Friday, April 25, 2008

Budd Schulberg Gets WGA Laurel Honors

The top award for screenwriting life achievement was given to Budd Schulberg, now 94. Schulberg, according to the Hollywood Reporter (link) received two standing ovations, and noted that there was a time when you had to join the Guild secretly because Irving Thalberg and the other movie moguls were so oppressive.

Just a brief gripe about the WGA's Laurel award choices. The award generally goes to someone who made their most significant mark in film two or three decades previous and in Schulberg's case, what, fifty years ago? I really wish they'd get a little more contemporary. I think the closest they've come in recent years was giving the award to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala in 1994 after her one-two punch of Howard's End (1992) and The Remains of the Day (1993). Link to past winners.

The Schulberg choice is definitely a result of his living so long: he didn't get it sooner because there were too many people around who'd remember or been affected by his controversial appearance before HUAC in 1951 as a friendly witness. Abraham Polonsky would have been picketing had he been alive. Had the award been given ten years ago it probably would have received similar reception as that of Kazan's 1999 honorary Oscar (link).

Schulberg's work with Elia Kazan is his lasting contribution to film, as screenwriter of On the Waterfront (1954) and A Face in the Crowd (1957), although he's really known for his 1941 novel What Makes Sammy Run? Waterfront does seem to continue to resonate with the critics and public. Despite its connection to the blacklist it has made both versions of AFI's top 100 list.

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