Thursday, March 06, 2014

Directing SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

For my PhD thesis (forever a work in progress...) I am currently studying Something Wicked This Way Comes. You may know it as a 1962 novel by Ray Bradbury. Or a 1983 film scripted by Ray Bradbury. But its origins go right back to the 1940s with a short story called "The Black Ferris", and its development continued well into the 2000s with Bradbury's stage play version.

It's something you might call Bradbury's life work...

As part of my research, I've been tracking the changes in all the different versions - including a number of screenplay versions which have neither been filmed nor published. Along the way, I've been keeping tally of who might have directed the Something Wicked movie at various points in history. Here's a quick summary. (If you also follow me on Facebook, you may have seen me post this on there recently.)

People who might have directed SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, if things had played out slightly differently...


No. 1: Gene Kelly, pictured here directing the "Circus" section of INVITATION TO THE DANCE - the film which triggered Ray Bradbury's creating SOMETHING WICKED in the first place!





No. 2: Blake Edwards, who said he wanted to do it, but never seemed to take any steps towards it.




No. 3: Federico Fellini, who Ray Bradbury asked a producer to consider, given Fellini's apparent interest in similar themes. Fellini is pictured here on the set of LA STRADA with Richard Basehart (who performed in the Bradbury-scripted film version of MOBY DICK around the same time as this).

Bradbury subsequently realised that, as a writer-director auteur, Fellini would have little use for a Bradbury script - but the two would meet and become good friends, although they never worked together.




No. 4: Sam Peckinpah. According to Bradbury, Peckinpah's method of filming SOMETHING WICKED was to be as follows: "Rip the pages out of the book and stuff them into the camera". Given that Peckinpah was himself a writer, and had a habit of re-writing the scripts he directed, I suspect that it might not have been so straightforward. Bradbury wrote at last one complete screenplay version of SOMETHING WICKED for Peckinpah, but the production didn't come together.




No. 5: Ray Bradbury! After deciding that he and Fellini wouldn't be compatible, Bradbury seriously proposed directing the film himself. He would tentatively consider directing again later in his career, but didn't get round to it.







And finally, the person who DID direct SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)...



Jack Clayton.

Ray Bradbury and Jack Clayton had been friends since Bradbury's visit to England in the 1950s. For decades they had talked about working together, but were unable to find anything that worked for both of them. Clayton rejected THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, saying that he liked the book but it wasn't the kind of film he felt he could make. Given that one of Clayton's great successes was THE INNOCENTS (based on TURN OF THE SCREW), it should have been obvious that he was a perfect match for SOMETHING WICKED.

SOMETHING WICKED got off to a false start with Clayton as director, and the production nearly evaporated like so many other Hollywood projects. Eventually, it got back on track and was finally made, with ANOTHER Bradbury screenplay.

The Bradbury-Clayton relationship, cordial for decades, was unfortunately soured when Clayton had Bradbury's script re-written (without his knowledge or permission). RUMPOLE creator John Mortimer was Clayton's uncredited script doctor.

When SOMETHING WICKED was previewed, the audience didn't respond well, causing Disney to re-work the film. With Bradbury's involvement (and with Clayton effectively sidelined), new material was shot - which is why the two child stars inexplicably age in a couple of scenes - some visual effects were added, and a new music score was commissioned.

The film, then, was a compromise. But it might have been similarly compromised with Gene Kelly, Blake Edwards, Sam Peckinpah or Federico Fellini at the helm!

Jack Clayton is pictured here on the streets of "Green Town, Illinois" during the making of the film.



 

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