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What Makes Sammy Run?, Budd Schulberg (1941)

How to succeed in the movie business

Jennifer Gilmore
September 17, 2013

Budd Schulberg’s only novel is the story of Sammy Glick, a scrappy kid from the Lower East Side who backstabs his way up the Hollywood food chain. Narrated by Al Manheim, á la Gatsby’s Nick Carraway, we get a revealing account of Sammy’s rise as he lies and cheats and schtouffs shiksas. What makes Sammy run is what drives so many of the Jewish anti-heroes: fleeing the past through assimilation. But even the gentiles of literature are punished for rejecting their roots, and so it goes with Sammy, who ends up alone in his mansion crying into his scotch. But it is his breakneck sprint—from the past, from the Jews, from himself—that makes the novel go. Is it also an anti-Semitic tale of Jew betraying Jew? Does it matter? What Makes Sammy Run is an iconic story of the perils of remaking.

Jennifer Gilmore’s latest novel, The Mothers, was published by Scribner in April 2013. She is also the author of Golden Country, a 2006 New York Times Notable Book, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Jewish Book Award, and Something Red, a New York Times Notable Book.