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Budd (Wilson) Schulberg Biography

Budd Schulberg comments:

Nationality: American. Born: New York City, 1914; son of the Hollywood film pioneer, B.P. Schulberg. Education: Los Angeles High School, 1928-31; Deerfield Academy, 1931-32; Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1932-36, A.B. (cum laude) 1936 (Phi Beta Kappa). Military Service: Served in the United States Navy, 1943-46: Lieutenant. Career: Screenwriter, Hollywood, 1936-39; in charge of photographic evidence for the Nuremberg trials; boxing editor, Sports Illustrated, New York, 1954. Has taught writing at Columbia University, New York, Phoenixville Veterans Hospital, University of the Streets, New York, Southampton College, New York, Darmouth College, and Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York; founder, Watts Writers Workshop, Los Angeles, 1965. Since 1958 president, Schulberg Productions, New York; since 1970 founding chair, Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center, New York. Member of the New York Council, Authors' Guild, 1958-60; since 1983 council member, Writers Guild. Lives in Westhampton Beach, New York. Awards: American Library Association award, New York Critics award, Foreign Correspondents award, Screen Writers Guild award, and Oscar, all for screenplay, 1955; Christopher award, 1956; German Film Critics award, for screenplay, 1958; Susie Humanitarian award, B'nai B'rith, 1966; Image award, NAACP, 1966; Journalism award, Dartmouth College, 1966; Merit award, Lotos Club, 1966; L.A. Community Service award, 1966; B'hai Human Rights award, 1968; special award for Watts Writers Workshop, New England Theater Conference, 1969; Heritage award, Deerfield Academy, 1986; Amistad award; award for work with black writers, Howard University; Prix Literaire, Deauville Festival; Westhampton Writers Lifetime Achievement award; World Boxing Association Living Legend award, 1990; Southampton Cultural Center 1st annual literature award, 1992; A.J. Leibling award, 1997. D. Litt.: Dartmouth College, 1960; Long Island University, Greenvale, New York, 1983; Hofstra University, 1985.



What Makes Sammy Run? New York, Random House, and London, Jarrolds, 1941.

The Harder They Fall. New York, Random House, and London, Lane, 1947; with a new foreword by the author, Chicago, Ivan R. Dee, 1996.

The Disenchanted. New York, Random House, 1950; London, Lane, 1951.

Waterfront. New York, Random House, 1955; London, Lane, 1956; as On the Waterfront, London, Corgi, 1959.

Sanctuary V. Cleveland, World, 1969; London, W.H. Allen, 1970.

Everything That Moves. New York, Doubleday, 1980; London, Robson, 1981.

Short Stories

Some Faces in the Crowd. New York, Random House, 1953; London, Lane, 1954.

Love, Action, Laughter, and Other Sad Tales. New York, RandomHouse, 1989; London, Allison and Busby, 1992.


Hollywood Doctor (broadcast 1941). Published in The Writer's Radio Theatre, edited by Norman Weiser, New York, Harper, 1941.

Tomorrow, with Jerome Lawrence (radio play), in Free World Theatre, edited by Arch Oboler and Stephen Longstreet. New York, Random House, 1944.

The Pharmacist's Mate, in The Best Television Plays 1950-1951, edited by William I. Kauffman. New York, Merlin Press, 1952.

A Face in the Crowd: A Play for the Screen. New York, RandomHouse, 1957.

Across the Everglades: A Play for the Screen. New York, RandomHouse, 1958.

The Disenchanted, with Harvey Breit, adaptation of the novel bySchulberg (produced New York, 1958). New York, Random House, 1959.

What Makes Sammy Run?, with Stuart Schulberg, music by ErvinDrake, adaptation of the novel by Budd Schulberg (produced New York, 1964).

On the Waterfront: Original Story and Screenplay, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1980.


Little Orphan Annie, with Samuel Ornitz and EndreBohem, 1938; Winter Carnival, with Maurice Rapf and Lester Cole, 1939; Weekend for Three, with Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell, 1941; Government Girl, with Dudley Nichols, 1943; City Without Men, with Martin Berkeley and W.L. River, 1943; On the Waterfront, 1954; A Face in the Crowd, 1957; Wind Across the Everglades, 1958; Joe Louis—For All Time, 1984.

Radio Play:

Hollywood Doctor, 1941.

Television Play:

A Question of Honor, 1982.


Loser and Still Champion: Muhammad Ali. New York, Doubleday, and London, New English Library, 1972.

The Four Seasons of Success. New York, Doubleday, 1972; London, Robson, 1974; revised edition, as Writers in America, New York, Stein and Day, 1983.

Swan Watch, photographs by Geraldine Brooks. New York, DelacortePress, and London, Robson, 1975.

Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince. New York, Stein and Day, 1981; London, Souvenir Press, 1982.

Sparring with Hemingway, and Other Legends of the Fight Game. Chicago, I.R. Dee, 1995.

Editor, From the Ashes: The Voices of Watts. New York, NewAmerican Library, 1967.


