Ernest Lehman

Ernest Lehman

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Ernest Lehman was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 screenwriter
Screenwriter
Screenwriters or scriptwriters or scenario writers are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which mass media such as films, television programs, Comics or video games are based.-Profession:...

. He received 6 Academy Award
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 nominations during his screenwriting career. In 2001 he received an honorary Oscar for his works, the first screenwriter to receive that honor.

Early years


Lehman was born into a wealthy Jewish Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 family whose fortunes were seriously affected by the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. Upon his graduation from College of the City of New York
City College of New York
The City College of the City University of New York is a senior college of the City University of New York , in New York City. It is also the oldest of the City University's twenty-three institutions of higher learning...

 (The City College of New York), Lehman became a freelance writer. Lehman felt that freelancing was a "very nervous way to make a living" so he began writing copy for a publicity firm which focused on plays and celebrities. This experience helped form the basis of his 1957
1957 in film
The year 1957 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* October 21 - The movie Jailhouse Rock, starring Elvis Presley, opens.-Top grossing films : After theatrical re-issue-Awards:...

 film Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir made by Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner. The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman...

, which he co-wrote with Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

. Lehman wrote many short stories and novellas for magazines like Colliers
Collier's Weekly
Collier's Weekly was an American magazine founded by Peter Fenelon Collier and published from 1888 to 1957. With the passage of decades, the title was shortened to Collier's....

, Redbook
Redbook
Redbook is an American women's magazine published by the Hearst Corporation. It is one of the "Seven Sisters", a group of women's service magazines.-History:...

and Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan (magazine)
Cosmopolitan is an international magazine for women. It was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine, was later transformed into a literary magazine and eventually became a women's magazine in the late 1960s...

. These attracted the attention of Hollywood and in the mid-1950s Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

 signed him to a writing contract. His first film, Executive Suite
Executive Suite
Executive Suite is a 1954 MGM drama film depicting the transfer of power in a corporation in trouble. The film stars William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, and Walter Pidgeon. It was directed by Robert Wise and produced by John Houseman from a screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on the...

, was a success and he was asked to collaborate on the romantic comedy Sabrina
Sabrina (1954 film)
Sabrina is a 1954 comedy-romance film directed by Billy Wilder, adapted for the screen by Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, and Ernest Lehman from Taylor's play Sabrina Fair...

, which also became a hit. Perhaps his most visible contribution to the Hollywood canon is the screenplay of the 1965
1965 in film
The year 1965 in film involved some significant events, with The Sound of Music topping the U.S. box office.-Top grossing films : After theatrical re-issue- Awards :Academy Awards:...

 mega-hit film version of The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music (film)
Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical film directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film is based on the Broadway musical The Sound of Music, with songs written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and with the musical...

.

Collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock


Perhaps Lehman's most important contribution to Hollywood as a writer was his ingenious screenplay for the 1959
1959 in film
The year 1959 in film involved some significant events, with Ben-Hur winning a record 11 Academy Awards.-Events:* The Three Stooges make their 190th and last short film, Sappy Bull Fighters....

 Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

 film, North by Northwest
North by Northwest
North by Northwest is a 1959 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, and featuring Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau...

, which starred Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

 as a Madison Avenue advertising executive who is mistaken for a government agent by a group of spies including James Mason
James Mason
James Neville Mason was an English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. Mason remained a powerful figure in the industry throughout his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as three Golden Globes .- Early life :Mason was born in Huddersfield, in the...

 and Martin Landau
Martin Landau
Martin Landau is an American film and television actor. Landau began his career in the 1950s. His early films include a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest . He played continuing roles in the television series Mission: Impossible and Space:1999...

.

MGM Studios had actually hired Hitchcock to make a film called The Wreck of the Mary Deare
The Wreck of the Mary Deare
The Wreck of the Mary Deare is a novel written by British author Hammond Innes and later a movie starring Gary Cooper. It tells the story of the titular ship, which is found adrift at sea by John Sands. Sands boards it hoping to claim it for salvage, but finds the first officer, Gideon Patch, still...

