Budd Schulberg, the son of the Hollywood movie producer, Benjamin Schulberg, was born in New York on 27th March, 1914. His father was a former screenwriter who had risen to head of production at Paramount Studios. His mother, Adeline Schulberg, was a literary agent who had been an active member of the suffrage movement.
In his autobiography, Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince (1981): "For, by the time I appeared in 1914, my father was working for one of the first film tycoons, the diminutive, untiring immigrant fur worker, Adolph Zukor, whose Famous Players Company was still a fledgling. For writing scenarios and publicity, (my father) had now achieved the lordly salary of fifty dollars a week. And he was moonlighting: writing a series of four one-reel documentaries on Sylvia Pankhurst, the English suffragist leader, who had come to America to promote the cause, and who had been dragged off to jail from the meeting my mother had attended. It was through Adeline's connections with the movement that my father had gotten the assignment, at fifty dollars per reel. So my birth had been financed in true collaboration: my father's screenwriting skills married to my mother's interest in the feminist pioneers. This was a first for all three of us: my first moments on earth, my father's first documentary film, and my mother's first efforts as a writer's agent.".
In 1931 Schulberg was sent to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. This was followed by Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. "In high spirits, I went up to Dartmouth... For me, the Dartmouth campus was love at first sight: the old New England village we drove through to reach the campus; the row of white 18th-century buildings; the inviting look of Baker Library; the coziness of its Tower Room; the sound of the chimes; the White Mountains in the background; the wide Connecticut River separating the college from the rolling green hills rising to the Green Mountains of Vermont; the impressive daily newspaper I longed to work on. The look of the student body appealed to me, checked wool shirts and windbreakers, a rugged up-country look that fulfilled our image of Dartmouth as northern New England's answer to the effeteness of Harvard or the southern-gentleman tradition of Princeton."
Schulberg held left-wing views and in 1934 he visited the Soviet Union where he heard Maxim Gorky make a speech on socialist realism at the first Soviet Writers' Congress. He was also impressed by the work of Vsevolod Meyerhold. In 1936 Schulberg graduated from Dartmouth College. After returning to Hollywood he joined the Communist Party (1937-40). However, these views were not evident in his first two screenplays, Little Orphan Annie (1938) and White Carnival (1939). He also married Virginia Ray, a fellow member of the Communist Party.
Schulberg lost his job with Paramount Studios after the failure of White Carnival and he turned to writing novels. His first novel, a satire of Hollywood power and corruption, brought him into conflict with his father, Benjamin Schulberg, who feared the book would create an anti-semitic backlash. John Howard Lawson and Richard Collins of the Communist Party also suggested a more positive portrait of a strike led by the Screen Writers Guild. Schulberg refused and in 1940 left the party. What Makes Sammy Run? was published in 1941.
After divorcing his first wife in 1942, Budd Schulberg enlisted in the US Navy. He was assigned to a documentary film unit run by John Ford. In 1945 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and later that year he was assigned to gather photographic evidence to be used at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials.
On his return to the United States, Schulberg, began work on a novel about boxing, The Harder They Fall (1947). The book was based on the career of Primo Carnera and his fights with Jack Sharkey, Paulino Uzcudun, Tommy Loughran and Max Baer.
In 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened its hearings concerning communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. The chief investigator for the committee was Robert E. Stripling. The first people it interviewed included Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Ayn Rand, Jack L. Warner, Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Walt Disney, Thomas Leo McCarey and George L. Murphy. These people named several possible members of the American Communist Party.
As a result their investigations, the HUAC announced it wished to interview nineteen members of the film industry that they believed might be members of the American Communist Party. This included Larry Parks, Herbert Biberman, Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Waldo Salt, Bertolt Brecht, Richard Collins, Gordon Kahn, Robert Rossen, Lewis Milestone and Irving Pichel.
The first ten witnesses called to appear before the HUAC, Biberman, Bessie, Cole, Maltz, Scott, Trumbo, Dmytryk, Lardner, Ornitz and Lawson, refused to cooperate at the September hearings and were charged with "contempt of Congress". Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The courts disagreed and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison. The case went before the Supreme Court in April 1950, but with only Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas dissenting, the sentences were confirmed.
Richard Collins gave evidence on 12th April, 1951. He told the HUAC that he had been recruited to the American Communist Party by Budd Schulberg in 1936. He named John Howard Lawson as a leader of the party in Hollywood. Collins also claimed that fellow members of his communist cell included Ring Lardner Jr. and Martin Berkeley. He also named John Bright, Lester Cole, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Robert Rossen, Waldo Salt and Frank Tuttle. Collins estimated that the Communist Party in Hollywood during the Second World War had several hundred members and he had known about twenty of them.
When Schulberg heard the news he sent a telegram to the HUAC offering to provide evidence against former members of the American Communist Party. On 23rd May, 1951 Schulberg agreed to answer questions and admitted he joined the party in 1937. He also stated that Herbert Biberman, John Bright, Lester Cole, Richard Collins, Paul Jarrico, Gordon Kahn, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Waldo Salt had all been members. He also explained how party members such as Lawson and Collins had attempted to influence the content of his novel, What Makes Sammy Run?
Schulberg left the party in 1940 because of a dispute with Victor Jeremy Jerome: "It was suggested that I talk with a man by the name of V. J. Jerome, who was in Hollywood at that time. I went to see him... I didn't do much talking. I listened to V. J. Jerome. I am not sure what his position was, but I remember being told that my entire attitude was wrong; that I was wrong about writing; wrong about this book, wrong about the party; wrong about the so-called peace movement at that particular time; and I gathered from the conversation in no uncertain terms that I was wrong. I don't remember saying much. I remember it more as a kind of harangue. When I came away I felt maybe, almost for the first time, that this was to me the real face of the party. I didn't feel I had talked to just a comrade. I felt I had talked to someone rigid and dictatorial who was trying to tell me how to live my life, and as far as I remember, I didn't want to have anything more to do with them."
After giving evidence to the House of Un-American Activities Committee Schulberg was free to return to Hollywood scriptwriting. He worked with Elia Kazan, another former Communist Party member who named names, on the Academy Award winning film, On the Waterfront (1954). Schulberg won one of the film's eight oscars. A collection of short stories, Some Faces in the Crowd, was published in 1954. Other films that he wrote the screenplay for included The Harder They Fall (1956) and A Face in the Crowd (1957).
Schulberg retained his liberal views and founded the Watts Writers Workshop in 1964 and the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Centre in New York City in 1971. He later received the Amistad award for his work with African-American writers. His autobiography, Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince was published in 1981.
Budd Schulberg, who was married four times and had fathered five children, died on 5th August 2009.