Two silent films inspired the most famous scene of The Shining, here are the suggestions behind Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece.
Also Stanley Kubrick he loved being influenced by the directors of the past. One of his most loved films of hers, Shiningcontains one of the most iconic scenes of the history of cinema, inspired in turn from two films.
The Shining tells the story of a writer in creative crisis and afflicted by alcoholism named Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), who accepts a job as caretaker of a luxurious hotel in the Colorado Rockies, the Overlook Hotel. Trying to reconnect with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), Jack takes them along, but when a snowstorm leaves them cut off from the outside world, the supernatural forces that inhabit the hotels begin to deteriorate Jack’s sanity. This leaves Wendy and Danny fighting for their lives, resulting in one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history: Jack smashing the bathroom door in with an ax while Wendy hides inside.
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The two films that inspired the most famous scene of The Shining
Now in a rage, at one point in the film Jack grabs an ax and chases his wife and son. Wendy and Danny hide in the bathroom and Danny manages to escape out the window, but Wendy cannot. Jack arrives and knocks down the door with his axe, then lunges inside as he utters the now famous line “Here’s Johnny!”. This has become the most iconic scene from Kubrick’s The Shining, but it wasn’t entirely a product of his creativity. the filmmaker would, in fact, have been inspired by two silent films for that specific scene: the Swedish film The Death Wheel (1921) and Broken Lily by DW Griffith (1919).
The Death Wheeler is based on the 1912 novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! and follows David Holm (played by director Victor Sjöström), a drunkard who on New Year’s Eve is forced by the ghost of the driver of Death’s carriage to reflect on his past mistakes. In the third act of the film, David’s wife Anna (Hilda Borsgtröm) locks him in the kitchen and tries to escape with her children, but she passes out. David then smashes the door down with an ax and chases after her. DW Griffith’s Broken Lily is the story of Lucy Burrows (Lillian Gish), a young girl who is abused by her alcoholic father Battling Burrows (Donald Crisp), and includes a scene where Lucy hides in a closet and her father breaks down the door with an ax.
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Given Kubrik’s passion for the visual arts, there are other influences behind the scene in question. For example, there is another film from the silent era to mention, Lois Weber’s Suspense from 1913. In it, there is a scene where a tramp walks slowly towards the room where the protagonist has locked herself up with her child, and he breaks down the door (albeit without an ax). Another widely known influence is David Lynch’s Eraserhead, which was Kubrick’s favorite film, and he reportedly screened it for the cast and crew of The Shining to immerse them in the mood he wanted to achieve. Others have pointed out various similarities to films like Diabolique and even John Carpenter’s Halloween, but these could just be coincidences.