Noted alum returns to Hanover to receive film award

by Rebecca Leffler | 4/19/04 5:00am

The elusive sun finally graced Hanover with its presence this weekend, bringing with it ubiquitous smiles, a bustling Green and, of course, a visit from Dartmouth's own legendary novelist, screenwriter and boxing aficionado Budd Schulberg '36. Schulberg came to Dartmouth to receive the 46th Dartmouth Film Award and to present two of his classic films, "On the Waterfront" and "A Face in the Crowd."

A self-titled "Hollywood Prince" who grew up in studio back-lots, Schulberg, a former editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth, is not only a famed novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter, but the only non-boxer ever inducted into the Boxer's Hall of Fame.

Yet despite his incredibly successful post-Dartmouth career, Schulberg has never forgotten his roots and visits Hanover almost every year to relive fond memories and to regale current faculty and students with tales of his interesting and fulfilling life. At 90 years old, Schulberg remains quite prolific -- he is currently working on both a novel and an upcoming film -- articulate and well-spoken. Though he has received critical acclaim for writing many of his life experiences down, Schulberg is still full of stories from his years in Hollywood and shared some of them with The Dartmouth.

Schulberg attributes his Dartmouth experience to much of his success -- "My career is totally tied in to my Dartmouth life," he said. "If you're planning on being a writer, the four years of college are such an ideal storyboard for you."

To Schulberg, college provided a place to enjoy the art of writing without the burden of making a living dangling in the background.

A sociology major, Schulberg admitted to The Dartmouth, "I was busy writing all the time. I didn't study very much." In fact, Schulberg attributed his academic success to "two genius students in the Socy department with me. They tutored me through it." Schulberg was thus able to focus his attention on his various extra-curricular activities including "The Dart" (Dartmouth's former literary magazine), "The Jack-O-Lantern" and, of course, The Dartmouth.

"Working on The Dartmouth changed my life. It had an enormous affect on me in an unexpected way," Schulberg said in a weekend interview. In his day, Dartmouth's newspaper was "quite radical." In fact, after learning of a marble workers' strike in Proctor, Vt., Schulberg and his staff covered the case in such detail that the articles prompted a mob of people to line up in front of the newspaper office bearing food, clothing and money for the wronged marble workers. The D then hired a truck to take the goods to the workers, but the truck was stopped midway by state troopers and prohibited from entering the town. The marble workers stories became a celebrated case and gave Schulberg his first 15 minutes of fame.

Later, when the president of Random House came to Hanover to give a lecture, he was so intrigued by Schulberg's series in the Dartmouth that he asked to meet with him at the Hanover Inn and told him to "come and see me" if Schulberg ever decided to become a novelist. And Schulberg accepted the invitation. He received his first contract to write a book and so began his life-long writing career.

Schulberg has never forgotten how Dartmouth helped him to achieve his dreams and returns often to enjoy what we modestly consider to be the finest college in the nation. Schulberg also spent a memorable summer in Moscow and studied on what can be considered one of Dartmouth's first foreign study programs.

Though he has seen the changes gradually over the years, Schulberg feels that "Hanover is so much more upscale" today and that "it was really pretty primitive" back in the 1930s. Not only were there no nice restaurants and no highways -- he said the drive from New York to Hanover used to take eight hours -- but there were (gasp!) no women.

"That's why everybody went so wild at the Winter Carnival," Schulberg told The Dartmouth. The lack of estrogen in the area prompted an annual "carnival special" train to stop in Hanover each year on its way to Montreal, filled with young women eager to party with the Ivy League's hottest gentlemen.

Schulberg reminisced: "It was a wild scene. All those pretty, young girls coming " In fact, Schulberg said that the weekend was "very romantic" and that Dartmouth men were known to arrive in horse-drawn sleighs to impress the women coming from Smith, Wellesley, New York City -- in fact, from "all over the East."

Yet times have changed and Schulberg feels a nostalgia for the winter carnival debauchery that seems to be merely "way back in historya whole lost time." According to Schulberg, "It was such a scene then."

The Winter Carnival experience affected Schulberg so much that in 1939 he made "Winter Carnival," a film following the exploits of a woman recently divorced from a count who returns to her alma mater for the annual carnival. When Schulberg went back to Hanover with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was originally tapped to co-write with Schulberg, the trip was nothing short of a disaster. As the story goes, Fitzgerald got drunk (apparently he was offered whisky by English professors coming from near and far to visit with the writing legend and didn't refuse the kind gestures) and fell down the steps of the Hanover Inn.

Said Schulberg, "We fell apart. We got very, very drunk." Fitzgerald was eventually replaced by Budd's friend Maurice Rapf '36 (and much-loved film professor at Dartmouth until last year). "If ever there was a lost weekend, it was that weekend for Scott and me," Schulberg told The Dartmouth. Though "Winter Carnival" never became a blockbuster (and that is putting it nicely), it has become immortalized as Dartmouth's own classic.

And, as he accepted the Dartmouth Film Award on Saturday, so too did Budd Schulberg became immortalized in the Dartmouth community.

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