Paths of Glory

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Paths of Glory is a 1957 American anti-war film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb.[1] Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refused to continue a suicidal attack. Dax attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court martial.



The book had no title when it was finished, so the publisher held a contest. The winning entry came from the ninth stanza of the famous Thomas Gray poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard".[2]

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.


When the novel was published in 1935 it was a minor success. It was adapted by dramatist Sidney Howard into a play that same year, but the stage version was a failure. A film adaptation was not made until 1957 when Stanley Kubrick decided to adapt it to the screen after he had remembered reading the book in his childhood. Kubrick and his partners purchased the film rights from Cobb's widow for $10,000. It is supposedly inspired by the Souain corporals affair.

Paths of Glory is based loosely on the true story of four French soldiers, under General Géraud Réveilhac, 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 others received nothing.

The novel is about the French execution of innocent men to strengthen others' resolve to fight. The French Army did carry out military executions for cowardice, as did all the other major participants. However, a significant point in the film is the practice of selecting individuals at random and executing them as a punishment for the sins of the whole group. This is similar to decimation, which was rarely used by the French Army in World War I.[3]

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