Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bradbury's drafts

It's a good job that I like reading film scripts... I've lately been working through all of Ray Bradbury's script versions of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Although he didn't see it as such, this was a monster project, started as an outline for Gene Kelly in 1954, and then developed through at least five stages of work:
  1. an almost full script c.1960;
  2. re-writing it as the novel published in 1962;
  3. writing an entirely new script based on the novel for Twentieth Century-Fox in 1973;
  4. substantially revising and reducing the script for Jack Clayton in 1976;
  5. re-working it again in 1981 for Disney, again with Jack Clayton.
When the film was finally made (and released in 1983) it was from Bradbury's screenplay, but with uncredited script doctoring by John Mortimer of Rumpole fame. After supposedly disastrous previews - I say "supposedly", because I never trust reports that a film did badly in previews - Disney went into damage-limitation and spent a year on re-editing and re-shooting.

The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies holds manuscripts of most of Bradbury's script work on this project. These are the folders for the 1973 and 1976 screenplays. The Bryna Company is Kirk Douglas's production company, which teamed up with Disney for the 1983 film.






(Photos by Phil Nichols, courtesy of the Bradbury Memorial Archive, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Center for Ray Bradbury Studies

What with posting here on Bradburymedia and posting on Facebook, and bits and pieces for various other websites I contribute to, it's easy to lose track of what information I have posted where. Yesterday I realised I hadn't posted anything here about my latest visit to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, Indianapolis. I spent three weeks there during March/April, and could have done with three or four more.

This is what I wrote about my visit on my Facebook page. Apologies if this seems familiar (especially to anyone reading this blog post on Facebook, who may have already seen this before...):

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Just finishing up after three weeks spent at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. For the final phase of my PhD research I was given unique access to the new materials recently shipped to the Center: the manuscripts and other materials from Ray Bradbury's basement office.

This photo shows just one drawer of one cabinet. There are 31 cabinets, and I browsed every one, checking and annotating the Center's inventory as I went.

There are also dozens and dozens of boxes, but three weeks isn't enough to have looked through those.

I found what I was looking for, and much much more. But every drawer was a surprise. Just when you think you know the works of Ray Bradbury, you discover ANOTHER variation on a familiar work. I lost count of the number of adaptations of DANDELION WINE, and the number of screenplay versions of THE FOX AND THE FOREST.

Some time in the next couple of years, these materials will be fully catalogued and made accessible to researchers, but for now they are in temporary storage. I am enormously grateful to Prof Jon Eller for allowing me such privileged access while the materials are still in this state.

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If you haven't already found me on Facebook, please seek me out here.

I'm also managing the Facebook page for the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which you can find here. Please visit, and "like" our new page!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

50th Anniversary of the 1964 New York World's Fair

Ray Bradbury conceived and scripted the United States Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair, which opened in New York fifty years ago today.

A detailed description of the experience/ride with its "moving grandstands" can be found on the excellent NYWF64.com website, here.

The same website also reproduces Bradbury's text for the US Pavilion, here.

The same text would appear as an article entitled "Taming the American Wilderness" in The Daily Californian Weekly Magazine on 5 November 1968, but without any reference to the World's Fair.

It was the first of many Bradbury excursions into writing for events, exhibitions and rides, including some for Disney, the California Air and Space Museum, and IMAX Ridefilm.

On my recent trip to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis, I found Bradbury's scripts for all of these, including the New York World's Fair script:



Monday, April 21, 2014

Bradbury Gets Two Retro-Hugo Nominations

Between 1938 and 1941, Ray Bradbury emerged as a significant voice in the developing world of science fiction fandom. Now, seventy-five years after the first World Science Fiction Convention, his early contributions to the field are recognised in not one, but two nominations in the Retro Hugo Awards, which this year are being given for works first published in the year 1938. The Award winners will be announced at the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention in London.

Bradbury's 1938 fanzine short story "Hollerbochen's Dilemma" - which appears in the appendix of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition, Vol. I - is among the nominees for Best Short Story of 1938, where Bradbury is in competition with writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, L. Sprague de Camp and Lester Del Rey.

His second nomination is in the category of Best Fan Writer, which recognises his contributions to various fanzines, although his own fanzine Futuria Fantasia wouldn't see publication until mid-1939, outside the nomination window for this round of Retro Hugos. Details of all the Hugo Award nominations, including the Retro Hugos, can be found here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ray Bradbury's favourite films (1993)

Ray Bradbury was in love with movies. He claimed to have vivid memories of the entire film of the Lon Chaney Hunchback of Notre Dame - from seeing it in a cinema with his mother when he was three years old in 1923.

