I saw my dear friend Ray Bradbury on Monday, and it was a wonderful time, as ever. We sat together in his sitting room crammed full of mementos from his career, glorious original Joe Mugnaini artwork from his books framed on the walls, the Emmy he won for HALLOWEEN TREE and his smoky-streaked cat perched on trays before him.
For Christmas I gave Ray a DVD of INK, a marvelous film I recently saw that was written and directed by Jamin Winans and produced by his wife Kiowa. A low-budget treasure, the film is a fresh and thrilling fantasy about the war between beings who bring us dreams and those who bring us nightmares – that, and so much more. It can now be seen streaming on NETFLIX and HULU, so I invite you to check it out.
Getting back to Ray, he’s still as miraculous as ever, writing new books at 89, full of life and joy and a loving heart. We sat and reminisced, with Ray telling me of the time he first arrived in Los Angeles at age 13, from Waukegen, Illinois, by way of Phoenix, Arizona. His first day, he rollerskated to a movie premiere where he saw Irving Thalberg, then head of MGM, emerge from a limousine, followed by his wife Norma Shearer, one of the era’s great movie stars.
The next day, Ray rollerskated to Paramount, where he saw W.C. Fields emerging. Ray asked Fields for an autograph, which Fields dutifully signed, then handed back to him, saying, “There you are, you little son of a bitch.”
Ray recalled that once he was grown and started making a name for himself, he met Aldous Huxley, the great author of BRAVE NEW WORLD.
“Do you know what you are, Mr. Bradbury?” Huxley asked him.
“No,” Ray replied.
“You, sir, are a poet.”
Ray also told me of the time he first arrived in Ireland to write the script for MOBY DICK for John Huston. Seeing Laurel and Hardy – two of his heroes (and mine) — were performing live onstage, Ray bought the last available ticket… and found to his delight he was sitting front row center! He sat through the entire show with tears streaming down his face.
After MOBY DICK came out, Ray was inundated with offers to write other movies, all of which he declined, choosing instead to write books (“No one ever remembered who wrote a movie,” he noted). Sometime later, he was walking down the street and saw that the movie theaters on either side were showing all the films he’d turned down.
One of these was FORBIDDEN PLANET. “If they’d told me about the Monster from the Id, I might’ve said yes,” Ray related. “But I hated Robby the Robot.”
Ray showed me the galleys for THE COMPLETE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, which I’ve written an introduction for. It’s such an honor to have my name on a title page along with Ray’s!
The book will be out soon from Subterranean Press and will be quite expensive. I’m glad they’re sending me a copy!
I told Ray that a director friend of mine is building a rocket ship in his back yard to shoot a movie he’s making called OFF WORLD. This reminded me of “The Rocket,” a classis story Ray wrote long ago of a lower-class working man who builds a rocket from junkyard parts to take his delighted kids on a journey to outer space. In the end, we learn he’s faked the entire journey, to leave his children with a memory that will last a lifetime.
EC comics artist Joe Orlando did a great job of illustrating the story when it was adapted for WEIRD SCIENCE. Ray’s always been a great fan of comics, film and TV and loves seeing adaptations of his work, when they’re done well. We also talked of producer Norman Lloyd, who hired Ray to adapt several of his stories for the Alfred Hitchcock TV show.
I mentioned the terrific and creepy version they did of his story “The Jar,” starring Jane Darwell from GRAPES OF WRATH. It sends a shiver up my spine even now.
At the end of the visit, Ray told me to come around more often. What a blessing to have such a friend….
Have a great holiday, and we’ll talk again soon.
All good thoughts your way,