Two perspectives on Charles Beaumont:
interviews with Chris Beaumont and Roger Anker
On this page:
Newscaster of the Unconscious: an interview with
writer whose inner conflict, impressive depth of imagination, and mature
understanding of the human condition allowed him to approach subjects
of subversive terror, whimsical fantasy, and cynical speculative fiction
with an honesty and evocative sense of imagery rare in any field,
Charles Beaumont was a writer's writer, weaving words like a primal
Shaman to better make sense of a world that often eluded understanding.
That he did so with wit and intelligence is evident by even a cursory
reading of some of his short stories of the supernatural. That he did
so with intense emotion, heart, and a love of his characters (both human
and otherwise) is best seen in the evocative, highly stylized, and stunningly
original scripts which he wrote for Rod Serling's Twilight Zone
during that show's five year run.
While the stories that Serling often contributed
to his series where stamped with his own undeniable love of humanity
and talent, they were just as often recognizable by their political
emphasis and social conscience. If Rod Serling, the father of the Twilight
Zone, was its social conscience, crafting moral allegories, fables,
and fantasies with clearly formed messages often delivered and stressed
in the dialogue of characters, than Charles Beaumont was its chief storyteller,
more concerned with crafting an entertaining provocative story for its
own sake than with putting fourth political dissertations. While there
is no lack of cultural urgency, contextual meaning, or social commentary
in Beaumont's scathing and suspenseful forays into the Twilight Zone,
even those episodes with the most pronounced possible leanings value
characterization, pacing, and story structure over crass moralization.
Credited with writing 22 episodes of the Twilight
Zone during his all too short and tragic life, Charles Beaumont
is responsible for several fine moments of fantasy and terror. His outsiders,
loners, and men fighting against shadows both of the supernatural and
the worst part of themselves often challenged the perceptions of
viewers, the standard boundaries of genre, and people's pre-conceived
perceptions of the world -- perfect for a series whose primary power
laid in its ability to attract writers capable of subverting reality
and questioning the appearances of logic, science, and superstition.
Beaumont's scripts -- leanly written with convincing dialogue, quick
pacing, and the feeling of dark modern myth -- went one step further.
Questioning not only the nature of, and difference between, reality
and fantasy but, in addition, the very dependability of perception
-- that tool by which human beings define both themselves and the possible
worlds of flesh and spirit around them -- his scripts seemed to specialize
in cultural outsiders whose internal and external differences, purposely
or inadvertently forced them at odds with a malign universe, each other,
Beaumont's life was as odd as his fiction. Born
Charles Nutt in Chicago (1929), he lived with his parents until age
twelve, and by all counts the strangeness and isolation of this part
of his life led to the development of his adventurous, somewhat eccentric
personality and interest in the fantastic. Becoming a young man of great
ambitions, Beaumont longed to become an actor, an artist, and a writer.
Thankfully he also had more than just a smidgen of talent, and when
he appeared in Los Angeles he began the struggle to break into print.
Working a variety of jobs, and married to Helen Broun, it was here,
amidst the struggle and wonder of the movie industry that he would meet
Ray Bradbury and begin a relationship of several years. It was also
here that he soon fell in with other influential authors of what would
become known as The Southern California Group, which consisted of such
genre legends as Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, Jerry Sohl, and
various other writers who would shape fantasy fiction.
Publishing short stories, novels, and other pieces
in increasingly better (if not always well paying) markets, Beaumont
and Richard Matheson joined forces when breaking into the television
market, scripting together shows for the Golden Age Of Television, including
work on such iconic pieces as "Have Gun, Will Travel" before being called
in by Rod Serling to contribute to his new fantasy series, which the
gentleman did separately. When folks are asked to name writers whose
work they most enjoyed on that series, Beaumont and Matheson come second
only to Serling. Although George Clayton Johnson and Jerry Sohl wrote
some of the scripts credited to Beaumont, including "Living Doll," which
was for years unknown to have been Sohl's work, Beaumont's legacy stands
tall, and his contribution to the language and excellence of the fantastic
unquestionable. Writing 22 episodes of the series, Beaumont's are widely
acknowledged as the Zone's most terrifying, artfully deceitful, and
archetypical visitations into the supernatural and occult, with the
rich symbolism and world timeliness of "The Howling Man" and the dark
humor of "Printer's Devil," based on his own short stories (something
he and Matheson often did), leading the pack. Preoccupied with such
complex issues as alienation and self identification, Beaumont's scripts
attacked expectations. There is no way of not reacting to the profound
terror and joy of such classic scripts as "In His Image" or "A Nice
Place To Visit." No possible way to casually ignore the existential
terror of "Elegy," "Perchance To Dream," or the joyful, unrepentant
oddness of "The Prime Mover."
The worlds of television, film, and literature lost
much of their elegance and immediacy of emotion when he passed away
on February 21, 1967 of Alzheimer's. Outside his short stories, the
Twilight Zone scripts remain some of his beloved works. Works
that for the first time ever have been collected by editor Roger Anker
for the two volume The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont,
published by Gauntlet. We were lucky enough to speak with Chris Beaumont,
a fine writer in his own right, speak about his father's work and the
Twilight Zone scripts that will preserve the visions of one of
fantasy literature's greatest practitioners.
WS: Gauntlet Press
will be publishing, in two volumes, The Twilight Zone Scripts of
Charles Beaumont in the next few years, edited by Roger Anker. Why
did you give your permission for this undertaking?
CB: I gave my permission for these Twilight
Zone scripts to be published because I think my father would be
thrilled to know that there's still interest after all these years.
