The Story (continued)
The first image of Lolita's youthful figure is impossible to forget - she wears a two-piece skimpy, flower-patterned bikini, and she sports heart-shaped sunglasses and a broad-brimmed, feathered straw hat while sunning herself on a blanket laid on the lawn. Charlotte continues babbling, oblivious to Humbert's smitten, bedazzled look and immediate infatuation:
My yellow roses. My - daughter....I could offer you a comfortable home, a sunny garden, a congenial atmosphere, my cherry pies.
Humbert quickly reconsiders her offer to rent a room for "something nominal, let's say, uh, two hundred a month...including meals, and uh, late snacks, etcetera...uh, you couldn't find better value in West Ramsdale." Charlotte is curious about what clinched the deal for him to move into the house: "What was the decisive factor? Uh, my garden?" Avoiding the truth, Humbert replies, tongue-in-cheek with a clever double entendre: "I think it was your cherry pies!" The scene ends on another long stare from Lolita.
The next scene (with an abrupt cut to the shot) jolts the audience - it is an excerpt from a projected horror film at a drive-in movie theatre, attended by the Hazes and Humbert (in their own fairy-tale world and sitting from left to right: young princess Lolita, the hero Humbert, and the monstrous Charlotte). A ghoulish figure in the supernatural horror film [Hammer Films' The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)] approaches menacingly - a symbol of Humbert's own lust. A shorthand montage of images and scenes visually provide a metaphor of Humbert's growing obsession for the young girl:
- In the front seat of the Haze vehicle, Humbert is seated in the front centered between Charlotte (in the symbolic driver's seat) and Lolita - all eyes are absorbed by the action on the screen. Frightened, both women grab toward Humbert's hands that rest atop his knees. He frees his left hand (from Charlotte's grasp), scratches his nose, and furtively slips his left hand on top of Lolita's left hand on his right knee to comfort and protect her from the evil. After another scream from the film, Lolita tops his hand with her right hand. Mrs. Haze, not wanting to be left out, and not wanting to be outdone, tops the entire pyramid of hands.
- One night, while Charlotte and Humbert play chess together, Lolita strolls into the living room wearing a full length nightgown. Charlotte is worried - symbolically: "You're going to take my Queen!" He replies, expectedly: "That is my intention." Lolita leans on the arm of his chair next to him, and then murmurs: "G'night." She kisses her mother on the cheek and then nuzzles cheek to cheek next to Humbert before leaving to go upstairs. Humbert immediately takes Charlotte's Queen in his next move: "It had to happen sometime."
- In the Haze backyard while Lolita practices twirling a hula-hoop around her thrusting, pubescent hips while counting the rotations, Humbert slyly leers at her over the top edge of the book he is pretending to read. He is dressed in a bathrobe and seated in a chair close to Lolita. Charlotte sneaks up and takes his photograph, misinterpreting his mood by adding: "See how relaxed you're getting."
At the Ramsdale High School summer dance attended by Lolita and her boyfriend, Charlotte and Humbert serve as formally-dressed chaperones. Teenagers dance with billowy dresses and 50's coats/ties. Humbert is dismayed by Charlotte's comment that "tonight's the night! Well, Lolita told me that she's positive Kenny's gonna ask her to go steady tonight." Charlotte introduces Humbert to John (Jerry Stovin) and Jean Farlow (Diana Decker), a fun young couple. John asks Charlotte to dance after getting Humbert's permission: "Mind if I dance with your girl? We could, um, sort of swap partners." While they are gone, Jean hooks Humbert's arm and confides: "Did you know that you've had the most remarkable effect on her. Did you know that?...she's begun to radiate a certain glow." Humbert deflects her observations while she adds, with a flirtatious twinkle in her eye, that she and her husband are liberated and sophisticated even though they're small-town residents:
When you get to know me better, you'll find I'm extremely broad-minded...In fact, John and I, we're both broad-minded.
