Monday 29 April 2002

What Makes Sammy Run

Budd Schulberg: What Makes Sammy RunIn this extraordinary novel, acclaimed screenwriter of On the Waterfront, Budd Schulberg manages to be simultaneously ruthless and sympathetic towards Sammy Glick, who represents not just the archetypal Hollywood hustler but the kind of callous go-getter we’ve probably all run into at some point in our lives. I count myself lucky to have encountered only one Sammy.

But Schulberg is also pretty sharp in depicting female psychology. In one marvellous passage, he offers a persuasive answer to the age-old question of why intelligent, attractive women are frequently attracted to assholes. The narrator, Al Manheim, has asked Kit, the woman he loves who has rejected his advances, why she sleeps with Sammy Glick:

“Okay, pal,” she said. “But don’t blame me if it makes you sore. As you probably guessed, our little corporal is pretty damn good in bed. Sex hasn’t much to do with friendship or love or any other of those virtuous relationships. Most people know that, but they don’t like to admit it. Well, the first day Sammy came into my office to save California from annexing itself to Russia, I was ready to tear him limb from limb and at the same time I had this crazy desire to know what it felt like to have all that driving ambition and frenzy and violence inside me.”

In some circles, this is known as chick logic.

Late last year Dreamworks, as part of a three-year deal with Ben Stiller, paid Warner Bros. US$2.6 million to import Stiller’s adaptation of What Makes Sammy Run, which the actor will both star in and direct. This is what’s called a delicious irony, since David Geffen — who, along with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, owns Dreamworks — is commonly regarded as the greatest Glick of all.

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