schulberg bpB.P. Schulberg

Class of 1915

Inducted 1998 Inaugural Group

When B.P. Schulberg was 17 and a student at the College, he broke into the professional ranks as a copy boy for the legendary columnist Franklin P. Adams at the old New York Evening Mail. Schulberg was quickly promoted to reporter and two years later he left The Mail to become associate editor of Film Reports, a trade magazine aimed at independent producers and exhibitors in the nascent motion picture industry. Before long, he was solidly entrenched in that industry and on his way to becoming a pioneer producer and the studio executive who discovered Clara Bow and had a hand in pictures that helped launch the careers of Gary Cooper and Shirley Temple.

As an independent producer, Schulberg turned out such films as “Wings” in 1927, the only silent film to win an Oscar as Best Picture; “Three Cornered Moon,” a 1933 movie regarded as one of the first “screwball comedies”; and “Little Miss Marker,” an enormously successful 1934 movie with Shirley Temple. When Schulberg’s career was at its zenith, he was managing director of all West Coast production for Paramount Pictures from 1925 to 1932, earning nearly $500,000 a year.

schulberg bp walk of fame

B.P. Schulberg was born in Bridgeport, Conn., on Jan. 19, 1892, one of 14 siblings. A few years later, his family moved to New York’s Lower East Side. His given name was Percival, but when boyhood friends made fun of it, he added the name Benjamin. He attended public schools and enrolled at CCNY, but left when he was hired by The Evening Mail. When he was 20, he was hired by Rex Pictures as publicity director and screenwriter, and later handled publicity for Famous Players-Lasky.  He then became an independent producer and in 1919, founded Preferred Pictures.

schulberg bp it

A poster for “It,” with Clara Bow

He was introduced to an 18-year-old starlet from Brooklyn named Clara Bow and made her part of his studio’s permanent stock. In 1925, Preferred Pictures filed for bankruptcy and Schulberg signed with Adolph Zukor and became associate producer of Paramount Pictures. Clara Bow — nicknamed “The It Girl” following her appearance as a spirited showgirl in the 1927 movie “It” — came with him and became one of Paramount’s biggest stars.

In 1932, after leaving Paramount Studios, Schulberg returned to independent filmmaking, producing movies for Columbia Pictures before retiring in 1950. For his contributions to the industry, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Directors’ Building at Paramount was renamed the Schulberg Building. His son Budd Schulberg also achieved fame in Hollywood, most notably for his screenplays of “On the Waterfront” and “Face in the Crowd.”

B.P. Schulberg died on Feb. 25, 1957. He was 65.