Sunday, February 21, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Charles Beaumont 1929-1967 RIP

Charles Beaumont (January 2, 1929 – February 21, 1967) was a prolific American author of speculative fiction, including short stories in the horror and science fiction subgenres. He is remembered as a writer of classic Twilight Zone episodes, such as "The Howling Man", "Miniature", and "Printer's Devil", but also penned the screenplays for several cult horror and science fiction films, among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, The Intruder and The Masque of the Red Death. As best-selling novelist Dean R. Koontz has said, "[Charles Beaumont was] one of the seminal influences on writers of the fantastic and macabre."
Life and work

Beaumont was born Charles Leroy Nutt in Chicago, to Charles H. and Letty Nutt. His mother is known to have dressed him in girls' clothes, and once threatened to kill his dog to punish him. These early experiences inspired the celebrated short story "Miss Gentilbelle", but according to Beaumont, "Football, baseball and dimestore cookie thefts filled my early world." School did not hold his attention, and his last name exposed him to ridicule, so he found solace as a teenager in science fiction. He dropped out of high school in tenth grade to join the army. He also worked as a cartoonist, illustrator, disc jockey, usher and dishwasher before selling his first story to Amazing Stories in 1950.

"Charles Beaumont" is the name of the villain in White Zombie (1932) who hires a zombie master (Lugosi) to accomplish his nefarious purpose.

In 1954, Playboy magazine selected his story "Black Country" to be the first work of short fiction to appear in its pages. It was also at about this time that Beaumont started writing for television and film.

Beaumont was energetic and spontaneous, and was known to take trips (sometimes out of the country) at a moment's notice. An avid racing fan, he often enjoyed participating in or watching area speedway races, with other authors tagging along.

His cautionary fables include "The Beautiful People" (1952), a futuristic short story about a rebellious adolescent girl who lives in a largely-conformist society in which people obligatorily alter their physical appearance (adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone: "Number 12 Looks Just Like You"), and "Free Dirt" (1955), about a frugally gluttonous man who gorges on his entire vegetable harvest, but instead dies from having consumed the magical soil he used to grow it.

His short story "The Crooked Man" (also published by Playboy, in 1955) presented a dystopian future scenario wherein heterosexuality is stigmatized in the same way that homosexuality then was, and depicts heterosexuals living as furtively as pre-Stonewall gays and lesbians. In the story, a man meets the woman he loves in a gay orgy bar. They try to make love in a curtained booth (she dressed in male drag), and are caught. The story resembled nothing in any other mainstream magazine in America, and caused considerable controversy.

Beaumont wrote the scripts for some of the Twilight Zone series' most memorable episodes, including an adaptation of his own short story, "The Howling Man", starring John Carradine. He famously scripted the film Queen of Outer Space from an outline by Ben Hecht, deliberately writing the screenplay as a parody. According to Beaumont, the directorial style is not informed by this satiric intent.
He did pen one episode of Steve Canyon; "Operation B-52"; a story where Canyon and his crew attempt to set a new around the world non-stop speed record in a B-52 with a newsman aboard who hates Air Force pilots. The newsman later learns that flyboys aren't so bad after all.

Beaumont was much admired by the well-known colleagues who outlived him (Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Roger Corman), and his work is currently in the process of being rediscovered. Many of his stories have been re-released in posthumous volumes (Best of Beaumont (Bantam, 1982) and The Howling Man (Tom Doherty, 1992)), and a set of previously unpublished tales, A Touch of the Creature (Subterranean Press, 1999), is now available. In 2004, Gauntlet Press released the first of what is to be two volumes collecting Beaumont's Twilight Zone scripts. and death

When Beaumont was 34 and overwhelmed by numerous writing commitments, he began to suffer the effects of what has been called "a mysterious brain disease". He began to age rapidly. His speech slowed and his ability to concentrate diminished.
"He was rarely well," his friend and colleague William F. Nolan (who went on to co-write the sci-fi novel Logan's Run) would later recall. "He was almost always thin, and with a headache. He used Bromo-Seltzer like most people use water. He had a big Bromo bottle with him all the time." Other symptoms were of the professional as well as physical persuasion, Nolan went on: "He could barely sell stories, much less write. He would go unshaven to meetings with producers, which would end in disaster. You've got to be able to think on your feet, which Chuck couldn't do anymore; and so the producers would just go, 'We're sorry, Mr. Beaumont, but we don't like the script.'"

