Screenwriter Budd Schulberg leaves behind a Hollywood fable

Many of the Budd Schulberg obituaries in the so-called liberal media  -- like this one from the New York Times -- spent a vast amount of time talking about Schulberg's falling out with the Communist Party and his subsequent 1951 appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he informed on 17 people he said had been members of the party. It was a big deal, especially for lefties of a certain age.

Whenever I'd bring up Schulberg's name to Abe Polonsky, who wrote the film noir classic "Body and Soul" and had been blacklisted for 15 years for his refusal to name the names of his fellow party members, Abe -- then well into his 80s -- would take an imaginary swing, as if imagining himself in the ring, landing a left hook on Schulberg's jaw. "Whenever I saw that guy, I'd cross the street as fast as possible," he said once. "Once a rat, always a rat."

Now that Schulberg belongs to the ages, having died Wednesday at age 95, it will be up to historians to judge the validity of his actions. As for me, I'd hardly say they were done out of expediency. A lifelong ardent liberal, Schulberg simply saw the Communist Party as yet another ossified institution dominated by rigid true believers who brooked no dissent from the party line -- in fact, something of a dead ringer for today's Republican Party, where anyone who dares to offer even the faintest support for raising taxes (even for a good cause, like educating our next generation of kids or providing better veterans' benefits) is quickly shunned or run out of town on a rail. 

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