Spent the afternoon with Ray Bradbury this past Monday and it was marvelous, as always.
We sat in the back room of his house, which is filled to bursting with his books, awards, original artwork from his works, amazing, amazing.
He asked what I was working on, and I told him I was just now determining which screenplay I’ll write next, with a mind toward directing it. I mentioned one story I’d been working on – one he quite liked – and he said, “If you don’t write that first, I will.” Great praise indeed.
I’d attended his play RAY BRADBURY’S WISDOM – 2116 a few weekends back, which proved to be a marvlously inventive musical derived from his MARIONETTES, INC. stories. Ray had originally written the piece for the great actor Charles Laughton and his wife Elsa Lanchester (best known as the Bride of Frankenstein) over fifty years ago, with FRANKENSTEIN director James Whale intended to direct it in on stage. But when Whale died plans were scrubbed. But Ray had also done some set designs for that project, and these were resurrected for the new version, which was dedicated to Laughton and Elsa.
With that in mind, I brought Ray a DVD of THE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, the great 1933 movie based on H.G. Wells’ ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, with Laughton unforgettable as Moreau.
Ray was delighted with the gift and told me of when Laughton took him to Disneyland for the first time in 1956, one year after the park’s opening. Laughton took him on the Peter Pan ride first, and Ray noted that as they moved through the park the crowd parted for Laughton like the Red Sea. And when the two boarded the boat for the Jungle Ride, Laughton immediately became Captain Bligh (his classic role from MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY) and threatened to keelhaul everybody!
Ray also told me of the time he met James Dean in person, also in 1956, at a screening of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. He told his companion, “I see suicide in him.” “What do you mean?” “I see it in all of him, in his eyes, in the touch of his hand. He’ll be dead within a year.” And so he was, in a fatal highway crash.
Ray’s working on a new book of short stories and will be having another signing at MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION BOOKSTORE in Glendale in two weeks. Not too shabby for an 89-year-old.
But then I think the truth lies in something Ray told me not too long ago. “I have a secret to tell you,” he said and gestured for me to lean in close. Then exulting he said, “I’m thirteen years old!”
True, wonderfully true…