Budd Schulberg the Oscar winning writer of On the Waterfront died today. And it’s another reminder of what I call the mountain-top experience. For Schulberg On the Waterfront was his top of Everest script. Released in 1954 and starring Marlon Brando the film went on to win a total of eight Oscars and is considered on of the greatest films of all-time.
That film eclipsed the success of his novel What Makes Sammy Run? Schulberg grew up around the industry as his father was the head of Paramount Studios back in the 1930s. He also went to Dartmouth. Sure having an Ivy league education and a father high-up in the industry helps you get a foot in the door, but I don’t think they ever have been a great combination for writing great screenplays.
He paid his dues as a script reader making $25 a week and writing short stories that got published.
Lesser known about Schulberg is after the Watts riots in LA back in the 60s he started the Watts Writers Workshop as a way to help African-Americans hone their craft. One of the writers to come out of that workshop is Quincy Troupe who became the first Poet Laureate of California in 2002, won an award for his book Miles, the Autobiography (written with Miles Davis) and also wrote The Pursuit of Happyness along with Chris Carder (which became the Will Smith film).
Remember if you get to the top of the creative mountain you don’t actually get to live there. Hopefully you get to enjoy the view for a few moments and collect a few awards, but one you come down take a lead from Schulberg and help point the way for others.