Sag Harbor’s Starring Role in ‘Lolita’

Bert Stern, "Head Back Lolita," 1961.

On Friday, September 24, Keyes Art and Sag Harbor Cinema will present “Bert Stern Loves Sag Harbor,” a photography exhibition of Sue Lyon in her Lolita character with the backdrop of Sag Harbor as provocatively captured by master photographer Bert Stern, followed by a screening of “Lolita,” Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel.

The opening reception at Keyes Art, 49 Main Street at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, is from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, September 24. The “Lolita” screening follows at 7:15 p.m. at the Sag Harbor Cinema, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor.

Stanley Kubrick and Bert Stern created the first visual of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel “Lolita.” The book tells the story of a middle-aged university professor who moves from Europe to America in 1947, where he becomes obsessed with a young girl, Dolores Haze (played by 14-year-old Sue Lyon). Adapting the novel in the restrictive conditions of film censorship in the early 1960s, Kubrick modified several features of a script Nabokov wrote himself, including Lolita’s age and how explicit the graphic nature of their relationship becomes.

Kubrick asked his friend Bert Stern to photograph Lyon when he realized he needed promotional shots of her for the film and, in so doing, expanding the mythos of the “Lolita look” at Sag Harbor’s American Hotel and Baron’s Cove with props, including the iconic heart-shaped sunglasses, that he purchased at the local variety store.

The film split critics, but earned an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay. Brendan Gill, of The New Yorker, wrote, “Kubrick is wonderfully self-confident; his camera having conveyed to us within the first five minutes that it can perform any wonders its master may require of it, he proceeds to offer us a succession of scenes broadly sketched and broadly acted for laughs, and laugh we do, no matter how morbid the circumstances.”

The film enjoys a lasting legacy, including a 1998 remake and praise from distinguished filmmakers. David Lynch cites Kubrick’s “Lolita” as one of his favorite films, saying, “I don’t know what words I would use but it’s a story about, I guess, a time in America and it’s got cynicism swimming in there for sure. It’s very funny, but it catches […] hidden things. [It’s] an absurd story, but incredible performances and it touches on so many truthful things.”

“Bert Stern Loves Sag Harbor” will be on view at Keyes Art from September 24 to October 8. For more information on the show, visit Tickets to the screening can be purchased through Sag Harbor Cinema’s website,