Filmsite Movie Review
Lolita (1962)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

In her lower-class accommodations, Lolita is very unlike the sultry, sleek young girl he had remembered a few years earlier. He is invited in and offered refreshments, but he declines. Through a window view, Humbert sees two men building something outside in the backyard - it's her husband "Dick" (Gary Cockrell) whom she met in Phoenix [after being abandoned by Quilty]. Lolita cautions: "He doesn't know a thing about you and me so please watch what you say." Dick only knows that Humbert is her step-father - but definitely not the man who whisked her away from the hospital.

Humbert wants to be told who was responsible for taking her away. He pressures her, with a promise of money, to divulge her past's secrets (about how she was an impassioned lover, like Humbert, for an inappropriate partner):

Lolita: Oh, there's no point in going into that! It's all over.
Humbert: Lolita. I have to know.
Lolita: Well, I'm sorry, but I can't tell you.
Humbert: ...If you're a sensible girl, and if you want what I've come to give you, you'll tell me what I want to know.
Lolita: (she rises dramatically) Do you remember Dr. Zempf?...That German psychologist who came to see you at Beardsley.
Humbert: Was it him?
Lolita: Not exactly.
Humbert: (impatiently, repeating his refrain about 'guessing games') I didn't come here to play guessing games. Tell me who it was.
Lolita: Well, give me a chance to explain...Do you remember that car that used to follow us around?...Do you remember mother's old flame at the school dance? No, you probably wouldn't remember him. Do you remember the guy that you talked to at that hotel on the way back from camp? He pretended that he was part of that police convention that was there...And do you remember that guy that called you at the hotel?
Humbert: The night you disappeared? Yes, I remember him very well.
Lolita: And yet you still haven't guessed.
Humbert: I told you that I'm not playing games with you. Tell me who it was.
Lolita: (reproving) It was Clare Quilty.
Humbert: Who was Clare Quilty?
Lolita: All of them, of course.
Humbert: You mean Dr. Zempf, he was Clare Quilty?
Lolita: Well, congratulations. I don't suppose it ever occurred to you that when you moved into our house, my whole world didn't revolve around you. You see, I'd had a crush on him ever since the times that he used to come and visit mother. He wasn't like you and me. He wasn't a normal person. He was a genius. He had a kind of, uh, beautiful, Japanese, Oriental philosophy of life. You know that hotel that we stopped at on the way back from camp. Well, it was just by accident that he was staying there. But it didn't take him long to figure out what was going on between us. And from that moment on, he was up to every brilliant trick he could think of.
Humbert: And he did all these brilliant tricks for the sheer fun of tormenting me?
Lolita: Well, sometimes he had to. Like the German psychologist bit. He had to trick you into letting me be in his play. Otherwise, how would I ever get to see him?
Humbert: So that's why you wanted to be in the play.
Lolita: That's right.
Humbert: And all those afternoons you were supposed to be practicing the piano, you were actually with this man?
Lolita: Hmm, hmm. I guess he was the only guy I was ever really crazy about.
Humbert: Aren't you forgetting something? (referring to her husband)
Lolita: Oh, Dick. Dick's very sweet. We're very happy together, but I guess it's just not the same thing.
Humbert: (hurt) And I? I suppose I never counted, of course.
Lolita: You have no right to say that. After all, the past is the past.

Characteristically, Lolita doesn't even recognize or acknowledge his hurt feelings about the past. Humbert pathetically wishes to inquire further about the 'genius' Quilty and the attraction she had for him. He learns of Quilty's degenerate way of life and his Bohemian, "art movie" friends:

Humbert: What happened to this Oriental-minded genius?
Lolita: Look, don't make fun of me. I don't have to tell you a blasted thing.
Humbert: I am not making fun of you. I am merely trying to find out what happened. When you left the hospital, where did he take you?
Lolita: To New a dude ranch near Santa Fe. The only problem with it was, he had such a bunch of weird friends staying there...painters, nudists, writers, weight lifters. But I figured I could take anything for a couple of weeks because I loved him and he was on his way to Hollywood to write one of those spectaculars, and he promised to get me a studio contract. But it never turned out that way and instead, he wanted me to cooperate with the others making some kind of a, you know, an art movie.
Humbert: An art movie?...And you did it?
Lolita: (snapping back crisply) No, I didn't do it. And so he kicked me out.
Humbert: You could have come back to me.

Lolita, robbed of her childhood and youth by both Humbert's affections and Quilty's exploitative, sordid relationship, doesn't answer.

