Isobel Lennart


Screenwriter

About

Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born
May 18, 1915
Died
January 25, 1971
Cause of Death
Car Accident

Biography

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 usu...

Family & Companions

John Harding
Husband
Actor. Survived her.

Biography

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.

Life Events

1942

Earliest screenplay credits include "The Affairs of Martha"

1945

First worked for MGM producer Joe Pasternak, "Anchors Aweigh"

1952

Called to testify before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HUAC)

1955

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

1960

Received second Oscar nomination for Best Adaptation Screenplay, for "The Sundowners", based on the novel by Jon Cleary

1960

Last of many collaborations with producer Joe Pasternak, "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"

1964

Wrote the story and libretto for the hit Broadway musical, "Funny Girl", based on the life of Fanny Brice

1968

Last screenplay credit, "Funny Girl", based on her Broadway libretto

Photo Collections

Anchors Aweigh - Complete Shooting Script
Here is a copy of the complete shooting script (158 pages) for MGM's Anchors Aweigh (1945), written by Isobel Lennart. This a version dated 6/8/44 - the different colored pages indicate revisions made during the scripting process.

Videos

Movie Clip

Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1960) - Awful Quiet... Establishing the trials of family life in the city, plus mother Kate (Doris Day) in black negligee, with sons (Charles Herbert, Flip Mark, Baby Gellert, Stanley Livingston), the opening of Please Don't Eat The Daisies, 1960, co-starring David Niven, from the Jean Kerr book.
Anchors Aweigh (1945) - Jealousy! Kathryn Grayson as Susan, widowed de-facto mother of her nephew, who hasn’t sung a note thus far, is eager to thank her new on-leave Navy pals Joe and Clarence (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra), at an L-A Mexican club, the famous song by the Danish composer Jacob Gade, English lyric by Patience Strong, in Anchors Aweigh, 1945.
Anchors Aweigh (1945) - I Always Get Sung To Sleep! On shore-leave in L-A sailors Joe and Clarence (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra) have agreed to put their new pal Donald (Dean Stockwell) to bed, Frank supplying Brahms’ Lullaby, then hoping to apply Gene’s promised romantic advice to his guardian-aunt Susan (Kathryn Grayson), in MGM’s Anchors Aweigh, 1945.
Anchors Aweigh (1945) - I Begged Her Returning to sailors' lodgings after their first night on leave, Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) forgetting to brag, Brady (Gene Kelly) correcting, into their Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne number, staged by Kelly and Jack Donohue, in Anchors Aweigh, 1945.
It Happened In Brooklyn (1947) - Johann Sebastian Bach De-mobbed Danny (Frank Sinatra) gets a lift from schoolteacher Anne (Kathryn Grayson), acting on orders from a street cop, then to her classroom for her first vocal, a lyric from the credited songwriters (presumably Sammy Cahn, maybe Jule Styne) to a famous Bach miniature composition, Invention No. 1, in It Happened In Brooklyn, 1947.
Fitzwilly (1967) - I'm Not Your Social Equal With her not knowing he’s hitting on her to cause her to quit her job, or that he’s more a scam artist than butler, or that it’s all to support their eccentric and broke mutual employer, Dick Van Dyke and college-gal/secretary Juliet (Barbara Feldon) visit a restaurant run by Billy Halop, in the Mirisch company’s Fitzwilly, 1967.
Fitzwilly (1967) - The Girl From Columbia Dick Van Dyke (New York butler and title character) receives job applicant Juliet (Barbara Feldon), determined not to reveal that his employer Miss Vicky (Edith Evans) is, unknowingly, broke, in Fitzwilly, 1967.
Fitzwilly (1967) - Among The Godless! Title character Dick Van Dyke, at a New York society bar, demonstrating a basic betting scam, then conspiring with fellow domestic staffers (Sam Waterston, John McGiver) to keep their broke mistress afloat, in Delbert Mann's Ftizwilly, 1967.
Sundowners, The (1960) - Just Another Town Opening scene, introducing leads Robert Mitchum (as "Paddy"), Deborah Kerr (as "Ida"), with their down-under accents and their son (Michael Anderson Jr.), from Fred Zinnemanns's The Sundowners, 1960, screenplay by Isobel Lennart from the novel by John Cleary.
Sundowners, The (1960) - Lower Your Blunderbuss With his mum Ida (Deborah Kerr), just arrived in a new piece of 1920'a Australia, young Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) goes off in search of his dad, instead meeting the philosophical Rupert Venneker (Peter Ustinov, his first scene), in Fred Zinnemann's The Sundowners, 1960.
Inn Of The Sixth Happiness, The - Foreigners Are Funny Arrived in China after buying her own ticket from England, aspiring missionary Gladys Aylward (Ingrid Bergman) meets veteran Jeannie Lawson (Athene Seyler), in The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness, 1958, based on a true story.
Inn Of The Sixth Happiness, The - The Equality Of Women Captain Lin (Curt Jurgens), representing the pre-revolutionary government in Beijing, negotiates with local potentate "The Mandarin" (Robert Donat, in his final film role) in The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness, 1958.

Trailer

Latin Lovers - (Original Trailer) Expect Ricardo Montalban to give Lana Turner a taste for Latin Lovers (1953) in this Technicolor romance.
Fitzwilly - (Original Trailer) When an aging philanthropist goes broke, her butler (Dick Van Dyke) robs from the rich so she can give to the poor.
Love Me or Leave Me -- (Original Trailer) Doris Day stars in the true story of torch singer Ruth Etting and her attempts to escape the gangster (James Cagney) who made her a star in Love Me or Leave Me (1955), directed by Charles Vidor.
By Love Possessed - (Original Trailer) Lana Turner's desperate search for love leads to an affair with her husband's law partner in John Sturges' By Love Possessed (1961).
Affairs of Martha, The - (Original Trailer) A servant's employers land in hot water when they're the subject of a tell-all book in The Affairs Of Martha (1942).
Sundowners, The - (Original Trailer) An Australian sheep-herder and his wife clash over their nomadic existence and their son's future in The Sundowners (1960) starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.
Anchors Aweigh - (Original Trailer) A pair of sailors on leave try to help a movie extra become a singing star in Anchors Aweigh (1945) starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson.
Period of Adjustment -- (Original Trailer) A newlywed couple's honeymoon is disrupted by their friends' marital problems in Period of Adjustment (1962), starring Jane Fonda & Jim Hutton.
Skirts Ahoy! - (Original Trailer) Three women join the Navy to find husbands in the MGM Technicolor musical Skirts Ahoy! (1952) starring Esther Williams.
Please Don't Eat The Daisies - (Original Trailer) Jean Kerr's book Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1960) was made into this hit film starring Doris Day and David Niven.
Merry Andrew - (Original Trailer) Danny Kaye is an archaeologist whose search for Roman treasure gets him mixed up with a circus troupe in Merry Andrew (1958).
Lost Angel - (Original Trailer) A girl (Margaret O'Brien) raised to be a genius gets lost and discovers the simple pleasure of life in Lost Angel (1943).

Companions

John Harding
Husband
Actor. Survived her.

Bibliography