Leigh Douglass Brackett (December 7, 1915 – March 18, 1978) was an American writer, particularly of science fiction, and has been referred to as the Queen of Space Opera. She was also a screenwriter, known for her work on such films as The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), The Long Goodbye (1973) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980). She was the first woman shortlisted for the Hugo Award.
Brackett in 1941
|Born||Leigh Douglass Brackett|
December 7, 1915
Los Angeles, California, US
|Died||March 18, 1978 (aged 62)|
|Genre||Science fiction, crime fiction|
|Notable works||Eric John Stark series|
Edmond Hamilton (m. 1946–1977)(until his death)
Leigh Brackett was born December 7, 1915 in Los Angeles, California, and grew up there. On December 31, 1946, at age 31, she married Edmond Hamilton in San Gabriel, California, and moved with him to Kinsman, Ohio. She died of cancer in 1978 in Lancaster, California.
Brackett first published in her mid-20s; the science fiction story "Martian Quest" appeared in the February 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Her earliest years as a writer (1940–42) were her most productive. Some of her stories have social themes, such as "The Citadel of Lost Ships" (1943), which considers the effects on the native cultures of alien worlds of Earth's expanding trade empire. During this period, she was also an active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), and participated in local science fiction fandom in other ways, including contributing to the second issue of Pogo's STF-ETTE, an all-female science fiction fanzine (probably the first such).
Brackett's first novel, No Good from a Corpse (1944), was a hard-boiled mystery novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler (The book resulted in her getting her first big screenwriting assignment.) After this, Brackett's science fiction stories became more ambitious. Shadow Over Mars (1944) was her first novel-length science fiction story; though somewhat rough-edged, it marked the beginning of a new style. This was strongly influenced by the characterization of the 1940s detective story and film noir.
In 1946, Brackett married fellow science fiction author Edmond Hamilton (fellow LASFS member Ray Bradbury served as best man). Planet Stories published the novella "Lorelei of the Red Mist", in which the protagonist is a thief called Hugh Starke. Brackett finished the first half before turning it over to Ray Bradbury, so that she could leave to work on the screenplay of the movie The Big Sleep, based on a Chandler novel.
Brackett returned to science fiction writing after her movie work, in 1948. From then on to 1951, she produced a series of science fiction adventure stories that were longer than her previous work, including such classic representations of her planetary settings as "The Moon that Vanished" and the novel Sea-Kings of Mars (1949). The latter was later published as The Sword of Rhiannon, a vivid description of Mars before its oceans evaporated.
In "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (1949), Brackett created the character of Eric John Stark. Stark, an orphan from Earth, is raised by the semi-sentient aboriginals of Mercury, who are later killed by Earthmen. He is saved by a Terran official, who adopts Stark and becomes his mentor. When threatened, Stark reverts to the primitive N'Chaka, the "man without a tribe", who he was on Mercury. From 1949 to 1951, Brackett featured Stark (whose name echoes that of the hero in "Lorelei of the Red Mist") in three stories published in Planet Stories: "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", "Enchantress of Venus", and "Black Amazon of Mars". With this last story, Brackett's high adventure period of writing ended.
Brackett adopted an elegiac tone in her stories, no longer celebrating the conflicts of frontier worlds but lamenting the passing of civilizations, and concentrating more on mood than plot. The reflective, introspective nature of these stories is indicated in the titles: "The Last Days of Shandakor", "Shannach — the Last", and "Last Call from Sector 9G".
"Last Call" was published in the final issue (Summer 1955) of Planet Stories, which had been her most reliable publisher. After Planet Stories folded, and later in 1955, Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, Brackett had lost all of her magazine market. The first phase of her career as a science fiction author ended. She did produce other stories over the next decade, and revised and published some as novels.
A new production of this period was The Long Tomorrow (1955), one of Brackett's more critically acclaimed science fiction novels. This novel describes an agrarian, technophobic society that develops after a nuclear war.
After 1955, Brackett concentrated writing for the more lucrative film and television markets. In 1963 and 1964, she briefly returned to her old Martian milieu with a pair of stories. "The Road to Sinharat" can be regarded as an affectionate farewell to the world of "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", and the other – with the intentionally ridiculous title of "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon" – borders on parody.
