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James J  Cremin Written by James J Cremin
Aug. 7, 2009 | 11:45 AM

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What Made Schulberg Run

What Made Schulberg Run?

Back in the mid nineties, Budd Schulberg gave a few talks at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.  Born is 1914, he must have been in his eighties.  I remember talk at the time of having his 1941 bestseller “What Makes Sammy Run” become a movie that would star Ben Stiller.  In fact, on a particular evening that I went, Stiller arrived late and stood at the back of the room to hear an authentic Hollywood legend talk.

In 1981, Schulberg penned “Moving Pictures:  Memoirs of a Hollywood Prince.”  As many of the regulars of the HMM were fans of silent movies and classic Hollywood, the attendees were treated to a slideshow of pictures, some that were in the book and some not, of an bygone era.

His father, B. P. Schulberg, was a pioneer producer probably best remembered for discovering Clara Bow, who in the late twenties was Paramount Studios biggest star. Though married and with children, the elder Schulberg had quite a liaison with her as well as with Sylvia Sidney who followed Box as Paramount’s top female star.

But the book was more than just a story of his father’s dalliances. The memoir was filled with tidbits of the young Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, George Bancroft, Louie B. Mayer, the Max Brothers and Marlene Dietrich, just a name a few.  The memoir ends with Budd leaving for Dartmouth in 1932, tired of being asked favors because he was his father’s son.

While at Dartmouth, he honed his gifts of dark humor and satire by writing for the college humor magazine.  Both are at full force when “What Makes Sammy Run” got published.  Considered quite scandalous at the time and in his own wards, the book made him persona non grata.  The story showcases anti hero Sammy Glick hustling from office boy to powerful producer.  The movie has yet to be made but it enjoy a successful Broadway run in the sixties.  Budd would be shocked when people came up to him to tell him how much they admired Sammy Glick.

He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and served under John Ford’s documentary unit.  After the war, he did stay in Germany in charge of photographic evidence for the Nuremburg committed.  He also became quite a boxing fan and regularly submitted articles to Sports Magazines.

In 1947, he wrote “The Hard They Fall”, an expose on the boxing racket.  In a 1996 foreword that Schulberg himself wrote, this was written at that time when Jack La Motta, the “Raging Bull”, infamously threw a fight to get his share of the prize money.  This was made into a movie released in 1956.  Humphrey Bogart, his last role, played a journalist who paid brides to other promoters for their fighters to take falls for his glass jawed giant.

In 1950, he wrote “The Disenchanted”.  Though the names were changed, this is a must read for anyone interested in F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Schulberg did collaborate with the famous author in the late thirties when Fitzgerald was forced to put his wife Zelda in an insane asylum and not in a good mental state himself.

Though he publicly renounced the Communist Party and stated that Stalin probably killed people than Hitler did, Schulberg was forced to appear before the House of Un-American Activities Committee in 1951.  He was briefly a member in the thirties, which Pete Seeger has recently recalled as an organization people joined to support the working man, fair wages and equality for all.

When I heard Schulberg recall this sad episode not only on his life but the nation’s, he named names that the Committee already had and in fact, hadn’t really turned in anybody.  That was also true of Elia Kazan.

In 1955, he wrote “Waterfront”, better known as “On the Waterfront”.  His screenplay won the Oscar, in fact the movie swept the Oscars, winning eight that included Best Picture, Best Director (Kazan) and Best Actor (Brando).  In fact, Brando’s “I Could Have Been a Contender” monologue is not only Schulberg’s most famous prose; it’s one of the most famous quotes of any movie made.  Throughout the years, people would give Schulberg the monologue word for word.  Schulberg denied that either he or Kazan were making any kind of apology with “On the Waterfront”, a tale about exploited workers for a ruthless business man.

Though “On The Waterfront” was not a boxing movie, the famous monologue entails Brando’s regret on throwing a fight and becoming a bum.  De Niro would recite that monologue, intentionally badly in the last scene of Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.”

Schulberg wrote another outstanding screenplay that became another movie directed by Elia Kazan.  That movie was “A Face In The Crowd”.  It was Andy Griffith’s debut, playing an uneducated country hobo who becomes a media sensation.  Success definitely gets to his head and definitely causes his own downfall.  The movie also offers strong performances of Walter Mattheau and Patricia Neal.

I did hear Schulberg say what he was most proud of was forming the Watts Writers Workshop in 1966.  He wanted to do something positive in the wake of the Watts riots in 1965 and strove to have better understanding amongst the races.

He was friends of Robert Kennedy and actually was in the kitchen in the Ambassador Hotel the night Kennedy was murdered.

He definitely lived a full life in his ninety-five years.  The world is a better place because he once lived in it.  May he serve to be an inspiration to us all.



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