See his autobiographical Moving Pictures (1981, repr. 2003); N. Beck, Budd Schulberg: A Bio-Bibliography (2001).
Born Seymour Wilson Schulberg, he was Hollywood "royalty", the son of B.P. Schulberg, head of Paramount Pictures and Adeline Jafee-Schulberg, sister to agent/film producer Sam Jaffe. Budd Schulberg is best known for his 1941 novel, What Makes Sammy Run, his 1947 novel The Harder They Fall, his 1954 Academy-award-winning screenplay for On the Waterfront, and his 1957 screenplay A Face in the Crowd.
Schulberg attended Deerfield Academy and then went on to Dartmouth College, where he was actively involved in the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern humor magazine. In 1939 he collaborated on the screenplay for Winter Carnival, a light comedy set at Dartmouth. One of his collaborators was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was fired because of his alcoholic binge during a visit with Schulberg to Dartmouth. Dartmouth College awarded Schulberg an honorary degree in 1960.
While serving in the Navy during World War II, Schulberg was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), working with John Ford's documentary unit. Following VE Day, he was among the first American servicemen to liberate the Nazi-run concentration camps. He was involved in gathering evidence against war criminals for the Nuremberg Trials, an assignment that included arresting documentary film maker Leni Riefenstahl at her chalet in Kitzbühel, Austria, ostensibly to have her identify the faces of Nazi war criminals in German film footage captured by the Allied troops.
In 1950 Schulberg published a novel, The Disenchanted, about a young screenwriter who collaborates on a screenplay about a college winter festival with a famous novelist at the nadir of his career. The novelist (who at the time was assumed by reviewers to be a thinly disguised portrait of Fitzgerald, dead ten years earlier) is portrayed as a tragic and flawed figure, with whom the young screenwriter becomes disillusioned. According to the New York Times, it was the tenth bestselling novel in the United States in 1950. The Disenchanted was adapted as a Broadway play in 1958 starring Jason Robards, Jr. (who won a Tony Award for his performance) and George Grizzard as the character loosely based on Schulberg. Also in 1958, he wrote and co-produced (with his younger brother Stuart) the film Wind Across the Everglades, directed by Nicholas Ray.
Schulberg encountered political controversy in 1951 when screenwriter Richard Collins, testifying to the House Un-American Activities Committee, named Schulberg as a former member of the Communist Party. Schulberg immediately volunteered to testify and appeared as a friendly witness. He testified that Party members had sought to influence the content of What Makes Sammy Run and "named names" of other alleged Hollywood communists.
In 1965, after a devastating riot had ripped apart the fabric of the Watts community in Los Angeles, Schulberg formed the Watts Writers Workshop as an attempt to ameliorate frustrations and bring artistic training to the economically impoverished district.
He is married to his fourth wife, Betsey, and has two children, Benn and Jessica. He resides in Westhampton, Long Island, New York. His niece Sandra Schulberg was an executive producer of the Academy Award nominated film Quills, among other movies.