WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN? (TV)
(director: Delbert Mann; screenwriters: from the novel by Budd Schulberg/teleplay by Budd & Stuart Schulberg; cinematographer: ; editor: ; music: Irwin Bazelon; cast: Larry Blyden (Sammy Glick), John Forsythe (Al Manheim), Barbara Rush (Kit Savage), Dina Merrill (Laurette Harrington), Sidney Blackmer (H.L. Harrington), David Opatashu (Sidney Feinman), Horace MacMahon (Mike Crowley), Milton Selzer (Julian Blumberg), Norman Fell (Seymour Glick, Sammy’s older brother), Nelson Olmsted (Ben Osborne), Jay Lawrence (Sheik Romero), Monique Van Vooren (Zizi Moinari), William Post (Lucky Westover); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Delbert Mann; Koch Vision; 1959)
“The television production was carried by the blistering performance of Blyden, who takes his smarmy self-absorbed one-dimensional character and runs with it outside the box.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Koch Vision presents for the first time on DVD the complete controversial broadcast from NBC’s prestigious “Sunday Showcase” of Budd Schulberg’s scathing 1941 novel What Makes Sammy Run? This was the second TV adaption of Schulberg’s novel and the best known. It aired in two one-hour segments on 9/27 and 10/4, 1959. The teleplay was by Budd and his brother Stuart. It tells of the stench in the Hollywood studio system, and offers a searing look at the obnoxious, ruthless, uneducated and driven Sammy Glick’s rise from a NYC newspaper copyboy to the head of a major Hollywood studio. The lost second half was recently found due to the efforts of co-star Dina Merrill, who encouraged the Paley Center for Media’s sleuth Jane Klain to dig it up (eight reels of kinescope was found in 2005 and restored by the Paley Center). It’s a good example from television’s golden age of a mature work, that presents a vivid characterization of such an unlikable slimeball who has since become the archetype for the untalented and greedy Hollywood personality who follows the dark side of the American Dream to get ahead even if he has to be a backstabber. The detestable anti-hero who is Jewish, which was raised in the book as a big deal, is not raised in the TV show, thereby keeping whatever could have been misconstrued as anti-Semitic out of sight. The TV show also removed any mention of Hollywood overrun with Commie sympathizers as labor organizers. The seminal Hollywood novel adapted to television maintained the hard-hitting nature and honesty of the book’s portrayal of such a loathsome character and it hits a Hollywood nerve as it exposes how many other Sammy Glicks are crawling around Hollywood whether back in the day or currently—and most importantly, they make up all religions and ethnic groups. In other words, like it or not, Sammy Glick is a familiar Hollywood type that has become accepted by the public as a true personality and one associated with Hollywood.
Director Delbert Mann (“Marty”/”The Bachelor Party”/”Desire Under The Elms”) provides some subtle touches in getting across how such a rat could also be a genial “everyman” figure, giving his subject as dark and complex presence as the book intended. The television production was carried by the blistering performance of Blyden, who takes his smarmy self-absorbed one-dimensional character and runs with it outside the box into a memorable portrayal. John Forsythe narrates and acts as the voice of conscience, who is the decent low-key writer of good taste who becomes Sammy’s first steppingstone and can’t live with himself for following Sammy out to Hollywood and being used by him to write screenplays for worthless commercial hits. Barbara Rush plays the screenwriter who is attracted to Sammy’s forceful energy, but finds him intellectually repulsive. Dina Merrill is the wealthy banker’s daughter, a bitchy society playgirl, who is as amoral as Sammy and who can run with him (basically a female version of Sammy, who is the only one to give him his comeuppance).
REVIEWED ON 4/20/2009 GRADE: B