Roger L. Simon

Budd Schulberg dies at 95

Ron Radosh just emailed me the sad, thought not surprising (he was 95) news that the novelist and screenwriter Budd Schuldberg had passed. Schulberg had a powerful personal influence on my life, although I only met him once and that only briefly at a football game years ago. He and my father were Dartmouth classmates (1936) and my father spotted him among other alumni at the game and introduced me. I don’t think dad knew Budd very well, but he wanted his son, the aspiring writer, to meet the great man.

At that point – I must have been about fifteen – I only knew Schulberg by reputation. I hadn’t yet read What Makes Sammy Run or The Disenchanted or seen On the Waterfront, whose screenplay is surely one of the best ever. (“I coulda been a contender. I could have been somebody.”) But then I went to Dartmouth too and started writing screenplays and novels and Schulberg’s ghost was always on my shoulder (living ghost then, obviously). His ghost was also on my shoulder politically. Like Schulberg I swung quickly to the left after school and then reconsidered. I lost some friends too, but not nearly as many as he did after testifying as a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Lionel and I will be discussing all this soon on Poliwood, hopefully along with Ron Radosh who interviewed Schulberg for his excellent Red Star Over Hollywood. Meanwhile, have a look at the NY Times obit and especially the video interview with Schulberg that accompanies it. I found it moving. RIP.