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RIP Budd Schulberg

August 5, 2009


The ending of Budd Schulberg‘s extraordinary life at age 95 tonight is just a little strange for me personally. By a very odd coincidence, just last night I finished watching the 1959 TV production of “What Makes Sammy Run?,” Schulberg’s great and possibly never-to-be-filmed 1941 novel about Hollywood dehumanization (yes, it goes back that far, at least). The DVD included an interview he gave just last year and, given his age and fairly obvious frailty, I wondered how long it would be before I’d be writing one of these posts on him. He was not a young man, but this is still too soon.

Anyhow, what can you say about the writer of “On the Waterfront” and “A Face in the Crowd” — two of the most acclaimed screenplays ever written — and the nastily on-point movie business novel which was so effective it drove John Wayne to physical violence? Of course, Schulberg got it from all sides, though for differing reasons.

Like most liberals, I have serious complaints with how Schulberg comported himself during the McCarthy era, and certain lines in both of his great scripts slightly stick in my craw. While, unlike many, he never abandoned his liberalism, it’s clear to me that his entirely justified anticommunism took a form that helped that American extreme-right,  harmed the first amendment, and bolstered the most vicious aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Still, there’s no denying the power and clarity of his writing or the moral values they expressed at their best.

As it happens, I posted one great scene from “A Face in the Crowd” last week. Here’s another clip from that should knock your socks off.

From the only surviving dramatization of the ultimate Hollywood novel.

“On the Waterfront” has never been a huge personal favorite of mine, but it’s easy to see why this became one of the most famous scenes ever in movie history. And it’s more than five minutes of two guys talking in the back of a cab with no action or movement other than the tremendous emotions between two brothers. Hard to imagine anyone in mainstream movies having the guts to pull this one off now.

H/t The Auteurs Daily Feed

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