Ernest Lehman


Screenwriter

About

Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
December 08, 1915
Died
July 02, 2005

Biography

Born and raised in New York City, Ernest Lehman worked as a publicity writer for The Hollywood Reporter columnist Irving Hoffman and utilized his experience in scripting Alexander Mackendrick's "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957). Though the screenplay bears the stamp of Lehman's co-writer Clifford Odets, this dark and cruel tale originated as a story published by Lehman in Cosmopolitan (195...

Family & Companions

Jacqueline Lehman
Wife
Mother of Lehman's two sons.
Laurie Sherman
Wife
Born c. 1966; married on October 12, 1997; reportedly met over the Internet.

Bibliography

"Farewell Performance"
Ernest Lehman (1983)
"Screening Sickness"
Ernest Lehman (1981)
"The French Atlantic Affair"
Ernest Lehman (1977)
"North by Northwest"
Ernest Lehman (1972)

Biography

Born and raised in New York City, Ernest Lehman worked as a publicity writer for The Hollywood Reporter columnist Irving Hoffman and utilized his experience in scripting Alexander Mackendrick's "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957). Though the screenplay bears the stamp of Lehman's co-writer Clifford Odets, this dark and cruel tale originated as a story published by Lehman in Cosmopolitan (1951). This and other stories, one of which became Allan Dwan's "The Inside Story" (1948), brought him to the attention of Hollywood, where he settled in 1953.

That year began his association with Robert Wise on the screenplay for "Executive Suite," and their collaboration continued with "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956) through the acclaimed musicals "West Side Story" (1961) and "The Sound of Music" (1965). Nominated four times for Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, he received his first nod for his work with Billy Wilder on "Sabrina" (1954). Though he would never win an Oscar, Lehman was honored with five Writers Guild of America awards for his screenplays, and he served as that organization's president from 1983-85.

Lehman wrote perhaps his finest screenplay, "North by Northwest" (1959), for Alfred Hitchcock. A sublime mix of farce, chase and layered character, its final scenes on Mount Rushmore make it one of Hitchcock's most memorable movies. When the two of them tried to repeat the success of that classic comic thriller in Hitchcock's final movie "Family Plot" (1976), they fell a bit short, though it did give the Old Master a chance to coast along tongue-in-cheek and display his formidable directing skills one last time. Lehman's other multiple collaborations were with Mark Robson ("From the Terrace" 1960 and "The Prize" 1963) and with John Frankenheimer, who directed a Rod Serling adaptation of a Lehman novelette, "The Comedian" (1957), for "Playhouse 90" and shared screenwriting credit on "Black Sunday" (1976).

The astonishing success of "The Sound of Music" enabled Lehman to land the job of writer-producer for Mike Nichols' "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966) which resulted in one last Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay and a Writers Guild of America Award. He wrote and produced the overblown, critically disparaged "Hello, Dolly!" (1969) and added director to that list for "Portnoy's Complaint" (1972), a resounding failure which nipped his directing career in the bud. He published two novels, "The French Atlantic Affair" (1977) and "Farewell Performance" (1983), "Screening Sickness" (1981), a collection of writings on the cinema, and worked as a writer on the 1987, 1988 and 1990 Academy Award shows.

Regrettably, Ernest Lehman stopped writing scripts before turning 60, at least none have reached the screen. His reputation does not rest solely on the smart, funny and beautifully constructed screenplays that hold up to this day like "Sabrina," "Sweet Smell of Success," "North by Northwest" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?." He also displayed a remarkable talent for bringing the stage musical to the screen. Lehman learned to leave the sound stage, taking full advantage of the streets, and his movie musicals, particularly "The King and I" (1956), "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music" are a big part of his legacy.

Life Events

1948

Sold story to Hollywood that became "The Inside Story", directed by Allan Dwan

1951

Published "Tell Me About It Tomorrow" in <i>Cosmopolitan</i>, the basis for "The Sweet Smell of Success"

1953

Wrote screenplay for Robert Wise's "Executive Suite"

1953

Moved to Hollywood

1954

Shared screenwriting credit with Billy Wilder and Samuel Taylor on Wilder's "Sabrina"

1956

Wrote screenplay for "Somebody Up There Likes Me"

1956

Adapted the stage musical "The King and I" as a feature

1957

Rod Serling adapted his novellete "The Comedian" for a "Playhouse 90" production of same name directed by John Frankenheimer

1957

Published "Sweet Smell of Success and Other Stories"

1957

Shared screenwriting credit with Clifford Odets on Alexander Mackendrick's "The Sweet Smell of Success", adapted from Lehman's short story, "Tell Me About It Tomorrow"

1959

Scripted Hitchcock's "North by Northwest"

