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Ernest Lehman
Ernest Paul Lehman

(1915-12-08)December 8, 1915
DiedJuly 2, 2005(2005-07-02) (aged 89)
OccupationScreenwriter, producer, director
Known forHello, Dolly!
The King and I
North by Northwest
The Sound of Music
Sweet Smell of Success
West Side Story
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Jacqueline Shapiro
(m. 1942; died 1994)

Laurie Sherman (m. 1997)

Ernest Paul Lehman[1] (December 8, 1915 – July 2, 2005) was an American screenwriter.[2] He was nominated six times for Academy Awards for his screenplays during his career, but did not win.[2] At the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001, he received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of his achievements and his influential works for the screen. His work inspired new generations of screenwriters and captivated filmmakers, actors, film critics, and audiences. He was the first screenwriter to receive that honor. The award was presented to him by Julie Andrews, a friend and star of The Sound of Music.

He received two Edgar Awards of the Mystery Writers of America for screenplays for suspense films he wrote for director Alfred Hitchcock: North by Northwest (1959), his only original screenplay, and Family Plot (1976), one of numerous adaptations.

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  • ✪ The Bizarre Process of Writing ‘North by Northwest’ | Screenwriting
  • ✪ West Side Story (4/10) Movie CLIP - America (1961) HD
  • ✪ Julie Andrews presents an Honorary Oscar® to Ernest Lehman
  • ✪ Black Sunday (8/8) Movie CLIP - Crashing the Super Bowl (1977) HD
  • ✪ Sweet Smell of Success (2/11) Movie CLIP - J.J.'s Table (1957) HD


