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Article 19 - iavaa ’41 Best Seller Is Back and Clawing By...

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Unformatted text preview: iavaa. ’41 Best Seller Is Back and Clawing By RALPH BLUMENTHAL Never mind what makes Sammy run. What makes Sammy sell? Reports of a movie deal, that’s what. Fifty-seven years after Budd Schulberg’s corrosive Hollywood novel “What Makes Sammy Run?” became a runaway best seller, the story of the back-stabbing newspa- per copy boy who claws his way to mogulhood turned up once again on a best-seller list. It popped up unexpectedly as No. 8 on the Los Angeles Times Book Re- view paperback nonfiction list for one week last month. Nonfiction? That was a mistake, Steve Wasser— man. the paper’s book editor, said later. It should have been listed in the fiction column. Still, what was a 1941 book doing on any best-seller list in 1998? The publisher, Vintage Books, which reissued the novel in 1990 in time for its 50th anniversary, had no ready explanation. A spokeswoman for Vintage, a division of Random House, said the book had been selling steadily at about 1,000 copies a year. Mr. Schulberg, who was ostracized in Hollywood after “What Makes Sammy Run?" came out but who "later wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1954 film “0n the Waterfront,” also confessed surprise upon being told of the sudden new popularity of his archetypal villain. But from his home in the Hamptons, the 84-year-old author and veteran screenwriter supplied a clue: “There’s been a good deal of print about a film,” he said. “I’ve been talking to Ben Stiller,” he said. “He wants to do it.” Mr. Stiller, the comic, actor and director, and son of comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, is the co- writer of an adaptation of the book and has said he would like to direct it. On Friday, after being briefed on yet another meeting at Warner Brothers, Mr. Schulberg reported, “It’s pretty close, I think.” It wouldn’t be the first dramatiza- tion: a television version of the book was broadcast in two parts by NBC in 1960 and a musical version with Steve Lawrence ran on Broadway for 540 performances in 1964 and 1965. But a full screen treatment of “What Makes Sammy Run?” more than half a century after the furor would be of more than passing inter. est in Hollywood. Indeed, a leading Hollywood book- store, Book Soup on Sunset Boule- vard, said it had seen a recent spike in sales of the book. Many of the more than 100 copies sold so far this year went in recent weeks, said Tosh Berman, a clerk. Blurb-wise, the reissued Vintage paperback is hard to beat: “ ‘A grand book, utterly fearless and with a great deal of beauty side by side with the most bitter satire’ — F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Even more im- pressive, considering Fitzgerald died the year before the book was pub- lished. The two worked together in Hollywood. “He'read it in manu- script,” Mr. Schulberg recalled. A run on books tied to movies is a familiar pattern, Mr. Berman of Book Soup said. Francis Ford Coppo- la's 1992 movie “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” stirred great reader inter- . .c ael Shave] Budd Schulberg, who wrote “What Makes Sammy Run?” est in the classic original. So did “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” the 1964 novel by Hubert Selby Jr. that was made into a movie in 1989. But people who see the movie and then want to read the book are one thing. These movies are not out yet. Recently, Mr. Berman said, the store quickly sold three dozen copies of “American Psycho” by Bret Eas- ton Ellis, undoubtedly on reports that the controversially brutal novel may be heading for the screen with Leo- nardo DiCaprio. Often, Mr. Berman said, his cus- tomers are actors looking for a role, or screenwriters and production as- sistants. But is that enough to make a best seller? Perhaps in Hollywood, where reading is often confined to “covers” —— studio synopses of books rather than the books themselves. In some places, said a publishing executive who spoke on condition of anonymity, ”20 people buying a book can propel it on.” However it happened, Mr. Schul- berg is hardly quibbling, especially - after the ostracism he suffered in the succes de scandale of “What Makes Sammy Run?” when Hollywood ob- sessed over identifying the real Sam- my and cries of anti-Semitism were buried at his Jewish creator. Mr. Schulberg, who always said Sammy was a composite character, long ridi- culed the notion that creating a Jew- ish literary villain made all Jews out to be villains. Many of Sammy’s vic- tims were Jews too, he said, and Sammy Glicks came in all religions and ethnicities. But you couldn’t tell that to the movie industry in 1941. “You’ll never work in this town again,” his father B. P. Schulberg, once head of Para- mount, wrote him sadly. “How will you live?” The Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper accosted him in a restaurant, huffing: “How dare you?” And, Mr. Schulberg recounted, his own dear “Uncle Louie,” Hollywood’s boss of bosses Louis B. Mayer, demanded ’ his deportation. His father stood up for him. “He’s the only novelist who ever came from Hollywood,” his fa- ther said. “Where do you think his St. Helena should be? Catalina Island?” Still, Mr. Schulberg said, he was hounded out of Hollywood. He reset- tled in Hanover, NH, where he had written “Sammy." He later became immersed in new controversy when he appeared be- fore the House Committee on Un- American Activities, supplying names for the panel’s investigation of communists in the movie industry. Mr. Schulberg made “On the Water- front” in Hoboken, N.J., and did not return to Hollywood until the 1960’s. As happy as he is over the durabil- ity of his book, he is troubled by what he called. in an afterward to the 1991 reissue, “a disturbing shift in what was to become a 180~degree turn in our national attitude toward Sam- my.” He had given a talk at Hofstra University, he said, when a young man came up to thank him for creat- ing Sammy Glick and said: “He’s a . great character. I love him. I felt a little nervous about going out into the world and making it, But reading ‘Sammy’ gives me confidence. It’s my Bible.” - After that, Mr. Schulberg said, he couldn’t bring himself to shake hands. H26 218.. _, 332 $052031 5.3. 0000 33030.0. GCUU any—CFGMFO .26 2.1.2....3. 0a 26 «3.66.. 218.. .336 3.. 3 2.06.” .3 .95.... r... .2. 23.... .3 26 2632......2 832.2332. .2... .3 2...... 3m 26 21.2. 3 a 3.3.. cm 2.23.3. 332 3126! 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