Anything that keeps his work alive is okay by me, as long as the work
is presented in an appropriate venue.
WS: What are your hopes
for these books?
CB: My hope is that these books will
remind people of a time when television took the kind of chances that
Twilight Zone represents. It will also, I hope, introduce a new
generation to the stories that appeared on the show.
WS: Your father is
credited with writing 22 episodes of the Twilight Zone, and is
considered one of the major writers for the series, next to Richard
Matheson. What role did the Twilight Zone play in your father's life?
Your family in general? What pressures or pleasures has it exerted in
CB: I remember my father referring to
the Twilight Zone as a gift. I think he knew how fortunate he,
and Rod, and Rich Matheson were to have found a place that so suited
their style of writing. Those years were quite magical around our house.
I remember the excitement that built each week, whether it was one of
dad's or Rich's, or whomever. I think they all felt a part of something
WS: What appealed to
your father about the medium of television? What did its structure and
imagery allow him to express not available in other creative formats?
CB: I think my father's feelings about
the medium of television were ambivalent at best. He had some success
before The Twilight Zone, but even back then, in the late fifties,
there were network executives to deal with and my father was used to
have a pretty free hand with his work. I think it's one of the reasons
he appreciated The Twilight Zone so much. It was a relatively
new area for television and so Rod had quite a bit of power to protect
his writers. As far as the structure and imagery of television, I think
that, in addition to tapping into some really terrific writing, Rod
also put together a fantastic crew of directors, production design and
art directors that created a very distinctive look for the show. My
memory is that all the writers were pretty pleased with what they saw
on the screen.
WS: Charles and Richard
Matheson collaborated on several television and film projects, including
the television series "Buckskin," "Have Gun Will Travel," and "Wanted
Dead Or Alive" before working separately on their retrospective Twilight
Zone episodes. How do you feel they worked together?
CB: Rich Matheson and my father had a
wonderful, rare friendship that included collaboration, healthy competition,
as well as mutual support for each other throughout their years together.
They not only complimented each other style-wise, I think they inspired
each other to do their best work. Even though I was very young at the
time, I remember many nights at our home when Rich, as well as Bill
Nolan, John Tomerlin, Chad Oliver, and many others would read each other's
work aloud and offer suggestions. It was a rare time and I think Rich
and my dad decided to work separately on their Twilight Zone
scripts because so many of them came from short stories that they had
each written on their own.
WS: What would you
say were the major differences in your father and Matheson's work?
CB: I think the main difference between
my father's work and Rich's is that Rich is always had a keen interest
in the metaphysical that was only of peripheral interest to my father.
Not that my father didn't use it as a device to illuminate a character
or plot, but I don't remember him having the kind of interest that Rich
has had throughout his career.
WS: What are your earliest
memories of your father? Your last?
CB: My earliest memories of my father
are of his incredible energy, his passion, and his love for telling
stories and investigating all the dark, and not so dark, corners of
what it is to be human. My last memories of my father are, sadly, are
of the slow, painful diminution of that life force.
WS: On another personal
note, could you share with us some of the fondest memories you have
of your father? Likewise, can you offer us one of the saddest?
CB: My fondest memories of my father
include the raw excitement that possessed his being when he had an idea
that he wanted to share with the family; some trip he planned in the
last five minutes and for which we should prepare to leave in the next
fifteen. The saddest memory is watching the light in his eyes begin
to slowly dim as he disappeared into Alzheimer's.
WS: How -- if at all
-- was Charles Beaumont the writer different from Charles Beaumont the
CB: I don't think there was much difference
between Charles Beaumont the writer and Charles Beaumont the man. His
stories came from his heart and soul. They were crafted, and labored
over, but the genesis of all of them was his view of the world and the
passion he brought to it.
WS: What would you
like people to know about your father as an artist? As a man?
CB: I hope people remember my father
as an artist who had a keen interest in his fellow man and a rare ability
to reveal hidden parts of our common experience, and to do it with humor
as well as compassion. As a man, I think Charles Beaumont will be remembered
by those who knew him as someone with enormous energy, a generous heart
and tremendous courage.
WS: What did Charles
Beaumont contribute to the arts? To the fiction of fantasy?
CB: Charles Beaumont was an integral
part of a group of writers who were pushing, against tremendous odds,
to make fantasy and science fiction a part of mainstream literature.
When he, and Matheson, and others were starting out, it was incredibly
difficult to get legit publishers to take them seriously, artistically
or financially. But by putting out the kind of quality work they did,
and with some help from magazines like Playboy, they were able to create
a base of fans who, years later, made Stephen King a multimillionaire.
But nobody knew that was the way things would go, and still these guys
continued to write from their hearts.
WS: Charles wrote around
22 scripts for the Twilight Zone. What particular merits or characteristics
do you believe his scripts had that make him unquestionably his?
CB: When I think of a Charles Beaumont
Twilight Zone script, I think of the questions he posed. Where
Rod was such a master of the twist ending, I think my father saw the
show as an opportunity to ask profound, philosophical questions in the
guise of a good yarn. What is the nature of evil and does the evil really
exist? ("Howling Man") If a robot experiences emotion, is he still nothing
more than a robot? ("In His Image") So many of his scripts asked questions
that need to be asked, and then left the viewer to come up with his
WS: Did the furious
work pace of your father ever clash with family life? Why do you feel
he wrote so excessively and quickly, as though he was in race with himself?