1960

Wrote screenplay for Mark Robson's "From the Terrace"

1961

Provided screenplay adaptation for Wise's "West Side Story"

1963

Wrote screenplay for Robson's "The Prize"

1965

Reteamed with Wise as writer of "The Sound of Music"

1966

Adapted Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" for the screen; also produced film

1969

Wrote and produced "Hello, Dolly!", directed by Gene Kelly

1976

Was co-screenwriter on Frankenheimer's "Black Sunday"

1976

Wrote screenplay for Hitchcock's final movie "Family Plot"

1977

Published novel "The French Atlantic Affair"

1981

Published "Screening Sickness", a collection of writings on the cinema

1982

Published novel "Farewell Performance"

1983

Served as President of Writers Guild of America West

Videos

Movie Clip

West Side Story (1961) - America The show-stopping number for Rita Morena in her Academy Award-winning role as Puerto Rican Anita, George Chakiris similarly honored as her boyfriend Bernardo, the song by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, in West Side Story, 1961.
West Side Story (1961) - Tonight Enraptured on the night of their meeting, Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood) on the fire escapes, director Robert Wise mingling the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim song with Ernest Lehman's script, singing voices by Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant, in West Side Story, 1961.
West Side Story (1961) - Jet Song One of the earliest, briefest and best-remembered songs from the piece, Leonard Bernstein music, Stephen Sondheim lyric, Jerome Robbins’ dance, Russ Tamblyn leading the New York street gang (Tucker Smith, Tony Mordente, David Winters et al), in West Side Story, 1961.
Prize, The (1963) -- Good English For A Non-Drinker In a Stockholm night club, Emily (Diane Baker), daughter of a Nobel Prize scientist, attaches herself to boozy American literature laureate Craig (Paul Newman), early in The Prize, 1963, from a novel by Irving Wallace.
North By Northwest (1959) - More Polished Than The Others Snatched from a Manhattan restaurant to a Long Island mansion, Thornhill (Cary Grant) is interrogated by James Mason, whom he presumes is Townsend, and who insists he must be Kaplan, with henchman Martin Landau, nothing clear, in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, 1959.
Family Plot (1976) - A Psychic As A Dry Salami After the opening in which Blanche (Barbara Harris) communed with a wealthy San Francisco widow, she toys with cabbie George (Bruce Dern), whom we learn is her boyfriend, lying to him in the process, early in director Alfred Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - I Told You About Danger Adamson (William Devane) and Fran (Karen Black) have just returned their hostage and secured their gigantic diamond ransom, and we learn, as they return home, that they appear to be a redoubtable well-to-do San Francisco couple, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - Did You Find Walter? Phony psychic Blanche (Barbara Harris) is seeing a routine client (Louise Lorimer) when her cohort, cabbie George (Bruce Dern) appears with a lead on a separate case that could earn them $10,000, director Alfred Hitchcock having fun with it, in Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - Never Liked Them Multiple Funerals Bent San Francisco cabbie George (Bruce Dern), now posing as a lawyer investigating a case, comes to a cemetery, where he discovers the man he’s after appears to be dead, meeting the maybe-creepy caretaker (John Steadman), in Alfred Hitchcock’s last picture, Family Plot, 1976.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957) - Open, Go With The Globe The rousing New York opening credit sequence to Sweet Smell of Success, 1957, introducing Tony Curtis as press agent Sidney Falco, and indirectly, Burt Lancaster as columnist J.J. Hunsecker, directed by Alexander MacKendrick.
Sweet Smell Of Success (1957) - You Can Play Marbles With His Eyeballs Press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) rings high-powered columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) with news that he’s arranged for another columnist to run an item that should break up his sheltered sister’s romance with a jazz musician, in Sweet Smell Of Success, 1957.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957) - Cat's In The Bag Famous scene, now outside 21 Club on West 52nd Street, dismissing cop Kello (Emile Meyer), columnist Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) and press agent Sidney (Tony Curtis), cutting a deal in their special argot, in Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell Of Success, 1957.

Trailer

Family

Roger Lehman
Son
Alan Lehman
Son
Jonathan Maxwell Lehman
Son
Born on January 31, 2002; mother, Laurie Sherman.

Companions

Jacqueline Lehman
Wife
Mother of Lehman's two sons.
Laurie Sherman
Wife
Born c. 1966; married on October 12, 1997; reportedly met over the Internet.

Bibliography

"Farewell Performance"
Ernest Lehman (1983)
"Screening Sickness"
Ernest Lehman (1981)
"The French Atlantic Affair"
Ernest Lehman (1977)
"North by Northwest"
Ernest Lehman (1972)
"Sweet Smell of Success and Other Stories"
Ernest Lehman (1957)
"The Comedian"
Ernest Lehman (1957)