Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg

The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg
9780816679355
University of Minnesota Press
Originally Published 1950

Budd Schulberg was a screenwriter known for writing the screenplay of the critically acclaimed film On the Waterfront (1954). Schulberg also wrote novels including The Disenchanted which was published in 1950 and recently reprinted by University of Minnesota Press. The novel is based on the experience Schulberg had working with the troubled genius F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Producer Walter Wanger hired Budd Schulberg to assist F. Scott Fitzgerald in writing a screenplay about the Winter Carnivals at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Schulberg was a recent alumni. The movie was to be Winter Carnival (1939).

In the video below, Budd Schulberg talks about meeting and working with F. Scott Fitzgerald on the doomed project. Schulberg made the mistake of giving Fitzgerald some champagne which caused Fitzgerald to go on a crazy bender. Their trip to NH to make the film became a terrible adventure.



The whole experience made quite an impact on Schulberg that he decided to fictionalize the experience in his novel The Disenchanted.

In the novel, Shep is a young writer in Hollywood who is still wet behind the ears and has just been assigned to work with the great T. Manley Halliday (known as just Manley Halliday) on the collegiate winter romance Love on Ice. Manley is a prestigious writer with numerous successful novels and screenplays to his credits. But by 1939, most of his books are out of print and he's hanging by a thread: the fleeting recognition of his name and illustrious career. Manley is working on a manuscript for his next great novel but he's in desperate need of money to buy him the time to finish it. So he reluctantly takes on working with Shep on Love on Ice and is hired by producer Victor Milgrim.

Manley is diabetic and has been on the wagon for a few years. He's been divorced for years from the love and scourge of his life Jere. His assistant and sort-of mistress Ann Loeb helps him daily and keeps him on the straight and narrow. When Manley boards the plane with Shep from L.A. to N.Y. and Shep pours the first glass from a bottle of champagne, it's all over. Manley goes on a bender and Shep assumes various roles of assistant, writer and parent to Manley. Shep struggles between the feelings of admiration for Manley's magnificent literary and movie successes and the shell of a man he sees before him. Throughout the novel we follow Manley and Shep on their crazy adventure to get Love on Ice written before they arrive on location for filming. There are also flashbacks in which we learn more about Manley's life. His early career, his love affair with the troubled Jere and the days just before he leaves L.A. on the trip.

It's pretty obvious that Shep is Budd Schulberg, Manley is F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jere is Zelda Sayre , Ann is Sheilah Graham and Victor Milgrim is Producer Walter Wanger. Most of the story is based on real-life events with only the names changed and Schulberg also takes poetic license especially with the flashbacks and as he explores the life of the Manley character. I wonder if Schulberg had decided to write this story much later in his life if he would have written it as a memoir instead of a novel. Perhaps it was out of respect to F. Scott Fitzgerald that he fictionalized the account and left it up to inquiring minds to find out the real life connection to the troubled writer.

The Disenchanted is a captivating novel about a doomed project between two writers at opposite ends of their careers. 

I highly recommend this novel to classic film fans especially those who love fiction. It's fun to spot the names of real actors, actresses and films as well as to figure out the reference made by fictionalized ones. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald is uncredited as a writer for Winter Carnival (1939). According to IMDB, the film lost money at the box office as I imagine the fictional Love on Ice would have too. If any of you have seen Winter Carnival, let me know! It currently has no DVD release and I'm not sure if TCM shows it.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the University of Minnesota Press for sending me this book to review!

4 comments:

  1. What interesting background on the movie! I love that this has been reissued. Thanks for alerting me to this and for your review -- it was a great coincidence that I've been trying to find a copy of WINTER CARNIVAL.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    ReplyDelete
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