CB: My father did indeed write a pace
that seemed to come from some foreknowledge of his early death. The
only discipline problem he had was his frequent inability to turn down
work that he couldn't possibly finish on time (hence his "farming out"
assignments to friends). And, of course, his work schedule did conflict
with his family life. I have a fantasy that, had my father lived, he
might have slowed down a bit and spent more time with his four children.
But what he gave his family was so full of love, and passion, that we
all seem to have managed to put together our lives quite well.
WS: Charles created
some of the best loved, most memorable segments of the Twilight Zone,
including "In His Image," "Perchance To Dream," "Passage On The Lady
Anne," and "Miniature." A) Which do you believe are his most powerful
CB: My personal favorite of my father's
scripts is "Passage On The Lady Anne." I'm not sure if it's the best
crafted or the most brilliant of all his work, but I was present at
it's inspiration and so it has always had a place in my heart. The idea
was born on a trip to Europe that we took as a family. I was only seven
years old at the time and I was the only child on board. My parents
were, as in the episode, younger by decades than most of the other passengers,
and I remember my father, at dinner, wondering out loud whether we had
accidentally wandered onto a "farewell tour" of an old and stately ship.
WS: His most confessional
CB: Unfortunately, my father didn't live
long enough for me to ask him such questions. My guess would be that
"Miniature" was an expression of his own insecurities, his own feelings
of being an outsider in this world, trying, like most writers, to create
a better one with his pen.
WS: How closely did
your father's art imitate his life, and his life imitate his art?
CB: It's uncanny how Twilight Zone-esque
my father's life turned out. In "Long Live Walter Jamison" we see a
man age before our very eyes. And, sadly, that's exactly what my family,
as well as my father's friends, had to watch as the effects of his disease
inflicted a sort of "fountain of youth" in reverse.
WS: Which aspects of
his work and imagination called to you, and continue to entertain and
speak most deeply to you?
CB: As I mentioned before, my father's
ability to pose the most interesting philosophical, and sometimes theological,
questions in a wonderfully entertaining story.
WS: What was your father
afraid of? What did he love? And was writing at all therapeutic for
CB: My guess is that my father was afraid
of boredom. Luckily he never experienced it. His loves were numerous
enough that Ray Bradbury referred to his mind as a "Pomegranate, bursting
WS: Describe how you
are involved in the arts and entertainment as well? What traits of your
father do you see in yourself?
CB: My father died when I was sixteen
years old. My mother dies three years after that. With three children
to support I did the one thing one should never do for the money; I
became an actor. Somehow I was able to earn enough to give us all a
fairly nice life until my youngest brother came of age and left the
house. After that, I turned to writing and have made a living as a television
writer ever since (although science fiction has never interested me,
other than as a reader).
WS: Tragically short-lived,
unjustly forgotten, yet remarkably talented, how would you say that
the literary vision and distinct voice of Charles Beaumont still influences
fans and professionals? How did his work in fiction, television, and
screen-writing effect his peers?
CB: The kinds of questions posed and
the kinds of stories told by my father will never go out of style. We
will always need to ask ourselves; what is the nature of good and evil,
or temptation and surrender. What does it mean to be human?
WS: The art of story
telling in general?
CB: I can't tell you how many of my father's
friends get misty when they speak of him. He was the "hub" to a wheel
of creative men who remember those days as the best in their lives.
WS: And to be more
specific, the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction?
CB: I think my father's style of writing
was, and is, a unique blend of humor and the deadly serious. I know
that Stephen King, as well as other current writers have cited my father,
as Rich, as major influences on their style.
WS: How would you say
his spirit and character, his personal life, affected or influenced
those around him? Loved ones and fellow writers? Can you offer any specific
examples where Beaumont's work or personality assisted another?
CB: Harlan Ellison just called me a few
months ago to share a story of his first days in L.A. Someone had given
him my father's phone number and he called with literally one dime in
his pocket. My father dropped what he was doing, took him out for a
round of pool, a meal, and set him up with some contacts that got Harlan
started in town. Harlan just wanted me to know, all these years later,
what that meant to him. There are dozens of stories like that.
WS: As the story goes,
Ray Bradbury was Beaumont's writing teacher, inviting him to his home
every Wednesday night to critique a story. Some critics suggest that
Bradbury's influence is easily detectable in Beaumont's fiction? Is
this true? How important was Bradbury to your father?
CB: I think Bradbury and Beaumont, while
their styles are, in my opinion, quite different, share an incredible
joy of discovery, and a fearlessness about looking in all the corners
to find a twist or a turn in a story.
WS: Speaking of the
Twilight Zone, how did your father relate to, feel about, Rod Serling?
The Twilight Zone itself?
CB: I think that my father felt warmly towards Rod. He was a
dinner guest on several occasions and I'm pretty sure most of the writers
appreciated the freedom they had on the show and Rod's part in securing
WS: Beaumont's scripts
and stories charted the secret geography of nightmare and dream, merging
the realistic with the fantastic, often blurring the lines between each.
Would you agree? If so, for what personal or artistic reasons?
CB: I know from friends that many of
his stories were transcriptions of episodes that visited his dreams.
Even before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he suffered terribly
from headaches and insomnia.
WS: What can you tell
us about your father's childhood? How influential was it on his craft
CB: My father's childhood was a mix of
joy and horror, much like the elements found in his work. He was raised,
in large part, by four aunts whose idea of fun was to fake their own
death to see his reaction. He seems to have turned this macabre treatment
into a style of writing and a body of work. I guess he got the last
laugh after all.
WS: Beaumont's fiction
and the Twilight Zone scripts often merged the beautiful with
the nightmarish, illustrating the paradoxical relationship between both.
