Charles Beaumont (January 2, 1929 – February 21, 1967) was an 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", "Printer's Devil", and "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You", but also penned the screenplays for several films, among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, The Intruder, and The Masque of the Red Death. Novelist Dean Koontz has said, "Charles Beaumont was one of the seminal influences on writers of the fantastic and macabre." Beaumont is also the subject of the documentary, Charles Beaumont: The Short Life of Twilight Zone's Magic Man, by Jason V Brock.
|Born||Charles Leroy Nutt|
January 2, 1929
|Died||February 21, 1967 (aged 38)|
Woodland Hills, California
|Genre||speculative fiction, science fiction, horror fiction, social commentary, popular culture, short story, television, film, essay|
|Notable works||The Twilight Zone (various episodes)|
|Children||2 daughters, 2 sons|
Beaumont was born Charles Leroy Nutt in Chicago, the only child of Charles H. Nutt (an auditor of freight accounts for a railroad) and Letty Nutt, a homemaker who had been a scenarist at Essanay Studios. His father was 55 when Charles was born; Letty, his mother, was nearly 20 years her husband's junior. Letty is known to have dressed young Charles 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 Charles Nutt 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. During his time as an illustrator, he briefly used the pseudonyms Charles McNutt (circa 1947/48) and E.T. Beaumont (inspired by the city of Beaumont, located in East Texas), before settling on the name Charles Beaumont. He soon adopted this name legally and used it both personally and professionally for the rest of his life.
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), about a rebellious adolescent girl in a future conformist society in which people are obligated to alter their physical appearance (adapted as an episode of Twilight Zone, "Number 12 Looks Just Like You"), and "Free Dirt" (1955), about a man who gorges on his entire vegetable harvest and dies from having consumed the magical soil he used to grow it.
His short story "The Crooked Man" (also published by Playboy, in 1955) presents a dystopian future wherein heterosexuality is stigmatized in the same way that homosexuality then was, with heterosexual people living furtively like pre-Stonewall gay and lesbian people. In the story, a heterosexual man meets his lover in a gay orgy bar; they try to have sex in a curtained booth (she dressed in male drag) and are caught.
Beaumont wrote several scripts for The Twilight Zone, including an adaptation of his own short story, "The Howling Man", about a prisoner who might be the Devil, and the hour-long "Valley of the Shadow", about a cloistered Utopia that refuses to share its startlingly advanced technology with the outside world.
Beaumont scripted the film Queen of Outer Space from an outline by Ben Hecht, deliberately writing the screenplay as a comedic parody. According to Beaumont, the directorial style is not informed by his satiric intent. He penned one episode of the Steve Canyon TV show, "Operation B-52", in which Canyon and his crew attempt to set a new speed record in a B-52 accompanied by a newsman who hates Air Force pilots.
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 the 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). In 2004, Gauntlet Press released the first of two volumes collecting Beaumont's Twilight Zone scripts.
In 1963, 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 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". The disease also affected his work. "He could barely sell stories, much less write. He would go unshaven to meetings with producers, which would end in disaster. [A script writer has] 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'".
The condition might have been related to the spinal meningitis he suffered as a child. His friend and early agent Forrest J Ackerman has asserted an alternative, that Beaumont suffered simultaneously from Alzheimer's disease and Pick's disease. This claim was supported by the UCLA Medical Staff, who subjected Beaumont to a battery of tests in the mid-1960s that indicated that it might be either Alzheimer's or Pick's. Nolan recalls that the UCLA doctors sent Beaumont home: "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 summed 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 during 1963/64, so that he could meet his many writing obligations. Privately, he insisted on splitting these fees. By 1965, however, Beaumont was too ill to even create or sell story ideas. His last on-screen writing credit was for the 1965 film Mister Moses, officially a screenplay written with (but more likely written by) Monja Danischewsky.
Charles Beaumont died in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 38. His son Christopher later said that "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 was survived by his wife Helen, two sons and two daughters. One son, Greg, worked in sound on television and was nominated for a Grammy. Greg passed away from colon cancer at the age of 34. The other son, Christopher, is a writer.
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).
All collaborations with William F. Nolan.