In the early 1950s, a journalist at the New York Herald Tribune named Otis Guernsey Jr. wrote Alfred Hitchcock this letter. The letter contains an idea for a film he previously discussed with Hitchcock some time before. He writes: "a diplomatic controversy exists in a Near Eastern country, involving, possibly, something active like the smuggling-in of American arms collected in Europe where they were sold or abandoned and brought in to create a sub rosa rebellion; that the “Good Guys”, in order to decoy the “Bad Guys’” espionage, create a fictitious character of a master spy; that a young, ingenious American salesman, entering the country for respectable purposes is saddled by accident with this identity; that, subject to this unexpected melodrama he turns like the American worm always does and tries to clear himself; that, in the course of his searches he meets a girl who is part of the “Good Guys’” plan to establish the fictional master spy, and, finally, that he contributes to the downfall of the bad guys in a flurry of denouement and romance” (Hitchcock Notebooks). This is the germ for what would become North by Northwest. Today, I want to take a look at how Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman managed to take a vague mistaken-identity concept and a Hitchcockian set piece and turn it into the iconic adventure we have come to know. This is Making Film... North by Northwest came about during a period of writer’s block while Hitchcock and Lehman were working on the script for a film titled The Wreck of the Mary Deare ( It was based on a famous legend called “the Mystery of the Marie Celeste” where a ship was discovered sailing in the Atlantic with nobody on board. The lifeboats were there, "the galley stove was still hot, and there were remnants of a meal” (Hitchcock/Truffaut 248). It’s an intriguing concept, so why were they having so much trouble writing it? The problem was that the concept was so intriguing. Hitchcock said, "There’s so much mystery from the very outset that that the attempt to explain it is bound to be terribly laborious the rest of the story never quite lives up to the beginning… But as soon as you go into the explanations, the whole thing becomes very trite, and the public is apt to wonder why you didn’t show the events that led up to this point" (Hitchcock/Truffaut 248). They decided to scrap the Mary Deare story and start working on a new story. So with the “mastery spy” concept in place Hitchcock discussed with Lehman some ideas he had for interesting visuals or plot points he’s always wanted to try. One was to be "the longest dolly shot in cinema history” following start to finish, the construction of a car at an automotive plant. Once the car is built, it is discovered that there is a dead body in the backseat (Lehman Interview, 2000). Another idea was that a speaker at the United Nations would refuse to continue their speech until the delegate from Brazil wakes up. The delegate is tapped on the shoulder and “falls over dead.” The only clue left behind is a doodle of moose antlers. This was actually going to be the beginning of the movie. Another of Hitchcock’s ideas was at a family reunion by a lake— "a twelve-year-old girl takes a gun out of a baby carriage and shoots someone” (Lehman Interview, 2000). There was an idea about ice fishing in Alaska and “a hand suddenly comes up out of thewater.” Most of these ideas didn’t seem to fit in with the concept except an idea Hitchcock had of a chase scene across the faces of Mount Rushmore. All of the ideas seemed to Lehman to be moving [quote] “in a northwesterly direction” from the story’s beginning in New York. Lehman began calling the project “In a Northwesterly Direction” until Kenneth MacKenna, the head of the story department at MGM, suggested "North by Northwest" as a working title (Lehman Interview, 2000). The plan was to eventually change the title to something that made more sense— after all, "North by Northwest" isn’t an actual direction. They played around with a few titles such as, “The Man in Lincoln’s Nose, Breathless” and so on, but none of these seemed to satisfy Hitchcock and Lehman ( As a side note, North by Northwest was the only film Hitchcock made for MGM (BFI). Hitchcock didn’t really like the title North by Northwest, but MacKenna wrote to Hitchcock asking to keep the title as is. In the letter, MacKenna writes, “While we are aware that technically there is no such point on the compass, our feeling is that the enormous amount of publicity containing this title with you and Cary Grant, has built up a tremendous value for the title. Were we to change now, even to the extent of switching the order of the words, we might be wasting a value for which there would be no compensation in being nautically correct” (Krohn 205). Some have pointed out that the title appears in Shakespeare’s Hamlet— “I am but mad north-northwest.” Lehman and Hitchcock even wrote in the screenplay, that the crop duster attacks Thornhill “from the northwest” (Krohn 205). So, Lehman had the initial “master spy” mistaken identity in New York concept and an ending at Mount Rushmore and now he needed to figure out what happens in between. Lehman decided to make Thornhill an advertising executive so that he could [quote] “talk in a kind of clever repartee, rather than speaking in a straightforward manner.” He thought Grant was well-suited for that kind of character and thought it would make the character more amusing (Lehman Interview, 2000). You’ll notice that Thornhill’s lines are often witty. “Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theater this evening.” It turns what might be a serious thriller into a fun captivating adventure. Another thing to note is that this is an ordinary man trust into an extra-ordinary situation. We can identify with Thornhill and wonder what we might do in this situation. This is a staple of Hitchcock films. Alfred Hitchcock: “But I’ve always gone for average man – the