Oscar-Winner Budd Schulberg Dies at 95

New York-born scribe wrote "On the Waterfront"

By HILLEL ITALIE and Scott Ross
|  Thursday, Aug 6, 2009  |  Updated 9:15 AM EDT
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Oscar-Winner Budd Schulberg Dies at 95

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Budd Schulberg died of natural causes at his home in Westhampton Beach.

Budd Schulberg, the son of a studio boss who wrote a novel that defined the Hollywood hustle and later proved himself a player with the Oscar-winning screenplay for the Marlon Brando classic "On the Waterfront," died Wednesday at age 95.

Schulberg died of natural causes at his home in Westhampton Beach, on Long Island, said his wife, Betsy Schulberg. He was taken to a nearby medical center, where doctors unsuccessfully tried to revive him, she said.

"On the Waterfront," directed by Elia Kazan and filmed in Hoboken, N.J., was released in 1954 to great acclaim and won eight Academy Awards. It included one of cinema's most famous lines, uttered by Brando as the failed boxer Terry Malloy: "I coulda been a contender."

In 1951, he named names as he acknowledged a communist past before the House Un-American Activities Committee, becoming one of Hollywood's most prominent witnesses. He appeared voluntarily to acknowledge he had been a communist from 1936 to 1939. He claimed he was disillusioned by Stalin's nonaggression pact with Hitler and quit the party when it tried to make him write "What Makes Sammy Run?" with a Marxist twist.

"Waterfront," portrays Brando's Malloy as a hero for his courage in ratting out the mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly, an attempt to justify Schulberg's and Kazan's testimony against their own colleagues.

Schulberg first made his name with the 1941 novel "What Makes Sammy Run?," an insider's account of the scheming, backbiting and hustling that make Hollywood go. It set the town buzzing with speculation about who was the inspiration for protagonist Sammy Glick. Schulberg would later say Glick was a composite of the venal dregs he'd encountered in show biz.

Samuel Goldwyn fired him for writing the book, and Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, said Schulberg should be "deported."

A love of the sweet science drove Schulberg to pen the 1956 boxing film "The Harder They Fall," starring Humphrey Bogart as a down-on-his luck sportswriter who gets pulled into a scam to promote the career of palooka Toro Moreno.

Schulberg would also cover boxing for Sports Illustrated and in 2002 was inducted into the Boxing hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. In 2003, Schulberg was voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as an "observer," a category established the previous year for journalists and historians.

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