Bradbury in Hollywood

May 8, 2020 by

When his mother introduced him to the motion picture at the age of three — they saw Lon Chaney as THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME — Ray Bradbury should have been a perfect fit for Hollywood. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case.

Ray Bradbury made his first professional sale in 1941, a collaboration with Henry Hasse that sold to SUPER SCIENCE STORIES. Within five years, his stories were being adapted for the mass medium – not Hollywood – but radio. NBC’s MOLLÉ MYSTERY THEATRE broadcast “Killer Come Back To Me” on May 17, 1946. Originally appearing in the July 1944 issue of Popular Publications’ DETECTIVE TALES, the novella was one of the young author’s first sales to the detective pulps. The issue featured cover art by Rafael DeSoto.

The NBC radio drama was followed over the years by adaptations on SUSPENSE, RADIO CITY PLAYHOUSE, ESCAPE and DIMENSION X. A 1950 – 51 NBC science fiction program, DIMENSION X was one of the first weekly “adult” science fiction anthology programs to be featured on radio. Considering that Bradbury’s stories were adapted for ten of its fifty episodes, his work was almost certainly admired by the creators and listeners of DIMENSION X.

Ray Bradbury had not yet written FAHRENHEIT 451 nor assembled DANDELION WINE — two of his finest works — when his work and DIMENSION X caught the attention of Hollywood. George Pal used the radio program to promote his 1950 science fiction film, DESTINATION MOON. The film was also adapted by the NBC radio drama. A few years later, Harry Essex wrote the screenplay for IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, largely following the shot sequence and the dialog from Bradbury’s original screen treatment.  A sequence in the Warner Brothers film, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, was tenuously based on Bradbury’s short story of the same title. It had been published in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST for June 23, 1951. John Huston’s 1956 film adaptation of Herman Melville’s MOBY DICK is essentially the work of Ray Bradbury.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Bradbury’s stories were also adapted for television, including a few teleplays by Bradbury himself. Among the notables were ABC’s live TALES OF TOMORROW, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, and an original Christmas story for television’s STEVE CANYON. In 1961, Alfred Hitchcock secretly produced an hour-long television pilot, “The Jail,” another original by Bradbury for television. Unfortunately, the program never found a sponsor.

Rod Serling successfully launched his science fiction and fantasy classic, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, in 1959. The CBS program certain owed a lot to Bradbury, who recommended both Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson to Serling. Bradbury also wrote several scripts for the series, although only one was produced. Unfortunately, the show spawned a good deal of professional jealousy between the two talented scribes.

Several years after the brilliant adaptations of Ray Bradbury’s “The Jar” and “The Life Work of Juan Diaz” for THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR in 1964, Francois Truffaut directed FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966) and Jack Smight brought THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (1969) to life on celluloid. In 1980, Bradbury’s friend, Richard Matheson wrote the script for THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, an NBC miniseries that ran in 1980. Disney released SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES in 1983. The final release features re-shoots that were co-directed by Bradbury. More recently, THE SOUND OF THUNDER — based on the author’s 1952 short story of the same title — was considered to be one of the worst films of 2005.

Perhaps the most successful filmed adaptations of his work were THE RAY BRADBURY THEATERa Canadian-produced anthology series scripted by the author that ran on HBO and the USA Network from 1985 through 1992 — and THE HALLOWEEN TREE, an animated film produced by Hanna-Barbera for TBS. Bradbury received an Emmy Award for the latter in 1994.

To extensively cover the cinematic achievements of Ray Bradbury in less than an hour would require the imaginary visions of Bradbury’s time-travel concepts. Author Martin Grams, Jr. will present some of the highlights from the Hollywood career of Ray Bradbury featuring never-published archival materials. He’ll discuss Bradbury’s ten-year lawsuit against CBS for an unauthorized and uncredited adaptation of FAHRENHEIT 451 for PLAYHOUSE 90, examine the professional differences between Bradbury and Rod Serling, and more.

Join Martin at 9:30 PM on Friday, August 7, for “Bradbury in Hollywood,” one of the many informative and entertaining presentations planned for PulpFest 2020.

(Martin Grams, Jr. was 18 years old when he published his first book, a history of the radio/TV series, SUSPENSE. Since then, he has authored or co-authored over thirty books; contributed chapters, essays and appendices for numerous books; and written magazine articles for FILMFAX, SCARLET STREET, and Ed Hulse’s BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, to name just a few. He is the founder and organizer of the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, a three-day festival featuring Hollywood celebrities signing autographs, vendors offering vintage memorabilia and collectibles, seminars and more.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)


Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen

Jun 7, 2019 by

Join PulpFest 2019 on Thursday, August 15, as we welcome pulp and film expert Ed Hulse for “Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen.” Ed will be debuting a book of the same title at our convention. Having spent decades researching the pulp-film nexus, Ed has shared his findings in a comprehensive encyclopedia that covers many hundreds of movies adapted from rough-paper fiction.

The motion-picture industry was still in its infancy when producers began licensing stories from pulp magazines for adaptation to celluloid. As early as 1912 — when movies were still novelties, screened primarily in store-front nickelodeons — recurring characters from the pulps were featured in short-subject series. That year the Edison Company enjoyed great success with THE CHRONICLES OF CLEEK. These monthly one-reel installments starred Ben Wilson as Thomas A. Hanshew’s “Man of Forty Faces,” a character then appearing regularly in the pulp SHORT STORIES.

Edison’s Cleek series was typical film fare of the day. During the silent movie era, a one-reel short yielded 12 to 15 minutes of screen time — just enough to tell a perfunctory story that might consume 5,000 to 10,000 words in prose. Nickelodeons ran “programs” that grouped four or five such films together. They changed their programs three to five times per week.

With filmmakers under constant pressure to satisfy thrill-hungry viewers, there was a huge market for adaptable yarns. Producers obtained stories from pulps and slicks alike. The two magazines most frequently tapped for material during the pre-1920 period were THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and THE ALL-STORY or ALL-STORY WEEKLY. During this period, many top pulp writers saw their rough-paper fiction immortalized on celluloid. This august group included Max Brand, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Allan England, Zane Grey, James B. Hendryx, Johnston McCulley, Frank L. Packard, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Perley Poore Sheehan, among others.

By 1920, the motion-picture industry had mushroomed. Lavish downtown “picture palaces” replaced the seedy nickelodeons, and practically every small town in the country boasted its own movie theater. Production, initially based on the East Coast, gravitated to Hollywood. Wall Street began investing in the most profitable studios. Weekly attendance soared to 40 million people and would continue to grow throughout the Roaring Twenties. Melodramas were second only to comedies as the most popular and profitable screen subjects. This meant that westerns, thrillers, and detective stories were in constant demand. Writers specializing in these genres could usually find a producer to license their pulp yarns if they looked hard (or had aggressive literary agents).

The demand for pulp fiction lessened somewhat as “talking pictures” took over the movie business in the late twenties. As the Great Depression began to affect American consumers, Hollywood was hard hit. In order to compete for the dimes and quarters that bought tickets, the studios increasingly adapted famous stage plays and mainstream novels. Such stories were carried by dialogue, rather than the melodramatic action of the sort found in rough-paper magazines. The Thirties still saw a significant number of pulp-based films, but they were increasingly low-budget “B” pictures and serials emanating from the Poverty Row studios.

Prominent pulp characters brought to the silver screen were Tarzan, Zorro, Buck Rogers, Sam Spade, The Shadow, The Spider, Doc Savage, Conan the Barbarian, and John Carter of Mars, to name just a few. But there were many others not easily recognizable to today’s aficionados. Ed will identify many of these in his presentation, which will be accompanied by a selection of rare stills and posters from the films.

A journalist for nearly forty years, Ed Hulse has written or edited many books about vintage motion pictures and their stars, as well as numerous books about pulp fiction. He was the editor and publisher of BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, the award-winning journal devoted to the study of adventure, mystery, and melodrama of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at this year’s convention. Please click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(THE MARK OF ZORRO — a 1920 silent — is the first of three adaptations of Johnston McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano.” It was serialized in five parts in ALL-STORY WEEKLY, beginning with the August 9, 1919 issue. Starring Douglas Fairbanks as the title character and his alter ego, THE MARK OF ZORRO was the first film to be released by United Artists, the company formed by Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith. The film’s advertising prominently mentioned ALL-STORY WEEKLY, its pulp source. Our presentation, “Hollywood Pulp — From Pulp Page to the Silver Screen,” will include behind-the-scenes information on the making of this historic film.)