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What Makes Sammy Run? Paperback – December 6, 1993
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From the Inside Flap
What Makes Sammy Run?
Everyone of us knows someone who runs. He is one of the symp-toms of our times--from the little man who shoves you out of the way on the street to the go-getter who shoves you out of a job in the office to the Fuehrer who shoves you out of the world. And all of us have stopped to wonder, at some time or another, what it is that makes these people tick. What makes them run?
This is the question Schulberg has asked himself, and the answer is the first novel written with the indignation that only a young writer with talent and ideals could concentrate into a manuscript. It is the story of Sammy Glick, the man with a positive genius for being a heel, who runs through New York's East Side, through newspaper ranks and finally through Hollywood, leaving in his wake the wrecked careers of his associates; for this is his tragedy and his chief characteristic--his congenital incapacity for friendship.
An older and more experienced novelist might have tempered his story and, in so doing, destroyed one of its outstanding qualities. Compromise would mar the portrait of Sammy Glick. Schulberg has etched it in pure vitriol, and dissected his victim with a precision that is almost frightening.
When a fragment of this book appeared as a short story in a national magazine, Schulberg was surprised at the number of letters he received from people convinced they knew Sammy Glick's real name. But speculation as to his real identity would be utterly fruitless, for Sammy is a composite picture of a loud and spectacular minority bitterly resented by the many decent and sincere artists who are trying honestly to realize the measureless potentialities of motion pictures. Tothis group belongs Schulberg himself, who has not only worked as a screen writer since his graduation from Dartmouth College in 1936, but has spent his life, literally, in the heart of the motion-picture colony. In the course of finding out what makes Sammy run (an operation in which the reader is spared none of the grue-some details) Schulberg has poured out everything he has felt about that place. The result is a book which the publishers not only believe to be the most honest ever written about Hollywood, but a penetrating study of one kind of twentieth-century success that is peculiar to no single race of people or walk of life.
"From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Budd Schulberg wrote On the Waterfront, made into a movie starring Marlon Brando, and The Harder They Fall, made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart. He won an Oscar for the screenplay of On the Waterfront several awards for his film A Face in the Crowd, and a Tony nomination for his Broadway adaptation of The Disenchanted. He attributed his ability to adapt his own work to stage or screen to his upbringing in Hollywood, where his father ran a major motion-picture studio. He died in 2009 at the age of 95.
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Sammy Glick is a poor Jewish kid from the streets who wasn't about to let anything stand in the way of his success. That includes love, honesty, trust, friendship and morality. "What Makes Sammy Run" is told from the perspective of Al Manheim, who meets Sammy at age 16 when Sammy comes to work as a copy runner for a newspaper. Al despises the kid on first sight but finds himself fascinated at the same time and makes it his mission to find out "What Makes Sammy Run?". Through the book Al develops a grudging respect and a bit of pity for Sammy, even as Sammy runs over everyone in his path in an effort to reach...what? That's the big question and what makes "Sammy" an exceptional book.
Readers interested in how Old Hollywood worked, and what the town was like in the Golden Years will find much to enjoy in "Sammy". I came to this book through a late '60s Dick Cavett interview with Bette Davis who said this is the best book ever written about Hollywood. If it's good enough for Bette, it's good enough for me. And you. Give it a shot, you won't be disappointed.
The author was a Hollywood insider and based his central character on a composite of real life entertainment figures he knew in the business. By reading the book one soon learns that little if nothing has changed in the intervening period (if there's been any doubt).
The author's style is freewheeling, a little repetitive, and the Great American Novel it ain't, but I do highly recommend it. "What Makes Sammy Run" is one of the best books I've read this year and I've read a bunch.
Pairing the sociopath, Sammy, with the codependent, Al, is brilliant. You catch yourself rooting for Al to leave Sammy alone, to forget him. He can't he is a codependent. Al does show some capacity for growth. Even though Al is always more dependent on Kit than she is on him, he does maneuver the relationship into a more equal relationship.
Julian is a warning to those who think talent is enough. He fades from the story just like young talent who insist that the world is fair. Self defense is always justified. There is no honor in being a victim.
Schulberg picked Hollywood because he knew it the best. Sammy would be Sammy regardless of the industry he picked. Using Hollywood illustrates that studios have little interest in quality - they are sales driven. Sammy gets promoted based on box office success, not the critical acclaim. The media can be bought and manipulated. Sammy does both.
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As a salesman who reads too many sales books, I really to spice up my reading list with a little fiction.Read more