Sammy Glick: still running

(Canscene) — The recent Toronto Jewish Film Festival which saw more than 90 films screened featured as its closing night attraction a screening of the 1959 television production of Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run? It was the second of two TV versions of a bestselling novel that never made it to the big screen. Why?

I recently saw a filmed interview with Budd Schulberg, the author, now in his 90s and son of the late Ben P. Schulberg, once boss of Paramount Pictures. His first novel published in 1941 immortalizing the archetypal Sammy Glick brought fame to the young screenwriter.

Schulberg tells how his novel, about the rise of ruthless, power hungry Sammy Glick from newsroom copy boy to Hollywood mogul so outraged the movie industry that his ostracism by fellow screenwriters and industry bosses drove him out of California. Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer led the charge.

Succeeding novels On the Waterfront with Brando and The Harder They Fall, with Bogart which were filmed successfully helped remove some of the hostility since both were moneymakers and Hollywood loves nothing so much as a profitable hit.
Now both Budd Schulberg and Sammy Glick are Jewish, but it’s interesting to know that today, Sammy has become something of a role model for ambitious young men of all faiths in this power hungry society.

The TV production directed by Delbert Mann and featuring Larry Blyden as Sammy, plus John Forsythe, Barbara Rush and Dina Merrill was a two-parter the conclusion of which was lost until recently. With discovery of the missing episode , the 1959 kinescope version was restored and readied for screening. It is now available on the DVD market and in rental stores and the DVD includes the Schulberg interview.

As valuable a contribution as it has made to TV history and as well acted as it is, the film is static compared to what a screen version could have been. Several efforts have been made to produce it for the big screen, but so far nothing concrete has resulted.

Hollywood, with its own peculiar moral standards might do well by eventually filming What Makes Sammy Run.

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