In which stories do you most see this?
CB: All of them.
WS: A concern for humanity,
interest in character, and love of the fantastic is apparent in "Perchance
To Dream," "A Nice Place To Visit," "The Howling Man," "In His Image"
and various other Twilight Zone scripts. What do you feel were his primary
goals when writing for the Twilight Zone? For writing in general?
CB: As you say, a concern for humanity,
an interest in character, and a love of the fantastic. I would also
add to this list, a lack of patience with exclusion, and a loathing
WS: Your father appeared
to favor stories that suggested borderlands of experience -- slips,
if you will -- between realms of normalcy and the imaginary, such as
the arguments between realism and the imagination, logic and desire,
in such scripts as "Perchance to Dream" and "Miniature." Why?
CB: It's impossible to answer, and perhaps
even more impossible not to ask whether or not my father's stories didn't
come from, at least in part, an altered state of mind that was the beginnings
of the disease that finally took him. Would he have written the stories
he wrote, and written them at such a furious pace, if he didn't somewhere
know his time was short? I don't know. Personally I would like to think
they came from the man, not the disease.
Shadows at Twilight: an interview with Roger Anker
on Charles Beaumont
with writing 22 episodes of the Twilight Zone during his swift,
tragic life, Charles Beaumont was responsible for some of the finest
moments of terror, doubt, and existential tragedy the medium of television
ever witnessed. Whereas Rod Serling, creator and main writer of the
Twilight Zone favored stories which focused on social injustices
and shifting views of morality, merging traditional fable with political
satire, Beaumont, like his friend and sometimes writing partner Richard
Matheson, was first and foremost a writer -- a storyteller in love with
words and their power, fiction for its own sake rather than for any
one moral or political stance. Beaumont's scripts were un-apologetically
terrifying and awe-evoking. He was one of the few writers with the skill
and willingness to weigh in each season with grim tales of unremitting
tragedy, paranoia, and the terror of misplacement in a cosmos malignant
and/or unconcerned with a species rarely capable of understanding its
own nature. Featuring outsiders and Everymen battling themselves no
less often than threats of supernatural or psychological uncertainty,
Beaumont's scripts were rarely straight fantasy or realism. Instead,
Beaumont created aesthetic borderlands between the expectations and
genre restraints of such extremes, focusing on characters, settings,
and events that were neither completely real nor impossible, naturalistic
or occult, but rather unique glimpses of seemingly typical things in
a half-light of shadows.
His fantasies stood out (and continue to influence)
not so much by showing realities overwhelmed by impossibilities or by
approaching the speculative from a matter-of-fact point of view so much
as they appeared as extensions of our waking everyday worlds. Questioning
the nature of reality, fantasy, and the very power of perception, his
memorable scripts charted the confusion and struggles of men and women
who found themselves in an existence far removed from what they initially
envisioned, resulting in stories of terror, enchanting fantasy, scathing
humor, and, perhaps more importantly, penetrative comments on the nature
of the human animal -- the mind and heart in constant conflict with
only the frail feelers of sensory glands and philosophies to guide them.
A writer whose imagination intensity, daring, and instinctive understanding
of the human condition allowed him to approach the unknown with authenticity
and nerve, Beaumont evoked images and entire personalities with minimal
effort, saying in few words what others at the time (and ours) couldn't
summon with pages. He did it quickly, with almost superhuman speed,
and he did it honestly -- not the honesty of a drab realist who sees
only the cloud in the sky, but with the foresight and visionary wisdom
of a fantasist who not only sees clouds but the possibilities of space
and time beyond them.
Publishing short stories, novels, and non-fiction,
Beaumont joined creative forces with fellow fantasy legend Richard Matheson
when breaking into television. Together they scripted several shows
for the Golden Age Of Television. Both, however, wrote independently
on the Twilight Zone, each secure in his ability to usher viewers
into other dimensions. Such macabre and supernatural classics as "In
His Image," "A Nice Place To Visit," and "Perchance To Dream" are evidence
of Beaumont's mature sense of character, place, and defining incident.
These visionary works are as capable of making audiences fear and feel
today as they were when first crafted, ensuring a place for the storyteller
decades after his untimely death from Alzheimer's disease on February
Beaumont's meticulously plotted, passion-laced scripts
of men and women falling into cracks between the frail parameters of
reality and fantasy have been collected as never before by editor Roger
Anker, who has prepared The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont
for Gauntlet Press. Anker is no stranger to Charles Beaumont. Editor
of the Bram Stoker award-winning The Selected Stories of Charles
Beaumont, which collected several famed and never-before published
stories from Beaumont supplemented by personal reminiscences by such
friends and fiction alumni as Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Harlan
Ellison, Anker has long been a devoted fan, critic, and scholar of Beaumont's
work, his personal life, and his influence. In his upcoming two-volume
series enthusiasm and research go hand-in-hand, presenting what may
very well be the most definitive work on Beaumont's involvement in the
Twilight Zone, including not only original scripts from seasons
one, two, three, and four but, in addition, "Gentleman, Please Be Seated,"
a never before published script intended for the influential series.
In addition, supplemental essays by Richard Matheson, Chris Beaumont
(the author's son), and evocative cover art round out a collection that
is as much a story behind the stories of Charles Beaumont as
it is a collection of one of last century's leading dreamers of paranormal
darkness and enchantment.
WS: What first interested
you in the work of Charles Beaumont?
RA: Watching the Twilight Zone
episode of "The Howling Man." I was ten years old. As a kid, I'd seen
the usual horror films, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man,
but there was something about "The Howling Man" that stuck with me.
