Torquay’s C Denier Warren & Lolita

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2018)

At WASD we like to remember locals that have made their mark in the world of entertainment. This time it’s C Denier Warren who died in Torquay on August 27 1971 at the age of 82.

Born in Chicago in 1889, C Denier Warren was an expatriate character actor who lived in Britain from the age of eight. He usually played excitable Americans, often reporters or middle managers, and appeared in at least 25 movies.

During the War, he featured on radio in the Kentucky Minstrels program. He wrote several screenplays: Take off that Hat (1938), She Shall have Music (1935) and Kentucky Minstrels (1934). He also appeared in the theatrical 1961 London cast of The Music Man as Mayor Shinn.

In 1962 he played the role of Potts in the film Lolita. The source novel Lolita, written by Vladimir Nabokov, was published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York. It was later translated by its Russian author into his native language. The novel is best known for its controversial subject: the protagonist is a middle-aged professor, Humbert Humbert, obsessed with a 12-year-old girl with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. He calls her Lolita.

In Stanley Kubrick’s film this became a comedy-drama. James Mason played Humbert Humbert, Sue Lyon was Dolores Haze (Lolita), Shelley Winters was Charlotte Haze and Peter Sellers appeared as Clare Quilty.

Kubrick largely eliminated the more provocative aspects of the story – though the whole topic remains a bit disturbing. Sue Lyon was 14 at the time of filming, and Kubrick raised Lolita’s age to the same. In a 1972 Newsweek interview he stated, “I think that some people had the mental picture of a nine-year-old, but Lolita was twelve-and-a-half in the book” – it’s doubtful that this would have made it much more acceptable even in 1972, but it certainly wouldn’t now. Kubrick said that had he realised how severe the censorship limitations were going to be, he probably never would have made the film: “Because of all the pressure over the Production Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency at the time, I believe I didn’t sufficiently dramatise the erotic aspect of Humbert’s relationship with Lolita. If I could do the film over again, I would have stressed the erotic component of their relationship with the same weight Nabokov did.”

When released, Lolita was Rated BBFC X by the British Board of Film Censors, meaning no one under 16 years of age was permitted in theatres where it was showing.  Here’s the vaguely creepy trailer for the 1962 Lolita:

A second adaptation in 1997 was directed by Adrian Lyne and starred Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain. Due to its subject matter it was delayed for over a year and not released in Australia until 1999. It’s unlikly that the movie would be made in 2018.

Incidentally, The Police song Don’t Stand So Close To Me references Lolita with the line “starts to shake and cough/just like that old man in that book by Nabokov”:

(Author)

Kevin Dixon went to Audley Park – now Torquay Academy – and South Devon College when it was at Torre. After studying at Birmingham City University, he returned home because there’s nowhere else quite like Torquay. He then became involved in community and adult education, completed a PhD, and started writing about the weird and unknown side of town. He now Chairs Healthwatch Torbay and is involved in health and social care in the Bay.