Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jill Krementz remembers Budd Schulberg (1914-2009)

"The first time I saw him he couldn't have been much more than sixteen years old, a little ferret of a kid, sharp and quick. Sammy Glick. Used to run copy for me. Always ran. Always looked thirsty. 'Good morning, Mr. Manheim,' he said to me the first time we met. 'I'm the new office boy, but I ain't going to be an office boy long.' 'Don't say ain't' I said, 'or you'll be an office boy forever.' 'Thanks, Mr. Manheim,' he said, 'that's why I took this job, so I can be around writers and learn about grammar and how to act right.'"
from What Makes Sammy Run?
Budd Schulberg was born a "Hollywood Prince," the son of Paramount studio chief B.P. Schulberg. Witnessing Hollywood's highs, lows, and excesses throughout his father's topsy-turvy career, he moved on to become a novelist and screenwriter. In the mogul Sammy Glick, hero of his seminal Hollywood novel, What Makes Sammy Run? (1941), Schulberg created an American icon. At the end of World War II, after serving in John Ford's OSS/Navy film unit in Europe, Captain Ford put him in charge of gathering and presenting photographic evidence used in the Nuremberg Trial in 1945-46. His screenplays include On the Waterfront (1954), winning him an Academy Award, and A Face in the Crowd (1957). Among his other well-known novels are The Harder They Fall (1947), the story of a mob-owned prizefighter, and The Disenchanted (1950), whose alcoholic central character is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Schulberg revisits his "Home Sweet Hollywood" in the memoir Moving Pictures (1981).
Budd Schulberg with his third wife, Geraldine Brooks who died of cancer in 1977. Besides being a talented actress who starred on stage, screen and TV, she was an excellent photographer. A book of her photographs, with essays by Mr. Schulberg, “Swan Watch,” was published in 1975. They lived on a waterfront home in Quogue, Long Island.
Writing novels and giving birth have this in common: While you know how much time and effort go into it, you haven’t the slightest effort how it will come out.
Schulberg with close friend, Elia Kazan. In 1954, they both won Oscars for "On The Waterfront," Kazan for Best Director, Schulberg for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.
After the murder of Martin Luther King, Schulberg began a writer’s workshop in the devastated ghetto of Watts. “I didn’t want to just hang back and complain about things,” he said. "I thought we should all do something. I found great poets, great hearts in the ashes of Watts.”

He later founded, and taught at, the Frederick Douglas Creative Arts Center in Harlem, which continues to this day.
In the year following the death of his wife Geraldine, Budd Schulberg married Betsy Ann Langman, niece of the late author, Barbara Tuchman. "I need to be married," he said. They had two children together, Benn and Jessica. They lived on the bay in Westhampton, New York.
To those of us who grew up in the innocent ‘30’s when good and evil was clearly defined like the white hats and the black hats in Hollywood westerns, it is downright shocking to find that being called a ‘Sammy’ is no longer an insult. Now self-confident young men come up to shake my hand because ‘I learned so much in your book—it helped me get ahead—the more I read the more I wanted to be Sammy.’

I give their hands back to them in dismay. If ruthless, amoral and aggressively self-centered Sammy Glick has become a candidate for the Junior Chamber of Congress—Horatio Alger with a martini in one hand and a switchblade in the other--what have we done to our Jeffersonian pieties to which we give lip service at political conventions and to the Golden Rule we like to quote rather than practice? Instead of Do Unto Others ... Sammy’s code is ‘Do it to them before they do it to me.’ Or, as the Watergaters continue to insist, ‘Everybody does it.’
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.