Some (including friend and early agent Forrest J Ackerman) have asserted that Beaumont suffered simultaneously from Alzheimer's and Pick's diseases, but it has also been speculated that the condition was related to the spinal meningitis he suffered as a child. The former diagnosis was echoed by the UCLA Medical Staff, who subjected Beaumont to a battery of tests in the mid-1960's. As recalled by Nolan, the UCLA doctors sent Beaumont home with a death sentence: "There's absolutely no treatment for this disease. It's permanent and it's terminal. He'll probably live from six months to three years with it. He'll decline and get to where he can't stand up. He won't feel any pain. In fact, he won't even know this is happening." Nolan himself sums up what happened: "Like his character 'Walter Jameson,' Chuck just dusted away."

Several fellow writers, including Nolan and friend Jerry Sohl, began ghostwriting for Beaumont in his final years, so that he could meet his many writing obligations. Privately, he insisted on splitting these fees.

Charles Beaumont died in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 38. But at that time, said his son Christopher later, "he looked ninety-five and was, in fact, ninety-five by every calendar except the one on your watch." Beaumont's last residence was in nearby Valley Village, California. He left behind his devoted wife Helen, and two sons and two daughters. One son died in 2004 of eerily similar circumstances. The other, Christopher, is a successful writer in his own right.


Twilight Zone credits

The following is a list of episodes Beaumont penned for The Twilight Zone. An asterisk (*) indicates that the episode was credited to Beaumont, but ghostwritten by Jerry Sohl.

"Perchance to Dream"
"Long Live Walter Jameson"
"A Nice Place to Visit"
"The Howling Man"
"Static" (story by O. Cee Rich)
"The Prime Mover" (story by George Clayton Johnson, who was inadvertently not credited onscreen)
"Long Distance Call"
"Shadow Play"
"The Jungle"
"Dead Man's Shoes"
"The Fugitive"
"Person or Persons Unknown"
"In His Image"
"Valley of the Shadow"
"Printer's Devil"
"The New Exhibit"*
"Passage on the Lady Anne"
"Living Doll"*
"Number 12 Looks Just Like You" (with John Tomerlin)
"Queen of the Nile"*

