Sunday, June 27, 2021

Moby Dick at Sixty-Five!

Sixty-five years ago today - 27th June 1956 - John Huston's film version of Moby Dick was released, with a screenplay co-written by Ray Bradbury. As regular readers of Bradburymedia will be aware, Ray's experience of working on this film cast a very long shadow.

Bradbury became somewhat obsessive over Herman Melville's story, and was driven to write his own prose version of Moby Dick in the form of Leviathan '99, which was initially a radio play, then a stage play and opera, and eventually a novella.

Bradbury's time in Ireland working on the script inspired him to write a number of Irish stories, initially as short plays and later as short stories. He later gathered up all of his Irish tales and laced them together with fictionalised recollections of his working with Huston, in the novel Green Shadows, White Whale.

Over the years, as I've researched the making of Moby Dick, I've blogged a number of times on different aspects of the film, so here's a selection of posts:

Bradbury's time in Ireland was really quite brief - less than a year - but he became very attached to the city of Dublin and its surroundings. Here's my attempt to follow in Bradbury's footsteps as I wandered around the Irish capital.

Bradbury left Ireland before the filming of Moby Dick began. As far as I know, he never saw any of the Irish locations used in the film. The small town of Youghal was one of the key locations, representing New Bedford in the film. In this post, I show how Youghal still shows distinct evidence of Moby Dick's presence.

Naturally, Moby Dick is full of symbolism of whales and fish. This simple post collects some of the key fishy moments from the film.

There has been some dispute over who exactly wrote what for the Moby Dick screenplay. Bradbury claimed to have written most of it, and fought against Huston's claim of half the screenplay credit. Rumours also circulate that Roald Dahl and others had a hand in the script (Dahl's own account says that he spent very little time on it, and didn't contribute a word). And Orson Welles - famed for re-writing any role he was asked to play - claimed to have written his own lines for the part of Father Mapple. In this post, I dig into Welles' lines and establish the truth of that particular claim.

Bradbury put a lot of detail into his script which Huston eventually removed or ignored. But in this post, I look at a detail which Huston kept, even modifying an existing building to accommodate it in the movie.

Finally, Ray Bradbury wasn't the only person to have a run-in with the larger-than-life Huston. In this post, I run through some of the other writers who fictionalised Huston or otherwise incorporated him into their recollections.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Bradbury's "Witch" Ancestor

It seems to be quite well known that Ray Bradbury's ancestry can be traced to back to Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was charged with witchcraft at Salem in 1692. Sam Weller's biography of Ray, The Bradbury Chronicles, gives a couple of pages to this, and it's referred to elsewhere. But did Ray know about this ancestry, and did he ever write about Mary?

The answer to both questions is a definite yes. In 1955, Stanley J. Kunitz published a first revision to Twentieth Centry Authors, and it includes an article on Bradbury written by Ray himself. This was Bradbury at the peak of his early fame as a writer. He had several books out, including his masterwork Fahrenheit 451 (1953), was writing for television, and had completed his arduous stint as the screenwriter of Moby Dick (which would be released in 1956). At the time of the article, he would have been grappling with his manuscript for Dandelion Wine (which would be published in 1957), while also working on a script treatment for Gene Kelly - The Dark Carnival, which would eventually emerge as the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).

The short article - you can see the whole thing below - refers to Bradbury's belief that writers shouldn't slant their work to a particular market, but should write freely and let the work find an an appropriate outlet. It also refers to his belief that science fiction and fantasy "offer the liveliest, freshest approaches" to the problems of the modern world.

And it refers to Mary Perkins Bradbury, to whom Bradbury attributes his belief in "freedom from fear [...] and thought control".

...for which we should, I suppose, say, "Thank you, Mary Perkins Bradbury."

(And my thanks to Hugh, whose question about Mary prompted me to write this post!)

You can find out more about Bradbury's ancestry in this (very old) blog post of mine



If you click on these images, they should embiggen.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Science Fiction 101

My other podcast, which I co-host with Colin Kuskie, is Science Fiction 101. It's a general SF show, with talk about books, short stories, films, TV and more. I even mention Ray Bradbury from time to time (try and stop me!)

In the latest episode, I put Colin on the spot with some fiendish quiz questions, we review two of the Nebula Award short stories, and give our usual run-through of what appeals to us in past, present or future science fiction.

You can pick us up via your podcast app - we're on all the major platforms, and quite a few minor ones. And you can listen via the website: