Sunday, June 10, 2012


Ray Bradbury was the most likeable of men.  He was one of those men who loved everything, or nearly everything: his life, his family, his friends, his craft.  He was warm, charming and full of humor.  It was a very great honor for this writer to have known this man, albeit briefly.  I wish I had got to know him better.  We lost him on Tuesday night.

I'll tell you a funny story he told me once.  MGM was frantically trying to finish shooting their Biblical epic KING OF KINGS back in 1961 and were having script problems.  They called in Ray Bradbury for help in the writing.  Fascinated that he was called upon to contribute his talents to a film about Christ he rushed over to the studio when summoned.  The "suits" sat him down and said, "We're stuck for an ending".  Bradbury gazed at them in open-mouthed astonishment for a few moments.  "Your stuck for an ending?" he asked.  "Have you ever thought of maybe checking the Bible?"

When an idea for a story came to him, he started working it out immediately, right then.  He didn't put it off for a later time, or let it "cogitate" within him.  He hit the typewriter.  Oh, he would polish it later, of course, but it had to be put down on paper immediately.  Some would call this "inspiration"; others would call it just good, hard work.

With a high school diploma only the local library became his college.  He read and read, month after month.  He knew he wanted to be a writer so he read.  And read.  When at last he was ready he hit the typewriter and wrote.  The rejection slips came back by the dozens, possibly hundreds.  But he persevered.  Finally a story was accepted and he was on his way.  His ideas were in print and many of those ideas spoke to thousands and hundreds of thousands.

In this story of creativity and perseverence it is fascinating to reflect that Bradbury's boyhood and lifelong friend was another Ray whose career path went in a similar spectacular direction.  That Ray was Ray Harryhausen who went on to become the cinema's doyen of special visual effects.  There must have been something about that California climate in the mid-late 1930s where these two boys were growing up.

Many others will write suitable tributes to Ray Bradbury, and they will do this much better than I could.  I can only say that I will miss him terribly.

Last year on this blog I wrote a tribute to the great musician Bernard Herrmann, whose centenary year was 2011.  I closed that tribute with some of his music, the Main Title music to his film score for the 1966 FAHRENHEIT 451, the film based, of course, on one of Bradbury's most famous (and as we can see more and more every day, most prophetic) books.  Herrmann's poignant score, which Bradbury loved as much as this writer, says much not only about that particular movie, but it illustrates well in musical terms the gifted imagination of Bradbury himself.  I feel that this is the perfect occasion for hearing it again.

Be merciful to him, O Lord.

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