Ray Bradbury’s lost TV show with ORSON WELLES and his unused ending for KING OF KINGS
In his introduction to Ray Harryhausen's Film Fantasy Scapbook, Ray Bradbury confesses that his dream as a teenager (presumably after seeing Citizen Kane) "was to work some day with Orson Welles, whose career was begining to burgeon on the American Scene."
Bradbury continues: "Somewhere along through the years we realized our dreams. I wrote lines for Orson Welles twice: when I did the screenplay of Moby Dick for John Huston and the narration for Nicholas Ray's Kings of Kings."
Bradbury also wrote lines for Welles a third time, when his movie version of Something Wicked This Way Comes (whose title comes from Macbeth), was turned into a radio play that was narrated by Welles, to tie in with the movie's release in May, 1983.
I bring this up because Phil Nichols, who runs a Ray Bradbury website, www.bradburymedia.co.uk sent me this interesting message about an apparently lost Welles-Bradbury TV show:
The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University would like help tracking down a video for one of Ray Bradbury’s most illusive television appearances. at Indiana University would like help tracking down a video tape for one of Ray Bradbury’s most illusive television appearances. On New Year’s Eve 1984 (presumably December 31, 1983), Ray Bradbury taped a television show in Los Angeles (possibly CBS) with Orson Welles reading passages from Something Wicked This Way Comes. Welles had read the radio narration about a year earlier. Bradbury provided commentary, and also read a message about the New Year and his belief that George Orwell’s 1984 would never arrive. It was a message of hope and a great hour of television, but Bradbury discovered that the show was not archived by the network studio. Neither (Bradbury’s Agent) Donn Albright nor Jon Eller have been able to locate any private recordings of this show, but Mr. Bradbury has asked them to find a recording if at all possible. If anyone has information about a home-made recording of the 1984 Bradbury-Welles New Years eve show, or know of someone who does have a recording, please let us know at the Bradbury Center so that a copy of this show can be archived.
So if any Welles collectors out there have a copy or any info on what sounds like a fascinating show, please let me know.
Meanwhile, here are some of Ray Bradbury's comments about Orson Welles, made when I talked to him at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank during the making of Something Wicked This Way in 1983.
Bradbury describes the poetic ending he had written for Nicholas Ray's King of Kings, and says he had also written a script at MGM based on The Dreamers. I wonder if he could have shown it to Orson Welles when he met him at MGM!
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You wrote the narration for Orson Welles to speak when you worked on Nicholas Ray's King of Kings at MGM, didn't you?
RAY BRADBURY: Yes, that's right. I was working at MGM on a screenplay of The Martian Chronicles back in 1960, and at the time they were finishing work on King of Kings there. They had no ending for the film, so they came to me and asked me to write it. I said to them, "have you read the Bible?" They said, "no, we know it's in there, but we need you to give us an ending, and incidentally, also write a history of the Jews to preface the film and do all the narration.” So I went back and wrote narration for the entire life of Christ, and gave them Matthew, Mark, Luke and Ray. I actually found my ending in the book of John where the last supper after the last supper occurs. Christ resurrected appears after the crucifixion, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He stands by a spread of white-hot coals on which fish are baking. He tells Simon-who-is-called-Peter and the other disciples, “to take of these fish and feed thy brethren, and take my message and go throughout all the nations of the world, preaching forgiveness of sin.” Then, in the half-light before dawn, Christ lifts his hand above the fire, and we see the mark where the nail had gone in, the stigmata that would never heal. Blood from Christ’s palm drips down upon the white coals. Thus, he proves his identity. He then leaves them, and in my script, I had Christ walk along the shore of Galilee toward the horizon. Now, when anyone walks toward the horizon, he seems to ascend, because all land rises at a distance. So Christ walks away along the shore until he is a small mote, far, far away, and they can see him no more. Then, as the sun rises upon the ancient world, the disciples leave the ashes of the bed of coals to scatter into sparks, and with the taste of the real and final and true last supper upon their mouths, they go away. In my ending, I had the camera drift high above in a crane shot, watching the disciples as they move away, some going north, some south, some to the east, some to the west, to tell the world what needed to be told about one man. The camera would see all their footprints, circling in all directions, like the spokes of an immense wheel, then the footprints would blow away out of the sand into the winds of morning. It is a new day. THE END.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It sounds like it would have made for quite a beautiful ending, especially when enhanced by the glories of Miklos Rozsa's music.
RAY BRADBURY: Yes, but of course, MGM didn’t use it. It would have been too expensive to shoot and they were cheap. It was a great shame, because the book of John has never been used as the basis for any film ever made about Christ.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Was it Nicholas Ray who asked you to work on the new ending?
RAY BRADBURY: No, it was the studio. I knew Bernard Smith who was one of the production heads at MGM, whom I had known over at Hecht-Hill-Lancaster productions a couple of years earlier. He knew my background pretty well and I wrote two un-produced screenplays for him, The Dreamers and White Hunter, Black Heart. So it was his idea to call me in, because Nicholas Ray wasn't in the country at the time. I never did see the original ending. I don't know what it was. I worked with Margaret Booth, the editor of the film, and a terrific lady, and Miklos Rozsa who was composing the score. I then spoke my own narration on the soundtrack and had the pleasure of going on the soundstage when Miklos Rozsa was conducting the MGM orchestra and hearing my voice come off the screen, reading my own narration, with all this fabulous music! It was heady stuff. Then of course, the fools made the mistake of taking off my voice and putting in the dreadful voice of Orson Welles! (Laughs). So I was delighted, but neither Welles or I got credit for being on the film, because the screenwriter didn't want me to get any credit, and Orson Welles didn't get any credit because he wanted $2,500 for the use of his name. They paid him $2,500 to read the narration, and in order to use his name, they had to give him another $2,500. So they were cheap, which I think is so foolish. They should have given it to him, because his name on a film is an additional value, isn’t it? Welles did a beautiful job of reading my narration, so it was a very good experience for me.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Wasn’t John Houseman, Orson Welles old collaborator who worked with him on the famous War of the Worlds broadcast also interested in making The Martian Chronicles at MGM?
RAY BRADBURY: Yes, John Houseman approached me on the project back in 1952 when he first started out at MGM with The Bad and the Beautiful. Both he and Vincente Minnelli were interested, but they couldn’t get anyone at MGM to act on it. Then Julian Blaustein, the producer of The Day the Earth Stood Still approached me later, and got MGM to put up the money to write the screenplay in 1960. So I spent six months at MGM writing the screenplay and I predicted as soon as a turned in my script I would be fired. Of course, that’s exactly what happened! They didn’t understand what I was trying to do.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did Orson Welles mirror maze ending of The Lady From Shanghai have any influence on your mirror maze in Something Wicked This Way Comes?
RAY BRADBURY: No, the influence came from my childhood when I was nine years old and going to carnivals, going through the mirror mazes and the carousels. That was long before The Lady From Shanghai.