ordinary individual—going through extraordinary experiences.” Interviewer: “Is that basic theme you look for if you are looking for a story…” Hitchcock: “Yeah. Whether I want to or not, I seem to gravitate toward that… The movie I made like- North by Northwest. Cary Grant—he’s an ordinary businessman. Gets mistaken for a spy and, of course, he goes through the most bizarre experiences. Well, it enables the audience to identify themselves much more closely with the individual.” Lehman didn’t write a treatment, instead he wrote a partial outline just about up to the third act. He had several story conferences with Hitchcock and had a basic idea of where the story was going to go (Lehman Interview, 2000). He wrote out some scene ideas on index cards and arranged them to get a general idea of the structure. To get into the mindset of the story during the actual writing process, Lehman himself visited the actual locations where the story would take place in order to get a feel for the location. He went to Grand Central and took the 20th Century Limited to Chicago, went to the Ambassador East Hotel and then took the Bullet train to Rapid City, South Dakota (Lehman Interview, 2000). He hired a forest ranger and just started climbing Mount Rushmore. He wanted to see what was at the top, but he got frightened of possibly falling to his death and gave his Polaroid camera to the ranger to take photos up there (Lehman Interview, 2000). He realized that he didn’t know how to write the scene of Thornhill getting arrested for drunk driving, so he went to a judge in Glen Cove, Long Island and had him take him through the process of getting arrested for drunk driving (Lehman Interview, 2000). “Alright, let’s just go inside.” “I don’t want to go inside. Somebody call the police.” “Come on. Come on now.” Going to the actual locations was most important for the scene with the murder at the United Nations Building. Lehman spent five days at the building to see if he could find a perfect spot for a murder to take place (Lehman Interview, 2000). There was a problem though. A film titled The Glass Wall was shot there, which prompted the secretary general of the United Nations to forbid the shooting of fiction films in and around the building (Hitchcock/Truffaut 252). When the UN discovered what Lehman was doing, they realized that Hitchcock was attempting to use the UN building in his new movie, so they kept extra vigilant. Hitchcock had a photographer get permission to take pictures inside the building and Hitchcock, pretending to be a normal visitor, followed him around whispering things like, “Take that shot from there. And now, another one from the roof down” (Hitchcock/Truffaut 252). Then they used the photos as reference to construct an exact replica of the Delegates’ Lounge on a soundstage in Culver City. In the film, they called it the “Public Lounge” out of respect for the United Nations and to help explain how a man was able to get a knife into the building. A public lounge would likely have less security (Hitchcock/Truffaut 252). They did manage to steal this shot of Cary Grant walking up to the United Nations building, which they weren’t allowed to do. They concealed a camera in the back of a truck made to look like it was from a carpet cleaning company (Destination Hitchcock). It’s kind of funny how Cary Grant just walks up past a guard who has no idea he’s in a Hitchcock movie. The carpet cleaning truck is also how they got the background for this shot of Grant in front of a projection screen. In an interview, Lehman said, "Since I never knew where I was going next, I was constantly painting myself into corners, and then trying to figure a way out of them. As a result, the picture has about ten acts instead of three, and if I'd tried to sit down at the beginning and conceive the whole plot, I could have never done it. Everything was written in increments: moving it a little bit forward, then a little bit more, one page at a time. Saying to myself, 'Okay, you've got him out of Grand Central Station. Now he's on the train, now what? Well, there's no female character in it yet, I better put Eve on the train. But what should I do with her? And where should they meet? Well, let's see, I've ridden on the 20th Century, how about the dining car?' That's the way it went, very slowly. Always asking, 'What do I do next?' So, in the end, the audience never knows what's coming next, because I didn't either" (Lehman Interview, 2000). This creates a very unique story. We usually watch movies with the mindset that we are in the hands of a storyteller with a solid plan. In this way, North by Northwest is almost like improvisation. I think it works because the writer and the character are having a similar experience over the course of the story, which causes the audience to share in the experience as well. Thornhill spends pretty much the entire movie unable to understand why these things are happening to him. He is along for the ride just like we are and we are better able to relate to him because he doesn’t have the experience that a character like James Bond has. While watching North by Northwest, we feel like we could get swept up in this adventure just like Thornhill was. And it actually swept up Cary Grant as well. A one point, he told Hitchcock, “It’s a terrible script. We’ve already done a third of the picture and I still can’t make head or tail of it” (Hitchcock/Truffaut 249). One thing we need to touch on is the Maguffin. Now you’ve probably heard of this concept before, but if you haven’t, here is a quick explanation. A Maguffin is thing that drives or starts the plot, but is not actually important to the story. The Maguffin in Pulp Fiction is the suitcase that Jules and Vince need to pick up and deliver to Wallace, but that’s really not what the movie is about. In North by Northwest, it’s a whole convoluted thing about hidden microfilm being smuggled out of the country, which we don’t even really hear