Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On the Waterfront. On Madison Avenue.

I might have told you this one before but I feel like telling it again.

When I was a Master's student at Columbia University, I decided to do a thesis on something called "The Watts Writers Project." This was an attempt, in the wake of the Los Angeles Watts riots, to get  inner city youths involved in writing. The thinking was that there were unheard voices that were ghettoized. They needed to escape and be expressed.

One of the men who led the project was the noted screenwriter Budd Schulberg. Schulberg was Hollywood royalty. Not only was he the son of legendary film producer B.P. Schulberg, he was also the screenwriter behind one of Hollywood's best movies, including "On the Waterfront," featuring Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint, and "The Harder They Fall," featuring Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger.

I decided I would seek out Schulberg and learn about the Watts Writers Project from the horse's mouth.

In those days, of course, there was no internet. But there was a vast phone room in Grand Central Terminal, which had in its center a huge bank of phonebooks from around the country. I headed down there and searched these phonebooks until I found Schulberg's number.

Then I mustered up my courage (I was only 21, after all) and called him and set up a dinner and an interview.

It also sent me on a jag of reading everything Schulberg wrote and seeing every movie he was involved with.

As I think about the disparity between the monied panjandrums and low-wage workers, in our business and others, I think about this scene from "On the Waterfront." The scene with Father Barry in the hold.

We could all do with watching it now and again.

And thinking about our fellow man.

1 comment:

Rob Hatfield said...

Amen, brother.