News & Politics

Budd Schulberg, 1918-2009


“Going through life with a conscience is like driving a car with the brakes on,” said Sammy Glick, the Hollywood antihero of What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Shulberg, who died this week at age 91. In that light, Shulberg may be said to have had his brakes on for decades, but he still came quite a long ways. Born into Hollywood royalty, he nonetheless became a conscientious member of the Communist Party. In the 50s he cooperated with Congress against the Party and named names — and, like his fellow name-namer Elia Kazan, sought to explain himself in On The Waterfront. If that document means anything (and who knows), it’s that he was driven by a sincere revelation that the Reds were, as he put it, a “menace,” not by opportunism (Ring Lardner, Jr., who got scorched, and others thought otherwise). But he told Arthur Koestler, “I hate the Communists, but I don’t like to attack the Left,” and in later days ran a writing workshop in Watts after the riots there, attempting to channel black rage into literature. In between, he got to work with Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood, which experience he turned into the book and play The Disenchanted, and lovingly chronicled boxing matches. His whole life was conflict, it seems, yet it was long and full of honors. Whether that was because he was right, or because he was good, or because he was lucky, we leave to you and history.

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