about until the end of the movie. “Why else would you have decided not to tell her that our little treasure here has a belly full of microfilm?” “You seem to be trying to fill my mind with rotten apples.” It’s possible that Lehman didn’t even come up with this until much later in the script. For this reason, I must admit that, like Cary Grant, I found the plot a bit hard to follow. For the audience’s sake, they wrote a couple of scenes that, in essence, summarize the information leading up to that point. Filmmaker Francois Truffaut pointed out a specific scene like this when he was interviewing Hitchcock for his book, Hitchcock Truffaut. The scene he brought up was the one where Thornhill meets with the counterintelligence man at the airport. Hitchcock said, "That scene has a dual function. Firstly, it clarifies and sums up the sequence of events for the audience, and, secondly, Cary Grant’s account is the cue for the counterintelligence agent to fill him in on some of the missing elements of these mystifying events” (Hitchcock/Truffaut 250). This has its roots in the silent era where they would put up a summary title card half way through the movie for the people who arrived at the theater late (Hitchcock/Truffaut 250). However, you’ll notice that part of their conversation was drowned out by the sound of spinning plane propellers. “We’ll discuss it on the plane.” [Loud plane propellers] This was a way of not only censoring information that the audience already knows, but they can mess with time as well. Instead of repeating the same information from the previous scenes for three minutes, they can have a 30 second exchange drowned out by the noise (Hitchcock/Truffaut 251). “I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives, and several bartenders dependent on me and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself slightly killed.” Lehman would write a small amount of the script every day with the knowledge that this probably wasn’t going to work. He was experienced, but he had never written a movie without a real plan before. Hitchcock left to go direct Vertigo while Lehman stayed behind and worked on the script. Sometimes he would work for a whole day and end up with just a half a page completed. He tried to quit the project several times while Hitchcock was away directing Vertigo, but was convinced by his agent to stay on after already quitting The Wreck of the Mary Deare (Lehman Interview, 2000). Lehman had only sixty-five pages completed by the time they began preproduction. He sent the pages to Hitchcock, who was still in the Bahamas on and Hitchcock wrote back that he loved the story so far. At this time, Hitchcock’s main offices were at Universal, so they packed up and moved to MGM to continue working. They began storyboarding and casting the film and even after Cary Grant signed on to do the part, the rest of the script was blank. Lehman still had no idea who was involved in the chase on Mount Rusmore, how they would get there, and why they were going there in the first place (Lehman Interview, 2000). Lehman said, "So I called up Hitch, and I told him we were in big trouble.” “Oops.” “He came rushing over to my office, sat across from me, and the two of us stared at each other. Finally, he suggested that we call in some mystery novelist to help us kick around ideas, but I didn't like the idea. After all, I was getting paid by MGM to write the thing, and I felt that it would make me look pretty foolish…Then we went to his office — it was about ‪six o'clock‬ in the evening — and we kept talking about his idea, even discussing which mystery writer we should get, and, all the time, the right side of my brain was working, and suddenly, as I was listening to him — not really ignoring him — I said, "She takes a gun out of her purse and shoots him” (Lehman Interview, 2000). Lehman spoke in many interviews about this moment. He says that often the right-side of your brain keeps trying to sort out problems in the background even when discussing something else. Hitchcock responded to Lehman’s idea saying, "Yes, the Polish Underground sometimes killed their own members, just to prove they weren't in the Underground.” Then Lehman replied, "Yes, but these are fake bullets. That'll convince Van Damm that he has to take her away with him. Now that she's a fugitive, he'll decide to take her on the plane" (Lehman Interview, 2000). Lehman said that, after this exchange with Hitchcock, he instantly had the entire last act (Lehman Interview, 2000). The strange thing is that MGM wanted to cut down the important scene following the shooting— the one where Eve and Thornhill meet in the woods. Sol Siegel had Lehman and Hitchcock come down to the screening room to review the scene and he begged Hitchcock to trim it (Lehman Interview, 2000). Hitchcock pushed back, later saying, "It’s indispensable because it’s truly their first meeting since Cary Grant has learned that she is James Mason’s mistress, and this is the scene in which he finds out she is working for Central Intelligence. My contract had been drawn up by MCA, my agents, and when I read it over, I found that, although I hadn’t asked for it, they’d put in a clause giving me complete artistic control of the picture, regardless of production time, cost or anything. So I was able to say politely, 'I’m very sorry, but this sequence must remain in the picture’ (Hitchcock/Truffaut 251). Aside from not allowing Hitchcock to film at Mount Rushmore, they also refused to allow him to film any scene involving violence onthe faces of Mount Rushmore in a soundstage (Krohn 213). Lehman sent an extremely patriotic letter to the National Park Service “three days before turning in his first draft of the scene” to try and convince them (Krohn 213). The letter reads, “The monument saves [Eve and Roger]. The enemies of the country fall to their deaths from the Monument of the great Presidents who gave this nation the very ideals they are seeking to subvert. We sincerely believe that it will be symbolically and dramatically satisfying to the people of the US that this great National memorial, standing there in all its granite glory, becomes the stumbling block to those who would undermine our country. In the end, the enemies of Democracy are defeated by Democracy itself” (Krohn 216). The letter didn’t seem to work. They were forced to set the scene, not on the faces of the presidents, but in the spaces between them. Hitchcock removed the credit thanking the National Park Service (Krohn 216). Hitchcock: “They say, ‘you mustn’t have any character climbing over the faces of the presidents.’ And you say, ‘why not?’ And they say, ‘oh, because this is the shrine of democracy. You must only have your characters sliding or chasing between the heads.’ And I was completely defeated because I had a lovely idea, which I thought of Cary Grant sliding down Lincoln’s nose. And then hiding in the nostril of it.” “It’s a Kleenex ad.” “And the man in search of him is in the vicinity, but unfortunately Cary Grant hiding in the nostril begins to have a sneezing fit.” There were a few changes made in the second draft of the script including a name change for George Kaplan (previously George Rosen) and changing Eve Kendall’s profession, which was previously an interior decorator. The change was made because there was a real interior decorator named Eve Kendall in New York (Krohn 204). This same draft of the script introduced a middle ‘O’ initial to Roger Thornhill’s name, which the character says signifies nothing, however it could allude to the fact that George Kaplan doesn’t exist (Krohn 204). In one of the drafts of the script, the play that Thornhill was supposed to see with his mother was actually West Side Story— what’s weird, is that Ernest Lehman would go on to write the film version of West Side Story only a few years later (Krohn 205). Hitchcock also had a different plan for the opening credits, which they couldn’t do because they were already more than a million dollars over-budget (Krohn 213). Hitchcock detailed his ideas in a memo from December 18th. He writes, “The main purpose for the title would be to establish Cary Grant as an advertising man. We would reveal him in his office before we show any titles, and then let the cameras roam over the tables in the layout room. There would be a rough series of layout cards in various stages of completion. These cards would be like proposed advertisements in Life or other magazines, but they would actually be our Main and Credit titles. This would be followed by an exodus of people at 5:30 down the corridor of the building, and so on, into the material we have already shot of the activity around Madison Avenue at this time. Cary has already indicated to me that he will not charge anything for his services when the time comes, if and when we do this style of introduction” (Krohn 213). This idea would have cost $20,000 to complete even if they didn’t have to pay Cary Grant’s $5,000 fee (Krohn 213). Saul Bass eventually designed the opening titles (Krohn 213). Once the script was finished, Hitchcock never allowed a word of the script to be changed, which annoyed Cary Grant at times. However, a few lines were put up on the chopping block by MGM. One line was where the villains were talking and Leonard says, “Call it my women’s intuition, if you will.” which would strongly hint that Leonard is homosexual. Obviously the line remained in the film. A little more than a decade earlier, Hitchcock had two homosexual villains in his 1948 film, Rope. Arguments could be made about the sexual orientation of other Hitchcock villains as well. Another line was altered after filming. This one: “I never discuss love on an empty stomach.” The line originally read, “I never make love on an empty stomach” (Destination Hitchcock). Hitchcock had a lot of back-and-forth with the Production Code Office on this film (Krohn 213). The Production Code was the [quote] “set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968” (Wiki). This has since been replaced by the MPAA, but like the MPAA, the Production Code limited what you were allowed to say and do in an American movie. The Production Code Office wanted to downplay Leonard’s effeminate nature. They also wanted Hitchcock to remove a reference to Thornhill’s two previous marriages, which, according to the Production Code, would be "offensive to Catholics” (Krohn 213). The reference remained. “My wives divorced me.” “Why?” “Well, I think they said I lived too dull a life.” Another issue with the censors was the end in which Thornhill and Eve are shown unmarried and in bed together. To fix this, they dubbed in the line “Come along Mrs. Thornhill.” Thornhill had already proposed on Mount Rushmore, but it seems that the change irked Hitchcock because, shortly after, he added a new shot to a list of retakes— the note reads, “Need shot of train going into tunnel” (Krohn 217). The original description in the script read “Exterior Train— We are shooting toward the rear of the observation car as the train rolls off into the night” (Script). This explicit metaphor of the train entering the tunnel was a little jab in the eye of the censors. According to MGM, the screenplay cost them $26,100. The fee was divided up like this: $25,000 went to Ernest Lehman, $1,000 went to Otis Guernsey for the initial idea, and $100 went to Hitchcock (Krohn 202). Thanks for watching! You might notice that I didn’t really about the famous "Crop Duster sequence.” That is because I’ve decided to make a full video breaking down what went into making the scene, so keep an eye out for that one. Thanks so much to all of my patrons. I’m starting to get hit by the demonetization issue, so your support really makes this all possible. Thank you. And if you’re new here, please hit that subscribe button now, because there are plenty more videos on the way for cinephiles like you! Thanks again for watching!


