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ESSAY ARTICLE 'CRAZY FOR THE SHINING' DURING QUARANTINE

Article on the madness of King Jack Nicholson and Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING from 1980
Thanks to the famous image of a grimacing madman's head through a slashed door, it seems THE SHINING would be nothing more than a fiendish axe-wielding Jack Nicholson running amok. The sinister “Here’s Johnny!” line is as overrated as the TAXI DRIVER “You talkin’ to me?” scene — yet there’s more going on here than a crazy antagonist.

It's unfortunate that young horror fans anticipating scare-a-minute thrills are often misled into a deliberately slow-paced cerebral-surreal journey that takes time to encompass the film’s true villain — The Overlook Hotel...
A mysterious Barry Dennen with Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Barry Nelson & The Overlook Hotel
We learn of the Hotel's backstory from an expository interview sequence with Barry Nelson’s Stuart Ullman... leading to a plush interior tour that ends with Scatman Crothers' Mr. Hallorann and his personal conversation with Jack’s son, Danny. Through this extensive set-up, making up an entire first act, we're brought into a sinister place where Nicholson's Jack Torrance is merely a pawn.

Source author Stephen King didn’t want the offbeat CUCKOO'S NEST icon for the lead role… But Kubrick saw fit to hire the man he had possibly slated for Napoleon in a biopic that never took flight...
Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING
Instead, following A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, the eclectic auteur directed another kind of Time Period epic, BARRY LYNDON, faring well enough with Kubrick fans but the long run time and unsympathetic title character confused mainstream audiences…

Even the once-adoring art house critics were divided: Thus THE SHINING — which remains Kubrick’s most successful venture — was a perfect choice for the man to step into a more conventional (while still askew and controversial) spotlight.
Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING "He saw it on the television"
Stephen King felt that Jack Torrance, a would-be novelist/teacher hired to take care of the immense Hotel during an isolated winter, needed a progressive changeling wherein Nicholson seemed crazy from the onset... 

A more subtle Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight type would have suited the novel's characterization, in King’s eyes, and he does have a point... But let’s look into a theory that maybe Jack Torrance was never quite crazy enough
Jack Nicholson visits the now open bar in THE SHINING
No one can deny that Nicholson goes sporadically over the top in the role... When speaking to Joe Turkel’s Lloyd the Bartender, or any of his famous triads against Wendy, the put-upon wife played by Shelley Duvall — these moments are often viewed as hammy, or, as Kubrick’s friend Steven Spielberg stated, something out of Kabuki Theater. But (other than Kubrick telling Spielberg that Nicholson was channeling James Cagney) here’s a theory to consider...

The Hotel ghosts overseeing Jack's violent task, something former caretaker Delbert Grady most likely pulled off with ease, might have realized they picked the wrong man for the job...
Jack Nicholson putting on what looks like a Bruce Dern scowl in THE SHINING
“Mr. Torrance, I see you can hardly have taken care of the business we discussed,” Grady’s voice speaks through a storage room door, where Wendy locked Jack inside following his stair-climbing tirade — a failed attempt halted by a baseball bat. “I and others have come to believe that your heart is not in this.”

That particular dialogue is very telling… And Jack’s overboard performance might not be an intense actor overplaying a lunatic — but rather, a character trying desperately to be crazy enough to muster the energy to do such a horrendous thing. "Your heart is not in this," Grady had said. Thus Jack Torrance, not Jack Nicholson, is seeking the right motivation to get into the part of a cold-blooded killer.
Kubrick favorite Philip Stone with Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING
If you view Torrance as a failed madman rather than the poster-child for a trademark horror film heavy, certain aspects become clearer, and Nicholson’s performance is that much more intriguing… Also keep in mind that Delbert Grady — played by a mesmerizing Philip Stone, the other three-time Kubrick actor besides Joe Turkel — probably didn’t have a child with the ability to “Shine” through the ominous location… At least not successfully...

In the role of Danny Torrance, young Danny Lloyd possesses a natural childlike finesse that keeps the entire movie in check: Whether riding his Big Wheels through the semi-carpeted hallways, being mentally tackled by nightmare visions of a bloody elevator lobby or two ghost girl-twins suited for a demonic doll house, THE SHINING is his special power... Or curse.
Scatman Crothers takes a long trip in THE SHINING
Another King gripe was his peripheral hero, Mr. Hallorann, getting killed… And with so much third-act time spent with the likable side-character... from lying on his bed in Florida to traveling on a plane to driving down long snowy Colorado roads… resulting in such a quick and bloody demise — does a character with so much buildup and importance deserve this sudden fate?

Well in a suspense-driven movie finally harboring a fully-realized axe-wielding madman, especially when played by an unshaven, goblin-jawed Nicholson, there needs to be at least one slaughter. Torrance might have been a failure, ultimately… but he had to get something accomplished: After all, there’s an audience to consider — in a film full of ghosts, someone living had to die!
Jack Nicholson facing Shelley Duvall in THE SHINING
And we can go on and on into other SHINING avenues, but this particular article/essay merely centers on the mental state of Jack Torrance, and the possibility he wasn't crazy enough, thus making for a distracted psycho trying desperately to find his path — that really wasn't his to begin with...

So the next time you watch the iconic 1980 Kubrick classic, keep in mind that perhaps Mr. Torrance may be battling those demons more than heeding their call... It makes for a much more interesting ride, and performance — by both Jack Nicholson and Jack Torrance.
Jack Nicholson wants a second chance to kill in THE SHINING
A father/son moment with Jack Nicholson and Danny Lloyd in THE SHINING
Danny Lloyd in THE SHINING has the coolest Mickey Mouse sweater...
That just got better with the Apollo USA sweater with Danny Lloyd from THE SHINING
Shelley Duvall facing Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING hoping his dreams don't come true
Jack Nicholson channeling Timothy Carey in Stanley Kubrick The Shining
Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick (not Stephen King's) The Shining
Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick (not Stephen King's) The Shining
Jack Nicholson about to learn something about phantom JD goggles in THE SHINING
Barry Nelson says farewell to two bunnies as Jack Nicholson (with an oblivious Shelley Duvall) looks on
Jack Torrance channeling Jack Nicholson (or vice versa) in Stanley Kubrick's classic THE SHINING
Remember the real villain is The Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING and love that tiny yellow love bug
Jack Nicholson wearing what's called "The Kubrick Mask" face down eyes up in THE SHINING
Jack Nicholson famously swinging the axe in THE SHINING
The famous "Here's Johnny" by Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING
"I'm intrigued" says a happy but still crazy looking Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING
Jack Nicholson and Scatman Crothers at the end of THE SHINING
Beautiful icy blue shot of Jack Nicholson wielding an axe in THE SHINING
Famously bizarre frozen Jack Nicholson shot at the end of THE SHINING
Opening credit sequence featuring Jack Torrance's yellow bug from THE SHINING
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