After another hiatus of nearly a decade, Brackett returned to science fiction in the 1970s with the publication of The Ginger Star (1974), The Hounds of Skaith (1974) and The Reavers of Skaith (1976), collected as The Book of Skaith in 1976. This trilogy brought Eric John Stark back for adventures upon the extra-solar planet of Skaith (rather than his old haunts of Mars and Venus).
Often referred to as the "Queen of Space Opera", Brackett also wrote planetary romance. Almost all of her planetary romances take place in the Leigh Brackett Solar System, which contains richly detailed fictional versions of the consensus Mars and Venus of science fiction from the 1930s to the 1950s. Mars appears as a marginally habitable desert world, populated by ancient, decadent and mostly humanoid races; Venus as a primitive, wet jungle planet, occupied by vigorous, primitive tribes and reptilian monsters. Brackett's Skaith combines elements of her other worlds with fantasy elements.
Though the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs is apparent in Brackett's Mars stories, her Mars is set firmly in a world of interplanetary commerce and competition. A prominent theme of her stories is the clash of planetary civilizations; the stories illustrate and criticize the effects of colonialism on civilizations that are either older or younger than those of the colonizers. These stories have remained relevant for their colonial critique. Burroughs' heroes set out to remake entire worlds according to their own codes; Brackett's heroes (often antiheroes) are at the mercy of trends and movements far bigger than they are.
After the Mariner missions proved there was no life on Mars, she never returned to her solar system. When she started to write planetary romance again in the 70s, she invented a new solar system outside our own.
Shortly after Brackett broke into science fiction writing, she wrote her first screenplays. Hollywood director Howard Hawks was so impressed by her novel No Good from a Corpse that he had his secretary call in "this guy Brackett" to help William Faulkner write the script for The Big Sleep (1946). The film was written by Brackett, William Faulkner, and Jules Furthman, and starred Humphrey Bogart. It is considered one of the best movies ever made in the genre.
After getting married, Brackett took a long break from screenwriting. When she returned to screenwriting in the mid-1950s, she wrote for TV and movies. Howard Hawks hired her to write or co-write several John Wayne pictures, including Rio Bravo (1959), Hatari! (1962), El Dorado (1966), and Rio Lobo (1970). Because of her background with The Big Sleep, she later adapted Raymond Chandler's novel The Long Goodbye for the screen.
Brackett worked on the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, the first Star Wars sequel. The film won the Hugo Award in 1981. This script was a departure for Brackett, as until then, all of her science fiction had been in the form of novels and short stories. Brackett's role in writing the script is disputed. George Lucas said that he asked Brackett to write the screenplay based on his story outline. Brackett wrote a finished first draft, which was delivered to Lucas shortly before her death from cancer on March 18, 1978. Two drafts of a new screenplay were written by Lucas and, following the delivery of the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, turned over to Lawrence Kasdan for a new approach. Both Brackett and Kasdan (though not Lucas) were given credit for the final script.
Laurent Bouzereau, in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, said that Lucas disliked the direction of Brackett's screenplay, discarded it, and produced two more screenplays before turning the results over to Kasdan. Some fans, however, believe that they can detect traces of Brackett's influence in the dialogue and the treatment of the space opera genre in Empire. io9's co-founder Charlie Jane Anders has written that while "It's fashionable to disparage Brackett's contributions to Empire", "it's not true that none of Brackett's storyline winds up in the final movie — the basic story beats are the same."
Similarly John Saavedra of Den of Geek website says:
Most importantly, you see that Brackett's draft, while definitely in need of a rewrite and several tweaks, holds all of the big moments we'd eventually see on screen. We still get a version of the Battle of Hoth (a much more ridiculous one), the wise words of an old Jedi Master, the excitement of zooming through a deadly asteroid field, a love triangle (a MUCH more overt one), a majestic city in the clouds, unexpected betrayals, and the climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader that we would reenact on playgrounds for years to come.
Brackett's screenplay has never been officially or legally published. According to Stephen Haffner, it can be read at the Jack Williamson Special Collections library at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico (but may not be copied or checked out) and the archives at Lucasfilm in California.
[Leigh Brackett] has been a pal of Ray Bradbury for years, and with her husband was guest of honor at last year's World Science-Fiction Convention in Oakland
A review of Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays written and compiled by Laurent Bouzereau
The 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, also known as Pacificon II, was held September 4–7, 1964, at the Hotel Leamington in Oakland, California, United States.