Manuscript Collections:

Princeton University, New Jersey; Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

Critical Studies:

interview in Cineaste (New York), 1981.

(1972) I was raised in Hollywood, in the middle of the film capital, and had an early education in the vicissitudes of success and failure. I became convinced, before I was out of high school, that the dynamics of success and failure were of earthquake proportions in American, and that Hollywood was only an exaggerated version of the American success drive. Undoubtedly this influenced my first novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, as it did The Harder They Fall, The Disenchanted, and many other things I have tried to write. I believe it is the prime American theme, prompting my essays on Sinclair Lewis, Scott Fitzgerald, William Saroyan, Nathanael West, Thomas Heggen, and John Steinbeck, all writers I knew well. I believe that the seasons of success and failure are more violent in America than anywhere else on earth. Witness only Herman Melville and Jack London, to name two of the victims.

I have been influenced by Mark Twain, by Frank Norris, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, and the social novelists. I believe in art, but I don't believe in art for art's sake; while despising the Soviet official societal writing, I believe in art for people's sake. I believe the novelist should be an artist cum sociologist. I think he should see his characters in social perspective. I think that is one of his obligations. At the same time, I think he also has an obligation to entertain. I think the novel should run on a double track. I am proud of the fact that Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Jungle and The Grapes of Wrath helped to change or at least alarm society. I am proud of the fact that books of mine, Sammy, or On the Waterfront, caught the public attention but also made it more aware of social sores, the corruption that springs from the original Adam Smith ideal of individuality. I think Ayn Rand tries to apply eighteenth-century ideals to twentieth-century problems—and I'm not sure they worked that well then. My flags are down: I believe in neither Smith nor Marx, in neither Nixon nor Mao nor the Soviet bureaucrats who persecute my fellow writers. There was a time when I was young when I sang the "International." Who would have guessed that the "International" would result in the two largest countries in the world, both "Socialist," brandishing lethal weapons at each other? As long as we can wonder and remember, speculate and (perhaps vainly) hope, we are not dead. The non-or anti-communist humanist writer of novels may be slightly out of style, but there are miles and decades and many books to go before he sleeps.

* * *

Budd Schulberg earned fame with his first and best novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, published in 1941 on the author's twenty-seventh birthday. This narrative of an obnoxious office boy's quick rise to head of a major motion picture studio threatened to become the author's type story for all his novels. The Harder They Fall told the pathetic story of the rise of Toro Molina to heavy-weight boxing champion, although "El Toro" is actually the victim of an ambitious, unscrupulous fight promoter named Nick Latka. Schulberg's The Disenchanted traced the doomed comeback attempt of Manley Halliday, a novelist and culture-hero of the 1920s now reduced to writing movie scenarios when sober. In these three early novels and many of the collected short stories of Some Faces in the Crowd, Schulberg is absorbed with the theme of rapid success and the psychic losses of public winners: compromise with self, betrayal by or of others, doubt, guilt, isolation, and fear haunt and shame his restless characters.

Schulberg's plots have frequently reflected the author's background as screenwriter and son of a Hollywood producer. Not surprisingly, many of his novels have been produced as movies, but his fourth novel, Waterfront, was a successful movie first, with the novel version a distinct improvement over the author's own scenario. After a fifteen year lapse, Schulberg returned to the novel with Sanctuary V, a melodramatic study of a failed revolution and the ruinous effects of sudden power. In this least successful novel, Justo Suarez, the provisional president of what is obviously Cuba, has fled from the corrupted revolutionary Angel Bello to take sanctuary in a corrupt embassy among corrupt or perverted refugees and jailer-hosts.

Not only is Angel Bello clearly Fidel Castro, earlier novels just as recognizably modeled their protagonists on real-life counterparts: the hapless, peasant-fighter Toro Molina is Primo Carnera, while Manley Halliday is Scott Fitzgerald, with whom Schulberg ("Shep" in the book) had once worked on a Dartmouth winter carnival scenario. When Schulberg is not "exposing" Hollywood through memories of real-life counterparts or composites, he utilizes journalistic skill and thorough research for fictional exposés of the fight game (Harder They Fall) and the brutal life around New York harbor (Waterfront). Like most exposés, the novels exploit the most sensational elements, though Schulberg reveals an un-Hollywoodian preference for the seamy over the sexy. He does commit many other major "Hollywood" faults, employing gimmicks, stereotyped characters, sentimentality, and mechanical, reflex responses to life-situations in place of serious ideas or a personal vision.

With Sammy, however, even the faults seem appropriate. The snappy repartee and artificial dialogue brilliantly sum up the brittle, superficial world of 1930s Hollywood. The novel's fast pace, the picaresque audacity of the almost likable, conscienceless heel-hero, the predictable ending of the betrayer betrayed (and, implicitly, of the hunter about to be hunted) still add up, after fifty years, to one of the best Hollywood novels ever written. Like many other commercial writers, Schulberg knows that first-person is the easiest way to tell a story; he uses this form often and well, and in What Makes Sammy Run? he created a minor classic of this form and the Hollywood sub-genre.

—Frank Campenni

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