"Dead Man's Shoes" is episode 83 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on January 19, 1962 on CBS.Elegy (The Twilight Zone)
"Elegy" is episode 20 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on February 19, 1960 on CBS.Long Distance Call
"Long Distance Call" is episode 58 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on March 31, 1961 on CBS. In the episode, 5-year-old boy named Billy communicates with his grandmother using a toy telephone that she gave him on his birthday, just before she died.Long Live Walter Jameson
"Long Live Walter Jameson" is episode 24 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.Miniature (The Twilight Zone)
"Miniature" is episode 110 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on February 21, 1963 on CBS. The story centers on a man's obsession with a dollhouse whose figures seem to be alive.Night of the Eagle
Night of the Eagle is a 1962 British-American horror film directed by Sidney Hayers. The script by Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and George Baxt was based upon the 1943 Fritz Leiber novel Conjure Wife. The film was retitled Burn, Witch, Burn! for the US release (not to be confused with the 1932 novel of the same name by Abraham Merritt).Passage on the Lady Anne
"Passage on the Lady Anne" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. In this episode, a couple whose marriage is struggling travel aboard an aging cruise ship, unaware that the ship is on a final voyage into the afterlife.Perchance to Dream (The Twilight Zone)
"Perchance to Dream" is episode nine of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on November 27, 1959 on CBS.
The title of the episode and the Charles Beaumont short story that inspired it is taken from Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" speech.Person or Persons Unknown
"Person or Persons Unknown" is episode 92 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.Printer's Devil
"Printer's Devil" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. The title comes from the expression printer's devil, an apprentice in the industry.
The initial plot set-up is based in part on the well-known deal with the devil motif: a mysterious, seemingly eccentric man (played by frequent Twilight Zone contributor Burgess Meredith) brings success to a local newspaper by working as its reporter and linotype operator, eventually revealing that he wants the editor's soul in exchange. This hour-long episode was written by Charles Beaumont, and based on his 1951 short story "The Devil, You Say".Queen of Outer Space
Queen of Outer Space is a 1958 American color science fiction feature film in CinemaScope, produced by Ben Schwalb, directed by Edward Bernds, that stars Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming, and Laurie Mitchell. The screenplay by Charles Beaumont, about a revolt against a cruel Venusian queen, was based on an idea supplied by Ben Hecht, originally titled Queen of the Universe. The film was released theatrically in some markets on a double feature with the Boris Karloff film Frankenstein 1970.Static (The Twilight Zone)
"Static" is episode 56 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on March 10, 1961 on CBS.The Fugitive (The Twilight Zone)
"The Fugitive" is episode 90 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.The Howling Man
"The Howling Man" is episode 41 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on November 4, 1960 on CBS.The Jungle (The Twilight Zone)
"The Jungle" is episode 77 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It first aired on December 1, 1961.The Premature Burial (film)
The Premature Burial is a 1962 American International Pictures horror film, directed by Roger Corman, starring Ray Milland, also with Hazel Court, Alan Napier, Heather Angel and Richard Ney, screenplay by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell, based upon the 1844 short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe. It was the third in the series of eight Poe-themed pictures, known informally as the "Poe Cycle", directed by Corman for American International.The Prime Mover
"The Prime Mover" is episode 57 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on March 24, 1961 on CBS.Valley of the Shadow
"Valley of the Shadow" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. In this episode, a reporter is held captive in a small town after he discovers its incredible secret.Viscount Allendale
Viscount Allendale, of Allendale and Hexham in the County of Northumberland, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 5 July 1911 for the Liberal politician Wentworth Beaumont, 2nd Baron Allendale. The title of Baron Allendale, of Allendale and Hexham in the County of Northumberland, had been created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom on 20 July 1906 for his father, the Yorkshire mining magnate and Liberal Member of Parliament, Wentworth Beaumont. The first Viscount's son, the second Viscount, notably served as Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland between 1949 and 1956. As of 2017 the titles are held by the latter's grandson, the fourth Viscount, who succeeded his father in 2002.
Several other members of the Beaumont family have also gained distinction. Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, father of the first Baron, was a politician. The Hon. Hubert Beaumont, third son of the first Baron Allendale, was a Liberal politician. His grandson was Timothy Beaumont, Baron Beaumont of Whitley.
The family seats are Bywell Hall, in Bywell and Stocksfield Hall, in Stocksfield, both in Northumberland. They also owned Bretton Hall in West Yorkshire.