Her husband, speaking in a Western drawl, is pleased to meet her "stepfather": "Gee, uh, Lo's told me so much about ya...This is a grand surprise, Professor. When you didn't answer the letter, we were afraid that you were still sore at Lo for having run away from home." Dick, wearing a hearing aid, sits with one leg up on the couch, and drinks a can of beer with Lolita. She leans up against him with her legs also stretched out on the couch. Lolita discourages her husband's generous hospitality to invite his step-father-in-law to stay for a few days: "I hope you're planning on staying awhile...You can have the bed upstairs. We sleep down here cause Lo likes to watch the TVee." She emphatically decides: "He can't stay, Dick."

A good-natured and -hearted husband, he rambles on about a "marvelous opportunity" in Alaska for employment: "An opportunity for a guy like me to get in on the ground floor where industry's opening up. And if we can scrape together enough money with, with maybe your help, well, we can go. We got a few back debts. We kinda over-extended ourselves." Of course, their plan for moving to a new home is contingent upon Humbert's financial support. The dull but "sweet" Dick makes an ironic blunder: "She's sure a swell kid, Professor Haze. She sure is, she's just nuts about dogs and kids. She's gonna make a swell mother too."

Dick returns to his work outdoors and Humbert is left alone with Lolita. His last chance, Humbert pulls Lolita over to the door and window seat, making a final plea to rescue her from her shabby, bland existence in a hovel (with her superficial husband) and return to their own world of the past. He tragically begs her to come back to him - as sentimentally-romantic, melancholy piano music plays on the soundtrack:

Humbert: This may be neither here nor there, but I've got to say it. Life is very short. Between here and that old car outside is twenty-five paces. Make them now, right now...Come away with me now, just as you are.
Lolita: (cynically) Oh, you mean you'll give us the money only if I go to a hotel with you.
Humbert: (desperately trying to have her understand) No, you've got it all wrong. I want you to leave your husband and this awful house. I want you to live with me and die with me, and EVERYTHING with me.
Lolita: You must be crazy!
Humbert: I'm perfectly serious, Lo. I've never been less crazy in all my life. We'll start a-fresh. We can forget everything that has happened.
Lolita: No, it's too late.
Humbert: No, it's not too late...don't tell me that it's too late because it's not too late. If you want time to think it over, that's perfectly all right with me, because I've waited already for three years and I think I could wait for the rest of my life if necessary. You're not giving anything up. There's nothing here to keep you...You're not bound to him in any way, as you are bound to me by everything that we have lived through together - you and I.
Lolita: I'm going to have his baby in three months...I've wrecked too many things in my life. I can't do that to him. He needs me. (Humbert places his head in his hands and begins to sob uncontrollably) (She scolds him) Oh, come on, now don't make a scene. Stop crying! He could walk in here at any minute. Will you please stop crying?

Humbert expresses his genuine love and sacrifice for Lolita. A broken man, he poignantly reaches for his money and through his halting voice, he explains the financial details while crying and handing over $400 in cash, a check for $2,500, and a mortgage document (from her mother's estate) worth about $10,000:

Humbert: There are no strings attached. It's only money anyway. It comes from the rent of the house - that's four hundred dollars in cash...I made out a check here for two thousand, five hundred dollars. There's someone in Ramsdale who's prepared to take care of the mortgage of the house. There's the downpayment. That's the payment.
Lolita: (astonished and concerned) You mean we're getting thirteen thousand dollars? Wonderful. Oh, come on now, don't cry. I'm sorry. Try to understand. I'm really sorry that I cheated so much, but I guess that's just the way things are.

When she lightly touches his hand, he wants to avert his tears from her sight. Overcome, he stands clumsily and rushes for the door and his car. At the door with the wad of cash in her hand, Lolita calls out: "Hey, well listen, let's keep in touch, huh? I'll write to you when we get to Alaska."

Ending and Epilogue:

The film returns to the first scene, in which Humbert's car drives headlong into the fog toward Quilty's mansion - he is insanely motivated to commit murder for Quilty's duplicity and his part in seducing, running off and abandoning Lolita. With repeated footage of Humbert making his way through the statues and evidence of a drunken orgy, the emotional piano music swells throughout the scene. The scene fades to black as Humbert calls out: "Quilty! Quilty!" The ending shot is another view of the portrait with a bullet hole through the face of a young girl - symbolic of the irrecoverably-marked life of Lolita. An epilogue rolls up the screen:

Humbert Humbert died of coronary thrombosis in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Clare Quilty.

Previous Page