Pacificon was combined with Westercon, the annual West Coast Science Fantasy Conference, sharing guests of honor and chairmen. The chairmen were J. Ben Stark and Al haLevy. The guests of honor were Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton (pro), and Forrest J Ackerman (fan). The toastmaster was Anthony Boucher. Total attendance was approximately 523.Charles Cyphers
Charles Cyphers (born July 28, 1939) is an American actor who has starred in many films and on television. He is known in the horror movie community for his work in the films of John Carpenter, especially his role as Sheriff Leigh Brackett in Carpenter's 1978 hit horror movie Halloween. He reprised this role in the 1981 sequel Halloween II. He is not related to actor Jon Cypher, alongside whom he starred in Hill Street Blues.Edmond Hamilton
Edmond Moore Hamilton (October 21, 1904 – February 1, 1977) was an American writer of science fiction during the mid-twentieth century.El Dorado (1966 film)
El Dorado is a 1966 American Western film produced and directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Written by Leigh Brackett and loosely based on the novel The Stars in Their Courses by Harry Brown, the film is about a gunfighter who comes to the aid of an old friend—a drunken sheriff struggling to defend a rancher and his family against another rancher trying to steal their water. The gunfighter and drunken sheriff are helped by an aging Indian fighter and a young gambler. The supporting cast features James Caan as the young gambler, Charlene Holt, Ed Asner, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, Michele Carey, and Christopher George.
El Dorado was filmed on location in Tucson, Arizona and Kanab, Utah, and was shot in Technicolor. The paintings in the credits are by artist Olaf Wieghorst, who makes a brief appearance as Swede Larsen in the film. The musical score was composed by Nelson Riddle. Paramount Pictures delayed the release of the film in the United States to avoid competing against another Paramount film, Nevada Smith with Steve McQueen. The film was first released in Japan on December 17, 1966, and was finally released in the United States on June 7, 1967. The film received critical praise and was successful at the box office, generating North American rentals of $5,950,000 on box-office receipts of $12 million.El Dorado is the second of three films directed by Hawks about a sheriff defending his office against belligerent outlaw elements in the town, after Rio Bravo (1959) and before Rio Lobo (1970), both also starring Wayne in approximately the same role. The plotlines of all three films are almost similar enough to qualify El Dorado and Rio Lobo as remakes. Dean Martin had portrayed the drunken deputy in Rio Bravo, preceding Mitchum in the part as a drunken sheriff, while Walter Brennan played the wild old man role later rendered by Arthur Hunnicutt, and Ricky Nelson appeared as a gunslinging newcomer similar to Caan in El Dorado.
Members of the Western Writers of America chose the film's theme as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.Eric John Stark
Eric John Stark is a character created by the science fiction author Leigh Brackett. Stark is the hero of a series of pulp adventures set in a time when the Solar System has been colonized. His origin-story shares some characteristics with feral characters such as Mowgli and Tarzan; his adventures take place in the shared space opera planets of 1940s and 1950s science fiction.Gold of the Seven Saints
Gold of the Seven Saints is a western film adaptation of a 1957 Steve Frazee novel titled Desert Guns. Released by Warner Brothers in 1961, the 88-minute film starred Clint Walker, Roger Moore, Letícia Román, Robert Middleton, and Chill Wills. It was directed by Gordon Douglas, who had earlier directed Walker in 1958's Fort Dobbs and 1959's Yellowstone Kelly. Leigh Brackett wrote the screenplay and Joseph F. Biroc provided the black-and-white photography, most of which was shot in and around Arches National Park in Utah. The film did not do notably well at the box office.Hatari!
Hatari! (pronounced [hɑtɑri], Swahili for "Danger!") is a 1962 American action/adventure romantic comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne. It portrays a group of professional game catchers in Africa. The film includes dramatic wildlife chases and the scenic backdrop of Mount Meru, a dormant volcano.
