Page 2 of 3   <       >

Budd Schulberg, 95; Academy Award-Winning Screenwriter of 'On the Waterfront'

He was the only non-boxer the World Boxing Association named a living legend of boxing.

Budd Wilson Schulberg was born in New York on March 27, 1914. He grew up in Los Angeles, where his father, Benjamin "B.P." Schulberg, was head of production at Paramount studios. His mother was the former Adeline Jaffe, a powerful literary agent.

He grew up on the studio lot, being kissed as a child by Mary Pickford and Clara Bow. He once playfully threw figs at stars such as Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. The enormous set for the silent "Ben-Hur" was his playground.

A childhood stutter left him with a fear of speaking and prompted him to write. But it was a crushing experience putting pen to paper, he recalled in his 1981 autobiography, "Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince." His demanding father called the 8-year-old's first poem "lousy." He forgave his father with time, saying the encounter taught him a valuable lesson in the need for revision.

He was a 1936 summa cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College and edited the student newspaper. He returned to Hollywood after school and worked as a junior writer, usually a lowly and unrewarding job, yet he was lucky in his assignments.

He worked with Ring Lardner Jr. polishing up "A Star is Born" (1937) and then with F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of "The Great Gatsby," on the college picture "Winter Carnival" (1939).

He was stunned meeting Fitzgerald, whose career had spiraled downward from drink, debt and other personal problems. He had thought Fitzgerald was long dead, but producer Walter Wanger reassured him, "If he is, he must be the first ghost who ever got $1,500 a week."

The two authors were ordered to Dartmouth to gather local flavor for "Winter Carnival." Fitzgerald got drunk, embarrassed the studio and was fired. Mr. Schulberg later finished the project with two other writers.

He used the episode with Fitzgerald for the core of "The Disenchanted" (1950), a bestselling novel credited with helping revive serious study of Fitzgerald's career.

After "Winter Carnival," Mr. Schulberg launched into his celebrated first novel, "What Makes Sammy Run?"

The title character, Sammy Glick, a newspaper errand boy, slithers and slices his way to wealth as a film producer. "Going through life with a conscience," Sammy says, "is like driving your car with the brakes on."

B.P. Schulberg, long gone from Paramount after gambling and womanizing helped end his career there, warned his son against publishing the book. He feared his son would be blacklisted for writing about Hollywood backstabbing, casual sex, an ineffectual writers guild and the first-generation Jews who helped build the film community.

<       2        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company