An American screenwriter, novelist, and sportswriter, he is best known for his screenplays for On the Waterfront (1954) and A Face in the Crowd (1957), both of which won the Academy Award. His other literary works include What Makes Sammy Run? and The Harder They Fall.
He attended Dartmouth College, where he wrote for the collegiate humor magazine. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy.
He wrote articles for Sports Illustrated.
He was married four times, most notably to actress Geraldine Brooks. His first, second, and fourth marriages (to Virginia Lee Ray, Agnes Virginia Anderson, and Betsy Ann Langman) produced a total of five children.
He collaborated on a screenplay with F. Scott Fitzgerald.