Hatari! was shot in Technicolor and filmed on location in northern Tanganyika (in what is now Tanzania).People of the Talisman
People of the Talisman is a science fiction novel by Leigh Brackett set on the planet Mars, whose protagonist is Eric John Stark.Rio Bravo (film)
Rio Bravo is a 1959 American Western film produced and directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, and Ward Bond. Written by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, based on the short story "Rio Bravo" by B. H. McCampbell, the film is about the sheriff of the town of Rio Bravo, Texas, who arrests the brother of a powerful local rancher to help his drunken deputy/friend. With the help of a cripple and a young gunfighter, they hold off the rancher's gang. Rio Bravo was filmed on location at Old Tucson Studios outside Tucson, Arizona, in Technicolor.
In 2014, Rio Bravo was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.Rio Lobo
Rio Lobo is a 1970 American Western film starring John Wayne. The film was the last film directed by Howard Hawks, from a script by Leigh Brackett. The film was shot in Technicolor with a running time of 114 minutes. The musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith and the movie was filmed at Cuernavaca in the Mexican state of Morelos and at Tucson, Arizona.
It was the third Howard Hawks film varying the idea of a sheriff defending his office against belligerent outlaw elements in the town, after Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1966), both also starring John Wayne.The Big Jump
The Big Jump is a science fiction novel by American writer Leigh Brackett, centered on the first manned expedition to Barnard's Star.The Big Sleep (1946 film)
The Big Sleep is a 1946 film noir directed by Howard Hawks, the first film version of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name. The film stars Humphrey Bogart as private detective Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge in a story about the "process of a criminal investigation, not its results." William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman co-wrote the screenplay. In 1997, the U.S. Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," and added it to the National Film Registry.
Because the film was scheduled for release a year after it was made, parts of the original 1945 cut were afterwards significantly rescripted and shot. A copy of the 1945 version was later restored and released in 1997.The City Outside the World
The City Outside the World is a science fantasy novel by American writer Lin Carter, the third in his Edgar Rice Burroughs- and Leigh Brackett-inspired series The Mysteries of Mars. It was first published in paperback by Berkley Medallion in October 1977 and in reissued in trade paperback by Wildside Press in December 1999. The first hardcover edition was published by Wildside Press in February 2011.The Long Goodbye (film)
The Long Goodbye is a 1973 American thriller film directed by Robert Altman and based on Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel of the same title. The screenplay was written by Leigh Brackett, who cowrote the screenplay for The Big Sleep in 1946. The film stars Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe and features Sterling Hayden, Nina Van Pallandt, Jim Bouton, and Mark Rydell.
The story's period was moved from 1949–50 to 1970s Hollywood. The Long Goodbye has been described as "a study of a moral and decent man cast adrift in a selfish, self-obsessed society where lives can be thrown away without a backward glance ... and any notions of friendship and loyalty are meaningless."The Man Who Loved Mars
The Man Who Loved Mars is a science fantasy novel by American writer Lin Carter, the first in his Edgar Rice Burroughs- and Leigh Brackett-inspired series The Mysteries of Mars. It was first published in paperback by Fawcett Gold Medal in March 1973. The first British edition was published in hardcover by White Lion in August of the same year. It was reissued by Wildside Press in December 1999. The novel has also been translated into German.The Starmen
The Starmen is a science fiction novel by American writer Leigh Brackett. It was published in 1952 by Gnome Press in an edition of 5,000 copies. It was also published by Ballantine Books in 1976 under the original magazine title of The Starmen of Llyrdis. Ace Books published an abridged edition under the title The Galactic Breed. The Ace edition was published as an Ace Double with Conquest of the Space Sea by Robert Moore Williams. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Startling Stories in 1951.The Sword of Rhiannon
The Sword of Rhiannon is a science fantasy novel by Leigh Brackett, set in her usual venue of Mars. A 1942 Brackett story, "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon", also uses the name; however, it is the name of a place rather than a character.The Valley Where Time Stood Still
The Valley Where Time Stood Still is a science fantasy novel by American writer Lin Carter, the second in his Edgar Rice Burroughs- and Leigh Brackett-inspired series The Mysteries of Mars. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in December 1974 and in paperback by Popular Library in February 1976. It was reissued by Wildside Press in April 2008.The Vampire's Ghost
The Vampire's Ghost is 1945 American horror film directed by Lesley Selander, written by Leigh Brackett and John K. Butler, and starring John Abbott, Charles Gordon, Peggy Stewart, Grant Withers, Emmett Vogan and Adele Mara. The film is based on John William Polidori's short story "The Vampyre" and was released on May 21, 1945, by Republic Pictures.