. Collaborating with Lehman, he gave the studio North by Northwest instead. In an audio commentary (DVD), Lehman stated that he "wanted to write the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures."

It took him an entire year and several periods of writer's block
Writer's block
Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked"...

, as well as a trip to Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States...

 to scale the faces of the famous monument. (He got only halfway to the top and bought a camera to give to the park ranger to photograph the famous monument for him.)

North by Northwest was one of Lehman's greatest triumphs in Hollywood and a huge hit for Hitchcock. For his efforts, Lehman received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, as well as a 1960 Edgar Award
Edgar Award
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards , named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America...

 from the Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America is an organization for mystery writers, based in New York.The organization was founded in 1945 by Clayton Rawson, Anthony Boucher, Lawrence Treat, and Brett Halliday....

 for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.

Other projects


In addition to screenwriting, Lehman tried his hand at producing, and was among a distinct few in Hollywood who had faith in a film adaptation
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (film)
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 American drama film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is an adaptation of the play of the same title by Edward Albee...

 of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a play by Edward Albee that opened on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theater on October 13, 1962. The original cast featured Uta Hagen as Martha, Arthur Hill as George, Melinda Dillon as Honey and George Grizzard as Nick. It was directed by Alan Schneider...

. He managed to persuade studio executive Jack Warner
Jack Warner
Jack Leonard "J. L." Warner , born Jacob Warner in London, Ontario, was a Canadian American film executive who was the president and driving force behind the Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California...

 to allow him to take on the project, and the stark film was a critical sensation, garnering many Academy Award nominations. Lehman was nominated for an Academy Award for 1969
1969 in film
The year 1969 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* Last year for prize giving at the Venice Film Festival until it is revived in 1980...

's Hello, Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Joan Streisand is an American singer, actress, film producer and director. She has won two Academy Awards, eight Grammy Awards, four Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Peabody Award, and is one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy,...

.

In 1972
1972 in film
The year 1972 in film involved some significant events.-Top grossing films :- Awards :Academy Awards:*Avanti!, directed by Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon and Juliet MillsB...

, Lehman directed his first and last film, Portnoy's Complaint
Portnoy's Complaint (film)
Portnoy's Complaint is a 1972 American dramedy film written and directed by Ernest Lehman. His screenplay is based on the bestselling 1969 novel of the same name by Philip Roth.-Plot synopsis:...

. His 1976
1976 in film
The year 1976 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*March 22 - Filming begins on George Lucas' Star Wars science fiction film...

 screenplay for Family Plot
Family Plot
Family Plot is a 1976 American dark comedy/thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, his fifty-third and final film. It stars Barbara Harris, Bruce Dern, William Devane, and Karen Black....

earned him a second Edgar Award. He basically retired from screenwriting in 1979, aside from some television projects.

In 1977, he published the bestselling novel The French Atlantic Affair
The French Atlantic Affair
The French Atlantic Affair is a novel by Ernest Lehman which was published in 1977. A 3 part TV miniseries based on the book was produced and broadcast in 1979.-Plot:...

, about a group of unemployed, middle-class Americans who hijack a French cruise ship for a $35 million ransom. It was adapted as a TV miniseries in 1979.

Death


Lehman died at UCLA Medical Center after a prolonged illness and was buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery is a cemetery in the Westwood Village area of Los Angeles, California. It is located at 1218 Glendon Avenue in Westwood....

 in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

. He was survived by a wife, Laurie, and his son Jonathan, as well as two sons (Roger and Alan) from his first marriage.

Writing credits

  • Executive Suite
    Executive Suite
    Executive Suite is a 1954 MGM drama film depicting the transfer of power in a corporation in trouble. The film stars William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, and Walter Pidgeon. It was directed by Robert Wise and produced by John Houseman from a screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on the...

