanley Kubrick decided to adapt it to the screen, remembering the book from his childhood.
  • In October and November of 2004 the Film was shown at the London Film Festival by the British Film Institute. It was carefully remastered over a period of several years since much of the original audio and visual tapes were damaged. However with the aid of several modern digital studios in Los Angeles the film was completely restored and remastered for modern cinema. In addition, Stanley Kubrick's wife made a guest appearance at the start of the performance.
  • The only female character in the film was portrayed by German actress Christiane Harlan. She later married director Stanley Kubrick, and the couple remained married until his death in 1999.
  • Production took place entirely in Bavaria, Federal Republic of Germany.
  • The French authorities considered the film an offense to the honor of their army and prohibited its exhibition in France until 1975. In Germany the film wasn't allowed to be shown for a couple of years after its release to avoid any strain in relations with France.
  • The movie was, however, officially censored in Spain by the government of Francisco Franco for its anti-military content, and was not released in that country until 1986, 11 years after Franco's death.
  • The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
  • Paths of Glory is the favorite movie of Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and prisoner of war in that conflict.

Other meanings

  • Paths of Glory is also the name of a card-driven strategy game covering World War I in Europe and the Near East, developed by game designer Ted Raicer and published by GMT games.


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