After that, I began to look for other Zone episodes written by
Beaumont. Some years later, I spotted a paperback copy of Beaumont's
short fiction collection The Hunger and Other Stories in a used
book store and remembered his name. After reading that, I was always
on the lookout for another Beaumont story.
WS: Which aspects of
his imagination called to you, and continue to do so?
RA: I enjoyed the type of story he was
giving The Twilight Zone; his tales usually took on darker themes.
Today, I appreciate the scope of his imagination. A Beaumont story can
take you anywhere.
WS: How has your interest
in Charles Beaumont changed, both professionally and personally, over
RA: Professionally speaking, I've come
to appreciate just how good he was at putting words and thoughts on
paper. He had an eloquent, yet compact, writing style. On a personal
level, I still enjoy reading his stories. Most of them are timeless.
WS: In 1989, your Bram
Stoker Award-winning collection Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories
was published, which was an impressive collection of his short fiction
with appreciations from authors whose lives he had touched. What was
the impetus for this collection?
RA: My impetus for putting that collection
together was that I wanted to find a way to get Beaumont's classic short
stories back into print. I discussed the idea with Beaumont's son Chris,
who is also a successful television writer, and he agreed it was worth
a try. I then asked a number of writers -- such as Ray Bradbury, Richard
Matheson, Robert Bloch, George Clayton Johnson, Bill Nolan, Ray Russell,
John Tomerlin, Jerry Sohl, Harlan Ellison, et al -- who had known and
worked with Beaumont if they d be willing to write appreciations to
his stories. I felt I d have a better chance of getting a publisher
interested if I had writers of this caliber contributing to the project.
Their contribution would also give the book some additional depth. In
all, seventeen writers and one director (Roger Corman, who worked with
Beaumont on a number of films) agreed to pitch in. I wrote a biographical
introduction to set up their appreciations and the book was picked up
by Dark Harvest.
WS: Did you achieve
your goals with the book?
RA: My goals were definitely achieved;
we not only got some of Beaumont's finest stories back in print, but
I had discovered, while researching my introduction for the book (Chris
had given me access to his father s files), a number of Beaumont's unpublished
short stories. After reading about twenty of them, I decided to use
five stories, three of which Beaumont was going to include in his fourth
short fiction collection, "A Touch of the Creature," (the collection
was to have been published by Bantam Books in 1964, but because of Beaumont
s illness, negotiations fell through). Selected Stories was issued
in a signed-limited hardcover edition of 500 copies; a standard hardcover
edition; and a paperback edition (retitled The Howling Man )
from Tor Books. I was also able to promote the book by writing an extensive
article on Beaumont for The Twilight Zone magazine and by appearing,
with Richard Matheson and Chris Beaumont, on Harlan Ellison's radio
program. So all of this, for a time, brought Beaumont's work back into
WS: Gauntlet Press
is releasing the first volume of The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles
Beaumont in the summer of 2004, which you edited. What inspired
RA: The main inspiration was to give
fans of both The Twilight Zone and Charles Beaumont an opportunity
to read his very readable teleplays. In fact, some of the descriptive
passages in his scripts read like his short stories. The books (there
will be two volumes) will also give fans an opportunity to see additional
or changed lines of dialogue, as well as scenes which were cut or altered
in the televised versions I also saw this as an opportunity to expand
on what had previously been written about Beaumont and The Twilight
Zone; to give the fans some fresh material, particularly in the
area of Beaumont's life.
WS: Could you please
describe the process of planning, preparing for, and working on this
collection? How daunting and/or enjoyable a task was it? How will it
be unique from other books or examinations of Beaumont or The Twilight
RA: The most difficult task of putting
these books together was finding all of Beaumont's original Twilight
Zone scripts. Chris Beaumont didn't have all of them. In some cases
I had to go to collectors or movie memorabilia outlets. After I had
the teleplays, Chris and I shopped the project around to various publishers,
of which about a half dozen expressed interest. After we decided to
go with Gauntlet Press, I worked out the structure for both books, deciding
to have three storylines running throughout: the history of each teleplay
and behind-the-scenes material of the episodes based on those teleplays
(which includes commentary from some of the series original writers,
directors, actors, and actresses, all of which are based on interviews
I'd conducted over the years); a thumbnail sketch of the history of
the show (part of which is based on correspondence between Beaumont
and Serling); and biographical information about Beaumont, most of which
is being presented in these volumes for the first time.
WS: Describe the other
special features that will be included in these books.
RA: In addition to photographs, both
volumes will contain a preface by Chris Beaumont -- prefaces which will
give the reader some insight into what the Beaumont family's home life
was like. Volume One will also include a Foreword by Richard Matheson
and an Afterword by Earl Hamner. The second volume will open with a
Foreword by George Clayton Johnson and close with an Afterword by John
Tomerlin. In each case, these extraordinary writers recall their relationships
with Beaumont and The Twilight Zone. Additionally, mini-chapters
will follow each teleplay. In many cases, these chapters will provide
the reader with quotes (taken from letters) from Charles Beaumont himself.
Both books will be available in two formats: a Numbered Edition (each
signed by Chris Beaumont) and a Lettered Edition (which will be limited
to 52 copies and signed by Chris Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Earl Hamner
and myself). It should also be noted that anyone buying either of these
volumes directly from Gauntlet will receive a free chapbook. Volume
One s chapbook will contain an unpublished short story written by Charles
Beaumont in 1949 called "The Child," a Lovecraftian-tale which explores
the darker regions of the human condition. In 1951, Beaumont expanded
this story to twice its length. The latter version bears little resemblance
to the original and also remains unpublished. The chapbook accompanying
the second volume will feature the 1951 version of "The Child."