Later in life he took to writing scripts for television and film, and actively tried to get his books and stories to leading film-makers, in the hope of collaborating with them. Among those he would approach were David Lean, Carol Reed, Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg.

As an active member of the screenwriter's guild, in the 1950s he was instrumental in establishing and running a film club for screenwriters, a venture he undertook because he was astonished by the number of Hollywood screenwriters who were not well versed in the latest film releases.

In 1993, the American Film Institute ran a season of films selected from Bradbury's list of favourites. In the brochure for the event, they posted the full list. Here's what the Ray Bradbury of 1993 considered to be his favourites, listed "in the order in which he first saw them".

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
  • The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  • The Lost World (1925)
  • The Black Pirate (1926)
  • The Mummy (1932)
  • The Skeleton Dance (1929, short animated film)
  • King Kong (1933)
  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)
  • The Old Mill (1937, short animated film)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
  • Fantasia (1940)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Rebecca (1940)
  • Things to Come (1936)
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  • The Third Man (1949)
  • Some Like it Hot (1959)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • Moby Dick (1956)
  • Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

As you can see, the films of his formative years hold most of the places in this list of favourites. And Bradbury somewhat immodestly includes three films (the last three) that he had connections with: he wrote the screenplay for Moby Dick and Something Wicked This Way Comes; and both Something Wicked and Fahrenheit 451 were based on novels by Bradbury. His inclusion of the latter two films is significant, as by the mid-2000s he would speak openly of his feeling of being betrayed by Jack Clayton in the making of Something Wicked, and would accuse Francois Truffaut of "ruining" Fahrenheit 451. His inclusion of the two films is a reminder that, for some time, he had genuine affection for them.

The AFI brochure includes a few comments from Bradbury on his selections. Of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he is quoted as saying "it caused me to walk strangely for months." The brochure goes on to say that Bradbury "sat through a whole program of films three time just to see [The Skeleton Dance] again and again."

As for Things to Come, Bradbury is quoted as saying it "so stunned me that I staggered forth to attack my typewriter, fearful that the Future would never come if I didn't make it." And of The Third Man: "If I were teaching cinema, The Third Man would be the first film I would screen to show students exquisite writing, casting, directing, composing and editing."

Finally, of the mighty King Kong, the AFI quotes Bradbury as follows: "When Kong fell off the Empire State he landed on me. Crawling out from under his carcass I carried on a lifelong love affair with that fifty-foot ape."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Illustrated WOMAN

Many people are familiar with Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man - but not so many know of "The Illustrated Woman". It's a short story which first appeared in Playboy in March 1961, and concerns a woman who is covered with tattoos... or is she?

Today, you can find the story in the Bradbury collections The Machineries of Joy and The Stories of Ray Bradbury, but here is how she looked in magazine publication. (Click to make her even more immense!)



Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN on Film

The Illustrated Man is one of Ray Bradbury's finest short story collections, first published in 1951. Bradbury wrote a number of screen adaptations based on the book, starting in 1960 - and ending in the mid 2000s. In each case, he selected a few of his short stories to make a portmanteau film - making the selection not just from The Illustrated Man book, but from across his whole body of short stories - and then wrote framing scenes involving the character of the tattooed man.

For various reasons, his own scripts were not filmed. But in 1969, Warner Bros released a feature film based on the book, written by somebody else (Howard Kreitsek) and starring Rod Steiger. The film is oddly incoherent, so much so that some reviewers have called it surreal. My own view is that they are mistaking incoherence for surrealism! Bradbury always maintained that the screenplay was written by a real estate agent, which might explain its incompetence.

Director Jack Smight probably did the best he could with the materials he had to hand, and managed to make the linking scenes with the tattooed Steiger moderately interesting, although they have little in common with the linking scenes in Bradbury's book.

Here is the programme/press book from the 1969 screening of the film. Click on the images to enlarge.





Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sunday, April 06, 2014

From the Bradburymedia Archive: THE WORLD OF RAY BRADBURY

This is the programme from a Pandemonium Theatre production of The World of Ray Bradbury. The cover art contains clues to the one-act plays making up the production. As usual, I highly recommend that you click to embiggen!