Humbert must wonder whether their attitudes would permit his aroused fascination for the pre-adolescent Lolita. While away on the pretense of finding clean punch glasses, Humbert contents himself by fixatedly spying on his Lolita from behind floral decorations and arrangements. Charlotte notices a self-possessed Clare Quilty swaying and dancing with a somber-looking, dark-haired, speechless young woman named Vivian Darkbloom (Marianne Stone) [an anagram for Vladimir Nabokov]: "It's Clare Quilty! You know, the TV writer!" The buxom Charlotte primps and goes over for a forced hello - she cuts in on Quilty's dance partner by twirling into his arms:
Charlotte: Oh, hello. Hello, again! (Quilty avoids her after the dance ends) Oh, it's certainly been a long time!
Quilty: It certainly has, yes.
Charlotte: Do you know that I've been the local authority on you ever since.
Quilty: Is that so? Well, that's very sweet of you. Thank you so much.
Charlotte: I'll never forget that intellectually stimulating talk that you gave to our club.
Quilty: Yes, a magnificent club. Really magnificent. Tell me one thing - are you a columnist?
Charlotte: No, no. Don't you remember? That afternoon changed my whole life.
Quilty: Oh, well, how about that? (He chuckles patronizingly)
Charlotte: You remember it. [She whispers some recollections of a seduction that Charlotte had experienced with him to get closer to Lolita. Symmetrically, Humbert later lovelessly marries Mrs. Haze for gaining access to Lolita.]
Quilty: Did I do that? (She nods) Did I?
Charlotte: And afterwards, you know, I showed you my garden. And I drove you to the airport.
Quilty: (grinning ingenuously when he finally recognizes her) Yes, really great fun. Listen, listen, din, din you have a dawda (daughter)? Din you have a dawda with a lovely name? Yeah, a lovely, what was it now, a lovely lyrical lilting name like, uh, uh...
Quilty: Lo-li-ta, that's right. Lolita. Diminutive of Dolores, the tears and the roses.
At the conclusion of the dance, Lolita and her boyfriend are invited to a late-night party at the Farlows - leaving Humbert dreading and fretting that he might be left alone overnight with Charlotte at their house. Charlotte stirs fears in him with her own overt invitation: "We can go home now and have a cozy little dinner partout, huh?"
Back home, Charlotte changes into a full-blown, leopard skin-printed outfit [her first outfit had only a leopard-skin belt] - "something cozier" she mentions. She asks provocatively: "You don't think it's a little too risque?" Humbert believes Lolita is growing up, something that Charlotte believes is only natural: "...it's only natural and healthy that she should take an interest in those fascinating creatures known as the opposite sex." She clinks his glass of pink champagne, puts on Latin music with a distinctive cha-cha dance beat, and shimmies her low-cut bodice in front of him. Charlotte believes he is so "charmingly Old World" with his conservative attitudes and concern about Lolita being out all night: "That's what I adore about you." She wants to teach him how to dance with the latest steps:
Charlotte: I have a proposal. What say you I, uh, teach you some of the new steps, huh?
Humbert: Oh Charlotte, I don't even know the old ones. And you do this so very well, I'd much rather sit down and watch you. Very good.
Charlotte: Oh come on, Humbert. Ah, Humbert Humbert, what a thrillingly different name.
With sexual double entendres dripping from her mouth, the sexually-thirsting woman explains how the rhythm "just pours out of you...you simply vibrate rhythm." Pursuing him and getting him to join her, she encourages him - (and being the gentleman that he is, Humbert obliges her): "A little more joie de vivre! You know, when you smile like that, you remind me of someone. Oh, ah, a college boy I had, uh, a date with. I went dancing with him. A young, blue-blooded Bostonian. Oh, my very first glamour date. And you know, in certain lights, you remind me of Harold..I adored Harold, I really did. I swore at the time I would never marry again. I don't think I will, but, uh, it wouldn't be fair to his memory, do you think?" Humbert answers: "No, one doesn't always find such loyalty these days!"
Wooing him, she immediately becomes a sexual hypocrite. She passionately wants him and backs him up against the living room wall to make him submit to her advances: "Shouldn't life be for the living? What think you? You see, I'm a strongly emotional woman. Very strongly emotional. (She has her arms around his neck.) Oh, don't be afraid of hurting me...Take me in your arms! Oh, I can't live in the past, not any more Hum, not any more."