WS: How will the scripts
RA: Each script will appear in its original
format; we're scanning them from the actual typewritten pages. They
will not be typeset or altered in any way. Also, each Lettered Edition
will include an additional teleplay, which won t be found in the Numbered
Editions. Volume One will include an early draft of "Gentlemen,
Be Seated." Volume Two will contain an early draft of "Free Dirt." Both
of these scripts include Beaumont's handwritten changes or notations.
WS: Charles Beaumont
is credited with writing twenty-two episodes of The Twilight Zone
Did he write these episodes alone, or did he have credited or unaccredited
RA: Beaumont was the sole writer of sixteen
Twilight Zones. He also shared credit on two: "Long Distance
Call" (with William Idleson), because he d rewritten Idelson's original
script; and "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You" (with John Tomerlin),
because Beaumont had asked John to adapt "The Beautiful People," a Beaumont
short story (the teleplay was written in its entirety by Tomerlin).
Jerry Sohl also ghosted, in their entirety, three scripts for Beaumont:
"The New Exhibit," "Living Doll," and "Queen of the Nile." Additionally,
Beaumont collaborated on "Dead Man's Shoes" with OCee Ritch, for which
Beaumont received sole credit. In some cases, these collaborations or
ghost-written scripts happened because of Beaumont's overwhelming work
load; in other cases, Beaumont was too ill to complete these assignments
WS: Charles Beaumont,
Richard Matheson, and Rod Serling are largely considered responsible
for The Twilight Zone's success. A) What chemistry would you
suggest made this creative partnership of talented authors work so very
well together? B) Are their any specific differences you could point
out in the way each author approached his work?
RA: I believe these three writers (as
was the case with writers who came later, such as George Clayton Johnson
and Earl Hamner) shared the ability to tell imaginative stories about,
in most cases, ordinary human beings caught up in extraordinary circumstances
(something also done by Bradbury in the Forties). In a sense, their
tales can be considered mainstream stories to which one drop of fantasy
(or science fiction or horror) is added. The difference between each
writer was in the type of story he chose to tell and the way he chose
to tell it. Serling, for the most part, concerned himself with stories
that spoke of the human condition -- stories which are usually rooted
in sentimentality and nostalgia. Matheson s Twilight Zones tend
not to deal with social issues, but they are built heavily on contemporary
realism and usually start slowly and build with an inexorable tension.
Beaumont simply gave us the extraordinary; he also gave us characters
who were not always likeable and placed them in settings which were
WS: How would you say
Beaumont's scripting work for The Twilight Zone was different
or similar in value compared to his short fiction?
RA: They were very similar; many of his
stories turn on the theme of a man with a special talent seeking recognition.
WS: You are publishing
only scripts Beaumont wrote alone (not those co-written or ghost-written).
Why? How difficult was discovering which were written by Beaumont and
which were farmed out to other writers?
RA: I wanted to go with those teleplays
which represented Beaumont's sole contribution to the series, which
means that six teleplays credited to him will not be included in either
volume. Of those six, Beaumont was actively involved in the rewriting
of only two: "Dead Man s Shoes," in which Beaumont did little more than
to polish OCee Ritch s final draft, and "Long Distance Call," in which
he rewrote Bill Idleson. As far as "The New Exhibit," "Living Doll,"
and "Queen of the Nile" are concerned, Beaumont's only contribution
was to plot their storylines with Jerry Sohl, who then went off and
wrote the scripts which, in turn, were shot pretty much the way Jerry
had written them. In fact, "The New Exhibit" has the distinct flavor
of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, for which Sohl was a staff
writer. And, as mentioned earlier, every word of "Number Twelve Looks
Just Like You" was written by John Tomerlin. So I didn't see the point
of including scripts which, for the most part, weren't written by Beaumont,
even though he d received credit for them. Finding out who authored
each script was fairly easy; I d spent a lot of time talking to Tomerlin
and Sohl about their involvement with these teleplays. The rest of the
information came from Beaumont's files.
WS: Each volume will
contain at least one unproduced script. Would you tell us the title
of each of these, and something of their plot and history?
RA: Volume One will include "Gentlemen,
Be Seated," the tale of a future society in which humor is outlawed.
Beaumont based the script on his short story of the same title, which
first appeared in the April 1960 issue of Rogue magazine, under the
pseudonym C.B. Lovehill. The second volume will include "Free Dirt,"
which concerns a miser who uses free cemetery dirt for his vegetable
garden. Beaumont based this teleplay on his short story "Free Dirt,"
which was originally published in the May 1955 issue of The Magazine
of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Both teleplays were commissioned
by Twilight Zone producer Bert Granet and were intended for the
show's fifth and final season. However, Granet suddenly left the series
to produce another CBS show and his replacement, William Froug, shelved
a number of scripts which Granet had in development, including the two
above mentioned Beaumonts. Additionally, Volume Two will also
include the unproduced Beaumont script "Acceleration," which he'd written
WS: Why did you chose
to publish these books with Gauntlet instead of a mass market press?