Early years

Lehman was born in 1915 to Gertrude (Thorn) and Paul E. Lehman.[3] Their wealthy Jewish family was based on Long Island;[4] they had suffered major financial losses during the Great Depression. Lehman attended the College of the City of New York (The City College of New York).

After graduation, he started working as 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 that focused on plays and celebrities. He drew from this experience for the screenplay of the film Sweet Smell of Success (1957), which he co-wrote with playwright Clifford Odets.

Lehman also published many short stories and novellas in magazines such as Colliers, Redbook and Cosmopolitan. These attracted the attention of Hollywood managers, and in the mid-1950s Paramount Pictures signed him to a writing contract. His first film, Executive Suite (1954), was a success.

Lehman was asked to collaborate on the romantic comedy Sabrina (1954), which was released the same year and also became a hit. Some of his most notable works are the screenplay adaptations of the musical West Side Story (1961)[2] and the mega-hit film version of The Sound of Music (1965), another musical.[2]

Amateur radio

Lehman held amateur radio callsign K6DXK. He was an active member of the Bel Air Repeater Association.

Collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock

In 1958, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had hired Hitchcock to make a film called The Wreck of the Mary Deare, based on Hammond Innes' novel of the same name. Collaborating with Lehman, Hitchcock produced North by Northwest (1959) instead. This was one of Lehman's few original screenplays (rather than adaptations). The film starred Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill, a Madison Avenue advertising executive who is mistaken for a government agent by a group of menacing spies (led by James Mason and Martin Landau). Lehman later said he intended North by Northwest to be "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures." The writing process took Lehman a year, including several periods of writer's block, as well as a trip to Mount Rushmore to do research for the film's climax.

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 from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.