Short stories

“The Devil, You Say?” (Jan 1951, Amazing Stories, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“The Beautiful People” (Sep 1952, If, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“Fritzchen” (1953, Orbit #1)
“Place of Meeting” (1953, Orbit #2)
“Elegy” (Feb 1953, Imagination, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“The Last Caper” (Mar 1954, F&SF)
“Keeper of the Dream” (1954, Time to Come)
“Mass for Mixed Voices” (May 1954, Science Fiction Quarterly)
“Hair of the Dog” (Jul 1954, Orbit #3)
“The Quadriopticon” (Aug 1954, F&SF)
“Black Country” (Sep 1954, Playboy)
“The Jungle” (Dec 1954, If, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“The Murderers” (Feb 1955, Esquire)
“The Hunger” (Apr 1955, Playboy)
“The Last Word” (with Chad Oliver, Apr 1955, F&SF)
“Free Dirt” (May 1955, F&SF)
“The New Sound” (Jun 1955, F&SF)
“The Crooked Man” (Aug 1955, Playboy)
“The Vanishing American” (Aug 1955, F&SF)
“Last Rites” (Oct 1955, If)
“A Point of Honor” / “I’ll Do Anything” (Nov 1955, Manhunt)
“A Classic Affair” (Dec 1955, Playboy)
“Traumerei” (Feb 1956, Infinity Science Fiction)
“The Monster Show” (May 1956, Playboy)
“The Guests of Chance” (with Chad Oliver, Jun 1956, Infinity Science Fiction)
“You Can’t Have Them All” (Aug 1956, Playboy)
“Last Night in the Rain” / “Sin Tower” (Oct 1956, Nugget)
“The Dark Music” (Dec 1956, Playboy)
“Oh Father of Mine” / “Father, Dear Father” (Jan 1957, Venture)
“The Love-Master” (Feb 1957, Rogue)
“The Man Who Made Himself” / “In His Image” (Feb 1957, Imagination, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“Night Ride” (Mar 1957, Playboy)
“The Customers” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“Fair Lady” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“The Infernal Bouillabaisse” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“Miss Gentilbelle” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“Nursery Rhyme” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“Open House” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“Tears of the Madonna” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“The Train” (Apr 1957, “The Hunger and Other Stories”)
“A Death in the Country” / “The Deadly Will Win” (Nov 1957, Playboy)
“Anthem” (Apr 1958, “Yonder”)
“Mother’s Day” (Apr 1958, “Yonder”)
“A World of Differents” (Apr 1958, “Yonder”)
“The New People” (Aug 1958, Rogue)
“Perchance to Dream” (Oct 1958, Playboy, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“The Intruder” (1959, excerpt of chapter ten of the novel)
“The Music of the Yellow Brass” (Jan 1959, Playboy)
“The Trigger” (Jan 1959, Mystery Digest)
“Sorcerer’s Moon” (Jul 1959, Playboy)
“The Howling Man” (Nov 1959, Rogue, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“Buck Fever” (Mar 1960, “Night Ride and Other Journeys”)
“The Magic Man” (Mar 1960, “Night Ride and Other Journeys”)
“The Neighbors” (Mar 1960, “Night Ride and Other Journeys”)
“Song For a Lady” (Mar 1960, “Night Ride and Other Journeys”, adapted for Twilight Zone)
“Gentlemen, Be Seated” (Apr 1960, Rogue)
“Three Thirds of a Ghost” / “The Baron’s Secret” (Aug 1960, Nugget)
“Blood Brother” (Apr 1961, Playboy)
“Mourning Song” (1963, Gamma #1)
“Something in the Earth” (1963, Gamma #2)
"Auto Suggestion" (1965, Gamma #5)
"Insomnia Vobiscum" (1982, "Best of Beaumont")
“My Grandmother’s Japonicas” (1984, Masques #1)
“Appointment with Eddie” (1987, “The Howling Man”)
“The Carnival” (1987, “The Howling Man”)
“The Crime of Willie Washington” (1987, “The Howling Man”)
“The Man with the Crooked Nose” (1987, “The Howling Man”)
“To Hell with Claude” (with Chad Oliver, 1987, “The Howling Man”)
“The Wages of Cynicism” (1999)
“Adam’s Off Ox” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“Fallen Star” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“A Friend of the Family” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“The Indian Piper” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“The Junemoon Spoon” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“Lachrymosa” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“A Long Way from Capri” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“Moon in Gemini” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“Mr. Underhill” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“The Pool” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“Resurrection Island” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“The Rival” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“Time and Again” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“With the Family” (2000, “A Touch of the Creature”)
“I, Claude” (with Chad Oliver)
“The Rest of Science Fiction” (with Chad Oliver)

Short story collections

The Hunger and Other Stories (Apr 1957)
Yonder (Apr 1958)
Night Ride and Other Journeys (Mar 1960)
[edit] Anthologies of short fiction
The Magic Man (1965) - nine from Hunger, three from Yonder, six from Night Ride The Edge (1966) - three from Yonder, eight from Night Ride
Best of Beaumont (Nov 1982) - four from Hunger, eight from Yonder, six from Night Ride, four never before anthologized
Selected Stories (1988) - nine from Hunger, three from Yonder, eight from Night Ride, one from Best, eight never before anthologized
The Howling Man (1992) - reprint of Selected Stories
A Touch of the Creature (2000) - fourteen previously unpublished/unfinished stories


Tradita (1954)
Queen of Outer Space (1958)
Ursula (1961, based on the short story "Miss Gentilbelle")
Night of the Eagle (1962)
Premature Burial (1962)
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962)
The Intruder (1962, based on the novel)
The Haunted Palace (1963)
7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Mister Moses (1965)
Journey Into Darkness (1968, based on the short story "The New People")
Brain Dead (1990) (posthumously, from his screenplay)
Miss Gentilbelle (2000)


Run from the Hunter (1957, as Keith Grantland, w/ John E. Tomerlin)
The Intruder (1959)


Remember? Remember? (1956, essays on American pop culture between the world wars)
Omnibus of Speed: An Introduction to the World of Motorsport (1958, with William F. Nolan)

Further reading

Running from the Hunter: The Life and Works of Charles Beaumont, by Lee Prosser, (1996), ISBN 0-89370-291-9.
California Sorcery, edited by William F. Nolan and William Schafer.
The Work of Charles Beaumont: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide, by William F. Nolan.

Beaumont and Pals

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