Suddenly, a young female voice unexpectedly says: "Hi!" Lolita has just returned from the party and watches them from the hallway. Recovering quickly, Charlotte asks: "Darling, did you come back for something?" Lolita slumps down in a chair after giving her reasons for arriving home early: "Mona's party turned out to be sorta a drag. So I thought I'd come back and see what you two were doing." Humbert summarizes their evening for Lolita with a suggestive double entendre: "We had a wonderful evening. Your mother created a magnificent spread." He rushes to volunteer and make Lolita a sandwich because she says that she's "starving." While Humbert is in the kitchen, mother and daughter talk:
Lolita: Did you have a good time dancing with Clare Quilty?
Charlotte: Of course. He's a very erudite gentleman.
Lolita: Yeah, I know. All the girls are crazy about him, too.
Charlotte: That's neither here nor there.
Lolita: Since when?
Frustrated by the untimely appearance of her daughter, Charlotte attempts to coax her upstairs for bed, and finally succeeds after a quarreling, bossy exchange. Expressing all her loneliness, vulnerability, miserableness, and desire to be youthfully romantic, the young widow projects her competitive anger at her daughter for being present and preventing her from freely pursuing Humbert:
That miserable little brat. She is becoming impossible. Simply impossible. The idea! The idea of her sneaking back here and spying on us...She's always been a spiteful little pest, since the age of one. Do you know, she kept throwing her toys, her toys out of her crib so that I would have to keep stooping over to pick them up? She has always had some kind of gripe against me. Now, now she sees herself as some kind of a starlet. Well, I see her as a sturdy, healthy, but decidedly homely child. (She raises her voice) Is it my fault if I feel young? Why should my child resent it? (To Humbert) You don't resent it, do you? Do you think I'm just a foolish, romantic American girl?
Thwarted, the sex-starved Charlotte suggests going out with Humbert for a ride in the car, but he courteously refuses, explains that it's late, and bows his way out of the room with the excuse that he's tired. When she hears his door shut upstairs, Charlotte is left alone downstairs and she begins to whimper and sob - she dumps the pink champagne bottle back into the ice bucket.
Humbert writes his inner thoughts and experiences into a personal diary, and provides narrative commentary with passages from it:
What drives me insane is the twofold nature of this nymphet, a veteran nymphet perhaps, this mixture in my Lolita of tender, dreamy childishness and a kind of eerie vulgarity. I know it is madness to keep this journal, but it gives me a strange thrill to do so. And only a loving wife could decipher my microscopic script.
The following morning, Charlotte is still cranky and piqued by her daughter, as she prepares breakfast in the kitchen. Lolita is reprimanded for having her elbow lazily perched on the breakfast table:
Miss, in this house, we do not eat with the table on the el...elbows on the table!
Lolita is instructed to take a breakfast tray upstairs to "Professor Humbert," while Charlotte speaks on the phone to Jean Farlow. Wearing a droopy sweater, Lolita delivers the tray - interrupting Humbert's journal-writing. She eats most of his breakfast, languorously drapes herself on his desk, and inquires about his diary, now locked away from view in the desk drawer: "'Fraid somebody's gonna steal your ideas and sell 'em to Hollywood, huh?" To sidestep her curiosity about his scribblings, he reads her some poetry by "the divine Edgar" - Edgar Allan Poe. [The poem is Poe's Ulalume.] She judges parts of the poem "pretty clever," but other parts are "a little corny." Just as she is going to tell him something about her girlfriend Mona, in confidence, she reconsiders: "You'll blab." But when he vows: "I will never give away any of your secrets," she playfully replies: "Well, for that, you get a little reward." She dangles a fried egg from his plate above his open mouth and teasingly instructs: "You can have one little bite." Symbolic of his sexual desire for her, he holds her arm and ravenously takes one enormous bite.
