Way Down in the Trenches


I either never knew or had forgotten that Paths of Glory, one of Stanley Kubrick's best films, was based on a novel. The book in question, written by Humphrey Cobb and first published in 1935, is now back in print with a new introduction by Wire creator David Simon.

Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Michael Sragow explores Simon's passion for the story, and for the humanistic, anti-authoritarian ideals that animate it:

A few years ago, exasperated by interviewers who viewed Season 5 of "The Wire" strictly as a roman a clef about The Baltimore Sun, Simon told a reporter that "the film template in his head" was actually "the most important political film of the 20th century, which is 'Paths of Glory.'" Simon said it spoke more eloquently than any other picture "to the essential triumph of institutions over individuals and … to the fundamental inhumanity of the 20th century and beyond."

He said his dramatic models for The Sun's top editors—and for key powers at City Hall and the port of Baltimore—were the generals in Kubrick's movie…."You can't help but love those characters," Simon says, "because they embody so much of what goes on in institutions. They're utterly invested in the status quo unless they see an advantage to themselves. They operate on the pain-pleasure principle: Anything that gives me pleasure is good, anything that gives me pain is bad."