What are both the benefits and drawbacks of working with a specialty
RA: There was great interest from a couple
of mass market publishers to do the books as paperback originals, which
didn't please me at all; I felt these books deserved to be published
in a hardcover format. One of the reasons we chose Gauntlet is because
they are also releasing a multi-volume set of Rod Serling s original
Twilight Zone scripts (which are in the very capable hands of
editor Tony Albarella, who had done a wonderful job of editing Earl
Hamner's recent Twilight Zone script collection). I was also
impressed with the quality of Gauntlet s product and their marketing
strategy. The benefit of working with a specialty publisher is that
you can publish a book that s geared for the true fan of the genre;
the obvious drawback is that your book is limited in its initial print
run and merchant outlets. One can only hope that after the hardcover
sells out the interest will be there for a mass market paperback release.
WS: Tragically short-lived,
unjustly forgotten, yet remarkably talented, how would you say that
the literary vision and distinct voice of Charles Beaumont still resonates?
How did his work in fiction, television, and screenwriting effect his
peers? The art of storytelling in general? And to be more specific,
the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction?
RA: Beaumont's work holds up remarkably
well. The reason for that, I believe, is because he was simply a wonderful
storyteller. And really good story ideas and storytelling rarely dates.
I also believe that his work -- as did the work of Bradbury and Matheson
-- raised the literary bar of not only the fantasy-science fiction-suspense-horror
genres, but also greatly influenced a host of writers from Beaumont
s era to modern day masters.
WS: How would you say
his spirit and character, his personal life, affected or influenced
those around him? Can you offer any specific examples where Beaumont
s work or personality assisted another?
RA: Beaumont was a tremendously influential
figure to his loved ones, friends, and fellow writers. George Clayton
Johnson said that Beaumont was largely responsible for the success of
not only his writing career, but for the careers of Bill Nolan and John
Tomerlin as well. Tomerlin told me that Beaumont was marvelous at talking
people into doing things that they had not thirty seconds before ever
dreamed they wanted to do, and suddenly discovered that it was their
life-long ambition to do this thing; and the next thing you knew, you'd
be off and away doing that.
WS: In the 1950s and
1960s, Beaumont s work often appeared in Playboy, Esquire, and
The Saturday Evening Post. Is there any evidence that he ever
approached writing for the slicks with a different attitude or style/approach
than for the pulps or genre publications?
RA: I don t believe Beaumont tailored
his stories for any specific market In reading the correspondence between
Beaumont and his literary agent, Don Congdon, it's apparent that Beaumont
developed and wrote his stories in a way that fit his story ideas. For
Beaumont the story came first and it was left up to Congdon to market
them. Of course, for a number of years, Playboy had first refusal
rights to Beaumont's fiction and non fiction; even in this case, Beaumont
tended to put story first, unless he d pitched a specific idea -- usually
non fiction -- to Playboy.
WS: Earning a reputation
for excellence and dependability in a relatively short time, Charles
died prematurely in 1967 at the age of thirty-eight, a victim of Alzheimer's
Disease. Why did his name fade from relative obscurity until folks like
you, critics, and fans resurrected his memory?
RA: It s difficult to say why the work
of any good writer goes out of print. I suppose it depends on a number
of factors, including whether or not there is a market for that writer
s work. In Beaumont's case, the quality and timelessness of his stories
are, for the most part, certainly there. Also, the logic for not reprinting
a deceased author s stories, from a publisher's standpoint, may be that
if the books are successful their author won t be able to provide new
material. It s interesting to note that during the 1970s Richard Matheson
had tried, unsuccessfully, to get Beaumont's work back into print. And
Ray Bradbury told me that he d also had difficulty in getting Beaumont's
stories reprinted until he was finally able to convince Bantam Books
to publish The Best of Beaumont (a short fiction collection)
in 1982, for which Ray had written an insightful Introduction. But it
should also be noted that during Beaumont's lifetime, sales from his
novel (The Intruder) and three short fiction collections (The
Hunger; Yonder, and Night Ride) did not generate much earning
power. Beaumont's primary source of income came from his work in television
WS: Ray Bradbury was
Beaumont's writing teacher, inviting him to his home every Wednesday
night to critique a story. Some critics suggest that Bradbury's influence
is easily detectable in Beaumont's fiction Is this true? In which ways?
Is it also noticeable in Beaumont's Twilight Zone scripts?
RA: Beaumont's literary style is difficult
to pin down. As a literary stylist, he was very good. He could do synthetic
Bradbury, or synthetic Thomas Wolfe, or choose a particular strong tone
of voice. He could be a literary forger. Beaumont claimed that he had
no distinctive style. He'd told George Clayton Johnson that what separates
the Hemingways and the Bradburys apart is you can read three pages of
their work and you know they wrote it. Yet there is a certain quality
of Beaumont's style, the way that his sentences are put together. When
I think of Beaumont's prose, I think of felicity of language; it s very
fluent, very precise, very clear, extremely readable. There is a signature.
But I don t believe somebody could write an imitation Beaumont sentence,
not in the sense that one could write a synthetic Bradbury or Hemingway.
I think his ability to utilize many styles also showed in his work for
The Twilight Zone.
WS: How did you approach
Christopher Beaumont about this project? How would you describe the
process of working with the Beaumont family?
RA: I've known Chris for about 20 years.
And I always knew we'd put out three books about his father: a definitive
short fiction collection, which we've done; a book-length biography,
of which I've written a first draft; and a collection of his Twilight
Zone scripts, the first volume of which should be available in the
summer of 2004. Chris and I agreed that the timing was right for the
Twilight Zone books to be released; in the last six years we've
seen the publications of Richard Matheson's and Earl Hamner's Twilight
Zone teleplay collections and, as mentioned earlier, spring of 2004
will see the release of Tony Albarella's As Timeless as Infinity:
The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling. The Beaumont
family (Chris, Cathy, Elizabeth) are wonderful people. Sadly, Gregory,
the youngest Beaumont child, recently passed away at the age of 38 --
the same age that his father died As you can imagine, a project such
as this often brings back painful memories, but I ve always found the
Beaumonts to be very supportive and helpful
WS: To which extent
do you believe that Beaumont's offbeat (and some say Cruel) childhood
influenced his imagination and art? Along the same lines, how much do
you believe that his life in general influenced his art, and how much
of his dark fantasy fiction spilled over into his waking life?
