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.

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