Other projects

In addition to screenwriting, Lehman tried his hand at producing. He was among the few people who initially favored a film adaptation of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. He persuaded studio executive Jack L. Warner to allow him to take on the project, and the film was a critical sensation, garnering many Academy Award nominations. Lehman was also nominated for an Academy Award for producing Hello, Dolly! (1969), starring Barbra Streisand.[2]

In 1972, Lehman directed Portnoy's Complaint, based on the novel by Philip Roth; this was his only directorial work.[2] Later, he earned another Edgar Award for his screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976).

By 1979, Lehman had stopped writing screenplays, aside from some television projects. He turned down offers to write for Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs and Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. Lehman completed adaptations for two films that were never made: a screenplay for the Noël Coward classic Hay Fever, and one for a musical version of Zorba the Greek. The latter was intended for direction by Robert Wise and starring actors Anthony Quinn and John Travolta.

In 1977, Lehman published the bestselling novel The French Atlantic Affair, 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.


Lehman died on 2 July 2005 at UCLA Medical Center after a prolonged illness. He was buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. He was survived by his wife Laurie and their son Jonathan, as well as by two sons (Roger and Alan) from his first marriage.

Writing credits



  • Sweet Smell of Success: And Other Stories, short stories (1957)
  • The French Atlantic Affair, novel (1977)
  • Screening Sickness and Other Tales of Tinsel Town, essays (1982)
  • Farewell Performance, novel (1982)


Lehman received six Academy Award nominations during his career, but never won. At the 73rd Academy Awards ceremony in 2001, he became the first screenwriter to receive an Honorary Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Lehman did, however, receive more honorable recognition from the Writers Guild of America than any other screenwriter in film history.

Award Date of ceremony Category Film Result
Academy Award 1955 Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Sabrina (shared with Billy Wilder and Samuel A. Taylor)
Lost to George Seaton for The Country Girl
1960 Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen North by Northwest
Lost to Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene, Stanley Shapiro, and Maurice Richlin for Pillow Talk
1962 Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium West Side Story
Lost to Abby Mann for Judgment at Nuremberg
1967 Best Motion Picture of the Year Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Lost to Fred Zinnemann for A Man for All Seasons
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Lost to Robert Bolt for A Man for All Seasons
1970 Best Motion Picture of the Year Hello, Dolly!
Lost to Jerome Hellman for Midnight Cowboy
2001 Academy Honorary Award "in appreciation of a body of varied and enduring work." Honorary
Golden Globe Award 1955 Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Sabrina (shared with Billy Wilder and Samuel A. Taylor) Won
1967 Best Motion Picture – Drama Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Lost to Fred Zinnemann for A Man for All Seasons
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Lost to Robert Bolt for A Man for All Seasons
1970 Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Hello, Dolly!
Lost to Stanley Kramer and George Glass for The Secret of Santa Vittoria
Edgar Allan Poe Award 1960 Best Motion Picture Screenplay North by Northwest Won
1977 Family Plot
1978 Black Sunday (shared with Kenneth Ross and Ivan Moffat)
Lost to Robert Benton for The Late Show
Writers Guild of America Award 1955 Best Written American Comedy Sabrina (shared with Billy Wilder and Samuel A. Taylor) Won
Best Written American Drama Executive Suite
Lost to Budd Schulberg for On the Waterfront
1957 Somebody Up There Likes Me
Lost to Michael Wilson for Friendly Persuasion
Best Written American Musical The King and I Won
1960 Best Written American Comedy North by Northwest
Lost to Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond for Some Like It Hot
1962 Best Written American Musical West Side Story Won
1966 The Sound of Music
1967 Best Written American Drama Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1972 Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement Honorary
1977 Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium Family Plot
Lost to Blake Edwards and Frank Waldman for The Pink Panther Strikes Again


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f Fox, Margalit (July 6, 2005). "Ernest Lehman, 89, Who Wrote 'North by Northwest,' Dies". The New York Times.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Erens, Patricia (1998). The Jew in American Cinema. Indiana University Press. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-253-20493-6.

External links

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