Budd Schulberg was a best selling author and screen writers for several several block buster films including On the Waterfront. His father, Benjamin Percival Schulberg, known on the back lots of Hollywood as "B.P,” was head of production at Paramount's Lasky studio (a position he held until 1932) BP Schulberg was not the typical ill-educated crass immigrant that founded Hollywood.
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1892, he was the last of fourteen children. The family eventually moved from Bridgeport to New York’s lower east side, where B.P., still a teenager, attended City College. He gave up college to become a copy boy for Franklin P. Adams on the Evening Mail and eventually promoted to beat reporter. At age 20, he became the editor for Film Reports, a trade paper where he met director Edwin Stratton Porter and became his scenario editor of Rex Films Production Company. (Later absorbed into present day Universal Films)
Porter was the most prominent innovator in the early years of motion pictures. While Thomas Edison was content to film mundane, everyday events, Porter the realized the means to tell a story on film was by the use of editing. Through his technique of physically splicing the story together, Porter put the word "move" in movie scenario. He created a fictional scenario with two groundbreaking films that absolutely mesmerized the public.
By being astute enough to be in the right place at the right time, B.P. became one of the industry’s original screenwriters who delivered his first film script in 1913, In the Bishop's Carriage and would be involved in a scattering of film over the next three decades including the 1923 classic, The Virginian and Little Miss Marker (1934).
BP was one of the first to understand that films had to be sold to the public. Schulberg dubbed Mary Pickford "America's sweetheart.” He discovered Clara Bow and dubbed her “The It girl” (“It” being a euphemism for the word "sex") He also discovered Gary Grant, Claudette Colbert, George Raft and Frederic March. It was BP who brought Marlene Dietrich from Germany, made the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and started the gangster film genre with Ben Hecht's Underworld. He also helped produce the antiwar film Wings that won the first Academy Award in 1928.
His son Budd suffered from fainting fits and speech impediment, stammering his way “from therapist to therapist.” But while he did not speak well, he compensated by becoming a good listener and, in turn, a better then average writer. His writing talent was encouraged by his mother, Hollywood agent Adeline Jaffe Schulberg a vivid, attractive and intelligent woman with a crisp understanding of the film business.
It was Adeline who discovered the actor Sylvia Sidney, an early glamour star, when Sidney was appearing in a Broadway play called Bad Girl. Ad pushed her husband to sign the young actor to a contract but he was unreceptive but Ad persisted and eventually BP gave the young starlet a long-term Paramount. He also started a love affair with her, which eventually broke up the marriage.
BP Schulberg declined well before Sidney’s film career ended. Towards the end of his term at Paramount, when his salary was $10,000 a week, it was clear that the world had outpaced him. Many factors led to the downfall of BP Schulberg. The advent of talkies was one of them. B.P. had come to the top of his form in silent films, he did not adjust well to the change (neither did his protégée, Clara Bow who flopped in talkies) Then the depression hit and ticket sales fell.
Distracted by his torrid love affair with Sylvia Sidney, BP slipped out of control. He slowly became unstable. A lifelong teetotaler, he started to drink and gamble, sometimes losing as much as $25,000 in a night. He tried independent producing for a while and then bounced from studio to studio. Nothing worked for him. In the ultimate humiliation, in 1949, he took out an ad in Variety begging for work. No one responded. He died in 1957 a virtual unknown in the industry he created. (BP was later given a Star on Hollywood Blvd.)