  • Sabrina
    Sabrina (1954 film)
    Sabrina is a 1954 comedy-romance film directed by Billy Wilder, adapted for the screen by Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, and Ernest Lehman from Taylor's play Sabrina Fair...

    (1954
    1954 in film
    The year 1954 in film involved some significant events and memorable ones.-Events:*May 12 - The Marx Brothers' Zeppo Marx divorces wife Marion Benda...

    )
  • The King and I
    The King and I (1956 film)
    The King and I is a 1956 musical film made by 20th Century Fox, directed by Walter Lang and produced by Charles Brackett and Darryl F. Zanuck. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is based on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical The King and I, based in turn on the book Anna and the King...

    (1956
    1956 in film
    The year 1956 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* October 5 - The Ten Commandments opens in cinemas and becomes one of the most successful and popular movies of all time, currently ranking 5th on the list of all time moneymakers * February 5 - First showing of documentary films by...

    )
  • Sweet Smell of Success
    Sweet Smell of Success
    Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir made by Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner. The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman...

    (1957)
  • North by Northwest
    North by Northwest
    North by Northwest is a 1959 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, and featuring Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau...

    (1959
    1959 in film
    The year 1959 in film involved some significant events, with Ben-Hur winning a record 11 Academy Awards.-Events:* The Three Stooges make their 190th and last short film, Sappy Bull Fighters....

    )
  • West Side Story
    West Side Story (film)
    West Side Story is a 1961 musical film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was adapted from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno,...

    (1961
    1961 in film
    The year 1961 in film involved some significant events, with West Side Story winning 10 Academy Awards.-Top grossing films : After theatrical re-issue- Awards :Academy Awards:* Atlantis, the Lost ContinentB...

    )
  • The Prize (1963
    1963 in film
    The year 1963 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* June 12 - Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison and Richard Burton premieres at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City....

    )
  • The Sound of Music
    The Sound of Music (film)
    Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical film directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film is based on the Broadway musical The Sound of Music, with songs written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and with the musical...

    (1965
    1965 in film
    The year 1965 in film involved some significant events, with The Sound of Music topping the U.S. box office.-Top grossing films : After theatrical re-issue- Awards :Academy Awards:...

    )
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (film)
    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 American drama film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is an adaptation of the play of the same title by Edward Albee...

    (1966
    1966 in film
    The year 1966 in film involved some significant events.-Events:Animation legend Walter Disney, well known for his creation of Mickey Mouse, died in 15 December 1966 of acute circulatory collapse following a diagnosis of, and surgery for, lung cancer...

    )
  • Hello, Dolly! (1969
    1969 in film
    The year 1969 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* Last year for prize giving at the Venice Film Festival until it is revived in 1980...

    )
  • Portnoy's Complaint
    Portnoy's Complaint (film)
    Portnoy's Complaint is a 1972 American dramedy film written and directed by Ernest Lehman. His screenplay is based on the bestselling 1969 novel of the same name by Philip Roth.-Plot synopsis:...

    (1972
    1972 in film
    The year 1972 in film involved some significant events.-Top grossing films :- Awards :Academy Awards:*Avanti!, directed by Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon and Juliet MillsB...

    )
  • Family Plot
    Family Plot
    Family Plot is a 1976 American dark comedy/thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, his fifty-third and final film. It stars Barbara Harris, Bruce Dern, William Devane, and Karen Black....

    (1976
    1976 in film
    The year 1976 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*March 22 - Filming begins on George Lucas' Star Wars science fiction film...

    )
  • Black Sunday
    Black Sunday (1977 film)
    Black Sunday is a 1977 American thriller film directed by John Frankenheimer and based on the novel by Thomas Harris. The film starred Robert Shaw, Bruce Dern, and Marthe Keller and was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture in 1978...

    (1977
    1977 in film
    The year 1977 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*In the Academy Awards, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight win Best Actor and Actress and Supporting Actress awards for Network....

    )

External links