Family & Companions
A screenwriter and playwright born in Brooklyn, Lennart was signed by MGM in the early 1940s, at first working on such modest films as "The Affairs of Martha" (1942) and "Lost Angel" (1943). The majority of her over two dozen credits during her 25-year career in films would be for MGM, and half of those were in collaboration with producer Joe Pasternak, a purveyor of agreeable if not usually innovative musicals and comedies. Lennart's first major film hit came with Pasternak's "Anchors Aweigh" (1945), the oft-told tale of two sailors on leave, distinguished more for its first teaming of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra and its musical numbers than for its serviceable screenplay. Most of Lennart's subsequent credits would be equally lighthearted, ranging from the charming "Period of Adjustment" (1962), based on Tennessee Williams material, to the derivative but harmless "Holiday Affair" (1949) to the occasional stinker ("The Kissing Bandit" 1948; "Latin Lovers" 1953).
Many of Lennart's credits were star vehicles for the likes of Danny Kaye ("Merry Andrew" 1958), Doris Day ("Please Don't Eat the Daisies" 1960) and Esther Williams ("Skirts Ahoy!" 1952). Some of her best work came with atypically dramatic fare: "East Side West Side" (1949) gave Barbara Stanwyck a good workout; "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" (1958) won plaudits for Ingrid Bergman and Robert Donat; and George Cukor's "A Life of Her Own" (1950) was a somewhat underrated showcase for Lana Turner and Ann Dvorak. Along similar lines was one of Lennart's finest efforts, the Oscar-nominated screenplay for "Love Me or Leave Me" (1955), a potently dramatic musical teaming Day with James Cagney, based on the life of 1930s torch singer Ruth Etting. Equally fine but more in keeping with Lennart's typically buoyant tone was another fine Oscar-nominated screenplay, this one an adaptation which resulted in the lovely tale of Australian sheepherders, "The Sundowners" (1960).
No case has been made by critics or academics for Lennart as a key example of the screenwriter as "auteur," but many of her screenplays do center upon women optimistically coping with careers, families and especially men who prove difficult because of possessiveness, addictions, finances, restlessness, or infidelity. For much of her career, she had focused upon screenplay writing, but Lennart the playwright enjoyed her biggest success and most enduring Broadway achievement when she took a few years off from movies to pen the musical biography of another iconic singer of the Jazz Age and the Depression. The smash "Funny Girl" (1964) told the story of Fanny Brice, clinched Barbra Streisand's stardom and was successfully adapted by Lennart for the 1968 film version. It also turned out to be her swan song, for Lennart was killed in a car crash in 1971.
Writer (Feature Film)
Film Production - Main (Feature Film)
Earliest screenplay credits include "The Affairs of Martha"
First worked for MGM producer Joe Pasternak, "Anchors Aweigh"
Called to testify before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HUAC)
Received first Oscar nomination for original screenplay for "Love Me or Leave Me", co-written with Daniel Fuchs, based on the life of Ruth Etting
Received second Oscar nomination for Best Adaptation Screenplay, for "The Sundowners", based on the novel by Jon Cleary
Last of many collaborations with producer Joe Pasternak, "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"
Wrote the story and libretto for the hit Broadway musical, "Funny Girl", based on the life of Fanny Brice
Last screenplay credit, "Funny Girl", based on her Broadway libretto