The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg

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The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg
University of Minnesota Press
Originally Published 1950

"... a fugitive from the Twenties... you jokers went off on one long tear and left us to pay the check. And you don't seem to know yet that the party is over."

Budd Schulberg was a screenwriter known for his screenplay of the critically acclaimed film On the Waterfront (1954). Schulberg also wrote novels including The Disenchanted which was published in 1950 and recently reprinted by University of Minnesota Press. The novel is based on the experience Schulberg had working with the troubled genius F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Producer Walter Wanger hired Budd Schulberg to assist F. Scott Fitzgerald in writing a screenplay about the Winter Carnivals at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Schulberg was a recent alumni. The movie was to be Winter Carnival (1939)The whole experience made quite an impact on Schulberg that he decided to fictionalize the experience in The Disenchanted.

In the novel, Shep is a young writer in Hollywood who is still wet behind the ears and has just been assigned to work with the great T. Manley Halliday (known as just Manley Halliday) on the collegiate winter romance Love on Ice. Manley is a prestigious writer with numerous successful novels and screenplays to his credits. But by 1939, most of his books are out of print and he's hanging by a thread: the fleeting recognition of his name and illustrious career. Manley is working on a manuscript for his next great novel but he's in desperate need of money to buy him the time to finish it. So he reluctantly takes on working with Shep on Love on Ice and is officially hired by producer Victor Milgrim.

Manley is diabetic and has been on the wagon for a few years. He's been divorced for years from the love and scourge of his life Jere. His assistant and sort-of mistress Ann Loeb helps him daily and keeps him on the straight and narrow. When Manley boards the plane with Shep from L.A. to N.Y. and Shep pours the first glass from a bottle of champagne, it's all over. Manley goes on a bender and Shep assumes various roles of assistant, writer and parent to Manley. Shep struggles between the feelings of admiration for Manley's magnificent literary and movie successes and the shell of a man he sees before him. Throughout the novel we follow Manley and Shep on their crazy adventure to get Love on Ice written before they arrive on location for filming. There are also flashbacks in which we learn more about Manley's life. His early career, his love affair with the troubled Jere and the days just before he leaves L.A. on the trip.

The Disenchanted is a captivating novel about a doomed project between two writers at opposite ends of their careers. I highly recommend this novel to classic film fans especially those who love fiction. It's fun to spot the names of real actors, actresses and films as well as to figure out the reference made by fictionalized ones. I really loved the theme of old versus young as I think that is a conflict that is very relevant today especially with new technology making age gaps even bigger. Reading it was at some points a bit of a drag mostly because of Manley's antics. But I think what I was experiencing was a bit of the same emotion Shep was feeling towards Manley: frustration and disenchantment.

Read my more movie based review at my classic film blog Out of the Past.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the University of Minnesota Press for sending me this book to review!

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