RARA-AVIS: Re: High Priest of California (novel, play)

From: Chris Schneider ( chrisaschneider@earthlink.net)
Date: 30 May 2003

  Anyone have any idea when Willeford wrote his stage adaptation of "High Priest"? I just finished reading the Re/Search edition containing both versions, and it's still unclear to me whether (1) the play was written at more-or-less the same time as the novel, or (2) this was a deliberate
"period piece" recreation of an earlier time and style. Dictionary of Literary Biography mentions a 1988 production at the Sanford Meisner Theatre
-- and that's the only pre-1990 bit of stage history I've been able to find so far.
  Part of what made me wonder this was the reason for Salvatore Vitale/Blackie Victor losing his job in the novel, and that reason's conspicuous absence in the stage version.
  Perhaps it's a bit early to start talking about Willeford and "High Priest." Let's just say, though, that the novel put me in mind of the superb Ray-directed "On Dangerous Ground" (male protagonist does "good" things for exceedingly questionable reasons), while the stage version had distinct similarities to John Van Druten's "Voice of the Turtle" (city girl invites strange man to her apartment -- will they or won't they?).


P.S. Having expressed my extreme fondness for "On Dangerous Ground," I might as well add that I'd be interesting in hearing what anyone (Al Guthrie?) has to say about the source novel, "Mad With Much Heart," and its author, Gerald Butler. Did the novel contain much of what we see in this Ray/Bezzerides/Houseman adaptation? Or was the shift from a UK locale to a US one a signal to create something new?

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