Ernest Lehman will go down in history as one of the most prolific and successful Hollywood screenwriters of all time. As an aspiring screenwriter myself, he’s one of my main inspirations. How could he not be? Look at this: Sabrina (1954), The King and I (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), North by Northwest (1959), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Hello, Dolly! (1968)… He wrote ALL of those, among others. I’ve mentioned Sweet Smell of Success here on the Garden before, and it’s one of my very favorite movies of all time. And that’s mostly due to that fantastic screenplay. Those one-liners! It’s one of those movies that you go like ‘Oh, I wish I’d thought of that!’. Weirdly enough, he got four Oscar nominations for writing in his career, but this wasn’t one of them and it’s probably his best screenplay, in my opinion. He did, however, get nominated for Sabrina, North by Northwest, West Side Story, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. He said of his screenplay for North by Northwest that he wanted it to be ‘the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures’, and by golly, isn’t it?
In 2001, he became the first screenwriter to receive an Honorary Oscar from the Academy, given to him by his good friend Julie Andrews. He passed away only four years after that and is buried in Westwood Cemetery in LA.