Budd Schulberg

Budd Schulberg, screenwriter for On the Waterfront, passed away yesterday at the age of 95.

Born in New York but raised in Hollywood, he was the son of B.P. Schulberg, head of Paramount Pictures, and grew up with the likes of Clara Bow & Marlene Dietrich in his living room.

He went to Dartmouth, where his extracurricular activities included collaborating on a play with F. Scott Fitgerald (his novel Disenchanted is assumed to be a thinly-disguised account of that experience --it later became a Broadway play).

After graduation his parents, members of the Communist Party, placed him on the board of the Screen Actors Guild so he could push for Party causes.

Even his war service was movie related. Entering the Navy during World War II, he ended up working with John Ford's unit documenting Nazi atrocities, and was the guy who personally arrested Leni Reifenstahl.

Schulberg broke with the Party over its refusal to break with Stalin --although his relationship with the Party was always rough. His own father asked him to repudiate his 1941 novel, What Makes Sammy Run, which introduced the archetypical Hollywood Shill, Sammy Glick, but also criticized many "progressive" ideas.

Schulberg willingly testified before HUAC in 1951. He would later explain:
I felt that what the Party was doing secretively was very wrong; it could have been the Ku Klux Klan or the American Nazis. And nobody came out and said that Stalin was killing more people than Hitler.
It was shortly thereafter that he penned On The Waterfront, his collaboration with director Elia Kazan. He also wrote A Face in the Crowd (working again with Kazan), reviewed here recently, which is one of the best explorations of demagoguery on film. If there's a theme to his work it might be the exposure of corruption.

He wrote of Fitzgerald's novels and his own father's movies that both were:
stricken with a double vision and a double morality, glorifying the society they were so heatedly exposing, exposing the society they could not resist glorifying.
He was also a lifelong boxing fan. Somewhere in his youth he was the boxing correspondent for Sports Illustrated, and he wrote both a novel about the business, The Harder They Fall, and a biography of Muhammad Ali.

Predictably, many of the obits are snarky --the crime against the Holy Spirit in Hollywood is HUAC testimony. But here's a nice one, which includes other odd brushes with history --sparring with Hemingway, and being present at Bobby Kennedy's assassination.

He is survived by his wife and 5 children.

Update: My spy in LA found me a Catholic angle. The spy, who once lived in NY, was present for this address Schulberg made at Fordham. "Great stories," he reports --including much on his relationship with John Corridan, SJ, on whom "On the Waterfront's" Fr. Barry was modeled.

Another questioner asked, in effect, how a nice Jewish boy like Mr. Schulberg had ended up writing a movie in which so many characters are very identifiably Catholic.

''It was not a big leap for me,'' Mr. Schulberg said. ''I thought of Jesus as a very, very moving Jewish prophet. I agreed with so much of the social message of Jesus,'' and ''I was very affected by the depth of the commitment of people like Father Corridan.''