Ernest Lehman

Date Of Birth:
8 December 1915
Date Of Death:
2 July 2005
Place Of Birth:
New York City, New York
Best Known As:
The guy who wrote Hitchcock's North by Northwest

Ernest Lehman wrote some of the most successful movies of the 1950s and '60s, including The King and I, West Side Story, The Sound of Music and North by Northwest. A New Yorker, Lehman graduated from the City College there in 1937, then went to work as a freelance writer and assistant publicist. By the 1940s he was publishing short stories, followed by two novellas, The Comedian and Sweet Smell of Success. Drawn to Hollywood in 1952, Lehman's first screenplay was for the star-studded Robert Wise movie, Executive Suite (1953). He followed up that hit with 1954's Sabrina, another box office success that brought Lehman his first Oscar nomination. Over the next two decades he adapted for the screen Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956, starring Paul Newman), The King and I (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, starring Liz Taylor) and Hello, Dolly! (1969, starring Barbra Streisand). These days, Lehman is perhaps best remembered for his original screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959, starring Cary Grant). By the 1970s, Lehman was pretty much done with screenwriting. He published two novels and worked closely with the Writers Guild of America, and in 2001 he was awarded an honorary Oscar, the only screenwriter to ever receive that honor.

Extra Credit

Ernest Lehman was nominated for six Oscars during his career. For writing, he was nominated for Sabrina (1954), North by Northwest (1959), West Side Story (1961) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); for producing, he was nominated for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Hello, Dolly! (1969)… Ernest Lehman won six Writers Guild screen awards… Lehman was married to Jacqueline Shapiro from 1942 to 1994, and to Laurie Sherman from 1997 until his death in 2005.

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