Collaboration With Alfred Hitchcock
Perhaps Lehman's most important contribution to Hollywood as a writer was his ingenious screenplay for the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film, North by Northwest, which starred Cary Grant as a Madison Avenue advertising executive who is mistaken for a government agent by a group of spies including James Mason and Martin Landau.
MGM Studios had actually hired Hitchcock to make a film called The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Collaborating with Lehman, he gave the studio North by Northwest instead. In an audio commentary (DVD), Lehman stated that he "wanted to write the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures."
It took him an entire year and several periods of writer's block, as well as a trip to Mount Rushmore to scale the faces of the famous monument. (He got only halfway to the top and bought a camera to give to the park ranger to photograph the famous monument for him.)
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.
Read more about this topic: Ernest Lehman
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“Im not against the police; Im just afraid of them.”
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