RA: It's true that some aspects of Beaumont's
childhood can be considered cruel and offbeat. Beaumont had told friends
that his short story "Miss Gentilbelle," a disturbing tale in which
an emotionally unstable mother not only dresses and treats her only
child -- a young boy -- as a little girl, but also kills one of his
pets as a form of punishment, was autobiographical (Beaumont wrote in
a short autobiographical essay that in real life his mother had only
threatened to kill his pet, a dog named Belshazzar.) Beaumont's childhood
was also offbeat in that he was sent to live with his grandmother, who
owned and operated a boarding house in Everett, Washington. It was there
that he spent a great deal of time with his grandmother and five aunts,
all of whom were widowed, where he would listen to them talk of, according
to Beaumont, the strange deaths of their husbands. Yet Beaumont also
wrote, at the age of sixteen, that as offbeat as his formative years
were, he was not unhappy with his childhood:
"My folks, surprisingly, are quite normal, and tend toward a
rather hum-drum existence of rise-eat-work-sleep. Being an only child,
the sole survivor of a bevy, I have been adequately spoiled to warrant
an affable hatred for most people. I m known in the town of Everett
and its outlying vicinities as an odd-ball to be [and], if not shunned,
paid little attention to And I love it. Don't get the idea I m friendless
though. The only thing is, these friends differ from their fellow
man, mentally, physically, or both."
Beaumont's imagination and art came from the influences of Poe, Baum,
and Burroughs, all of whom he'd discovered while bedridden with spinal
meningitis at the age of twelve.
WS: Through the process
of this project what have you learned about Charles Beaumont? About
RA: One of the things I've learned about
Beaumont is that he lived life to the fullest. He didn't waste a second
of time. There was never any thought of him putting off until tomorrow
something which could be done today. Writing, travel, race car driving
-- you name it; if it interested him, he gave it his undivided attention.
What I've learned from all of this is that life is indeed short. Nobody
knows how much time they have on this earth. Beaumont certainly didn't.
So I ve learned not to put things off. I m not saying to be reckless
or impulsive. But we ve got to live life while we have the opportunity;
there may be no tomorrow. We may never get a second chance
WS: Beaumont and Richard
Matheson, who met in 1951, collaborated together on several western
and adventure television series, worked together on a handful of small
budget horror motion pictures, and went to work independently as script
writers for The Twilight Zone. How do you feel each of these
gentlemen influenced the other? In which ways did their talents and
personal traits feed off of and/or strengthen the others writing or
RA: Richard Matheson told me that he
and Beaumont were, in a nice way, very competitive and had acted as
spurs to one another. In the early-Fifties, Matheson was slightly ahead
of Beaumont in sales. In fact, Matheson remembered calling Beaumont
on the phone, saying, I just sold a collection of short stories to Bantam,
to which Beaumont replied, "thanks a lot, thanks a lot," and hung up.
But Beaumont eventually caught up to Matheson and, in some areas, passed
him in sales; Beaumont was the first to make a sale to Playboy, first
to have a mainstream novel, The Intruder, published and, during
his lifetime, had more short fiction collections published. But the
two of them shared a constant interchange of ideas.
WS: How much truth
is in the rumors that Charles Beaumont was a wild, impulsive young man?
Did this influence or add feeling to his work?
RA: Beaumont was indeed an impulsive
young man. He was also someone who played and worked with enormous intensity.
If he was playing, it was all playing and there was no talk about work;
and if he was working, he was in another world. Whether Beaumont was
writing a fantasy story or driving a race car or visiting Disneyland,
he did it at the absolute edge of intensity. Beaumont never wanted to
be a spectator in life; he wanted to experience it. For example, when
Beaumont discovered his passion for sports cars and race car driving
in 1955 he told Bill Nolan he didn't want to watch people race cars;
he wanted to race cars. And Bill said, "But, Chuck, you don t know anything
about racing and neither do I. We can t even change a spark plug!" Beaumont
said, "I can hire a man to come in and do nothing but change my spark
plugs. He will be called The Spark Plug Man. And when my spark plugs
need to be changed I will gesture and this man will walk out from the
pit area, walk over to my car and change my spark plugs. Now, Nolan,
are you satisfied that the spark plug situation is dealt with? Can we
now talk about racing?" And this was typical of Beaumont. Nolan told
me that after spending a day with Beaumont a person was totally worn
out. Whatever he did, he did all the way
WS: What can you share
with us about future projects?
RA: In addition to freelancing for a
number of publications, I m working on The Blue Angels Experience,
a book-length sixty-year history of the United States Navy Flight Demonstration
Squadron and, of course, The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont
© William P Simmons 22 July 2006
The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont
(vol 1) is published by Gauntlet Press (September 2004; ISBN: 1887368736).
A Touch of the Creature: Unpublished Stories by Charles Beaumont,
with an introduction by Christopher Beaumont, is published by Subterranean
Press (February 2000; ISBN: 1892284456).
Order online using these
links and infinity plus will benefit:
... The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont from Amazon.com
... A Touch of the Creature: Unpublished Stories
Elsewhere in infinity plus: