Benjamin Percival Schulberg

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.)

A cenotaph for Senator Tracy


The Congressional cemetery in Washington DC is located within walking distance of the US Capitol building. The government purchased the property to bury US officials who died while in the performance of their duties in the city. Its first resident was Uriah Tracy, Senator (and former member of the House of Representatives) from Connecticut, who died in April 1807. He had been a major general in the revolutionary army, and when he died Congress appropriated money to pace a cenotaph over his remains. (A cenotaph is a tomb or a monument from the Greek words Kenos meaning empty and taphos meaning tomb) The Tracy cenotaph created a precedent, and from that time until 1861 a cenotaph was placed in this burial ground in memory of every Senator or Representative who died whether he was buried at the Congressional cemetery or not.

Whales

"In 1861, Phineas T. Barnum had imported a pair of belugas to his American Museum on Broadway. Fished out of the waters off Labrador and brought south in hermetically sealed boxes lined with seaweed, the whales were twenty-three and eighteen feet long respectively. Their basement tank measured fifty-eight by twenty-five feet, but it was barely seven feet deep, and was filled with fresh water. ..."This fascination with the whale ... was an expression of Victorian fashion, a characteristic marriage of ingenious science and human curiosity. In England, live whales were delivered to aquaria in Manchester and Blackpool (although one porpoise show was closed, for fear the flagrant activities of its performers should offend genteel dispositions), and in September 1877 a beluga whale arrived in Westminster, in the centre of the world's greatest city. The nine-foot, six-inch specimen had also been caught - along with ten others - off Labrador, where it had stranded at high tide and was netted by Zack Coup and his men.


From there it began its long journey to London. "Taken in a narrow box by sloop to Montreal, the whale was put on a train to New York - a trip that took two weeks. The animal spent seven months at Coney Island's Summer Aquarium where 'he contracted his habit of swimming in a circle', before being taken out of its tank and put on a North German Lloyd


steamship, the Oder, bound for Southampton (England). During the voyage, it was kept on deck in a rough wooden box lined with seaweed, and was wetted with salt water every three minutes. Despite such intensive care, the whale had already begun to live off its own blubber.
"At Southampton the beluga was transferred to the South-Western Railway, traveling on an open truck to Waterloo Station and to its final home, an iron tank forty-four feet long, twenty feet wide, and six feet deep, at the Royal Aquarium, a grand gothic structure recently built opposite the Houses of Parliament. The whale waited as the tank took two hours to fill. 'He had been lying still in the box breathing once every 23 seconds. He flapped feebly with his tail when he felt them moving the box. He fell out of it sidelong into the water and went down to the bottom like lead.' The animal was allowed three hours of privacy before the public, 'in great numbers,' were admitted to view it from a specially built grandstand. ...
"In what appeared to be delirious behaviour, the whale - which was in fact a female - swam up and down the tank rapidly, hitting its head on the wall. Then, 'having somewhat recovered, it again swam several times round the tank, again came into collision with the end of the tank, turned over, and died.'...

"A necropsy performed by eminent naturalists and physicians ... discovered that far from starving, the whale had a full stomach - but also highly congested lungs. The fact that the animal had been kept on open deck on its way over the Atlantic, and, rather than keeping it alive, the regular dousing it had received had resulted in rapid evaporation between soakings, causing it to catch cold. ...back in New York, Barnum's whales met with their predicted fate. Victims of equally inappropriate conditions, like fairground fish brought home in plastic bags, they too had died within days - only to be replaced by successive specimens until a fire destroyed the museum in 1865. Futile attempts were made to rescue the last beluga, until a compassionate fireman smashed the tank with a hook, 'So the whale merely roasted to death instead of undergoing the distress of being poached.' "



 Ecco, Harper Collins
Copyright 2010 by Philip Hoare