From downstairs, Lolita hears her mother's voice bellowing for her. Charlotte is tremendously irritated at her daughter, commanding: "I forbid you to disturb Professor Humbert again. He is a writer and he is not to be disturbed!" Lolita responds with a 'Sieg Heil' gesture. Shortly later, Charlotte announces a "surprise" to Humbert. He wrongly guesses: "The Farlows have been arrested?" No -- Lolita will be going to a camp two hundred miles away: "Mona Farlow is leaving for summer camp tomorrow. Lolita is going with her....isolation from boys would be the best thing for both of the girls this crucial summer." His face suddenly expresses understated consternation at the thought of Lolita's departure:
Humbert: Do you think that the camp is the answer?
Charlotte: Oh, frankly Hum, I do. And it's all arranged. The Farlows and I phoned the camp long distance, and I did all the shopping this ...(She inquires about the pained expression on his face.) Is something the matter with your face?
Charlotte: Oh, you poor man.
Rather than accompany Charlotte with their coffee out to the "piazza," he excuses himself to go upstairs and nurse his tooth.
Early the next day, the bleary-eyed, awakened Humbert watches the Haze station wagon being packed for the car trip to the girls' camp from his upstairs bedroom window. Lolita looks up toward his window and then rushes inside, hugging him in the upstairs hallway. She casually tells him:
Lolita: Well, I guess I won't be seeing you again, huh?
Humbert: I shall be moving on. I must prepare for my work at Beardsley College in the fall.
Lolita: Then I guess this is goodbye. (The car horn honks from outside)
Lolita: (She half-winks at him and races off) Don't forget me. (Romantic, sentimental piano music plays on the soundtrack for the rest of the scene)
As the car pulls away, an anguished Humbert retreats to Lolita's bedroom, hung with pennants and other high-school souvenirs or symbols of teenage hero-worship. [One of Quilty's cigarette advertisements cut from a magazine hangs on the wall next to her bed - it bears a striking resemblance to one of actor Peter Sellers' early 60s comedy albums.] He throws himself on her deserted bed, touches her articles of dropped clothing, buries his head into her pillow and sobs. Humbert composes himself when the maid unexpectedly presents him with an envelope from Mrs. Haze. He opens it and reads the note with a hoarse voice, becoming more melodramatic as the reading progresses, realizing that Charlotte has offered him a proposal of marriage:
'This is a confession. I love you. Last Sunday in church, my dear one, when I asked the Lord what to do about it, I was told to act as I am acting now. You see, there is no alternative. I have loved you from the minute I saw you. I am a passionate and lonely woman. And you are the love of my life. Now you know. So you will please at once pack and leave. This is a landlady's order. I am dismissing the lodger. I am kicking you out. Go! Scram! Departez! I shall be back by dinnertime. I do not wish to find you in the house. You see, cherie, if you decided to stay, if I found you at home, which I know I won't, and that's why I'm able to go on like this, the fact of your remaining would only mean one thing. That you ... (He begins to hysterically and uncontrollably burst out laughing with a fiendish sound), that you want me as much as I do you, as a life-long mate. And you are ready to link up your life with mine forever and ever and be a father to my little girl. Goodbye, dear one, pray for me, if you've ever prayed.'
[The camera pans over to the picture of Clare Quilty watching Humbert's predicament with cold detachment.] His sinister, reckless laughter continues into the blackness of the fade. To be near Charlotte's seductive child so that he can proceed with his nymphetomania, Humbert realizes that he must accept Charlotte's bait.
In the next scene, Charlotte and Humbert are already married, although he has snuck away from their conjugal bed and sought privacy and refuge in the bathroom to write in his diary. Thunder booms in the background as a rainstorm is about the begin. He narrates about how he has accepted his fate and his distaste for his new wife - he is sharpening a "conspiratorial dagger" for her:
The wedding was a quiet affair. And when called upon to enjoy my promotion from lodger to lover, did I experience only bitterness and distaste? No. Mr. Humbert confesses to a certain titillation of his vanity, to some faint tenderness, even to a pattern of remorse, daintily running along the steel of his conspiratorial dagger.