Isobel Lennart

Summary

Isobel Lennart (May 18, 1915 – January 25, 1971) was an award winning American screenwriter and playwright. She is best known for writing the book for the Broadway musical Funny Girl in 1964.[1]

Isobel Lennart
BornMay 18, 1915 (1915-05-18)
DiedJanuary 25, 1971 (1971-01-26) (aged 55)
OccupationScreenwriter, playwright
Spouse(s)
John Harding
(m. 1945)
Children2, including Sarah Harding

BiographyEdit

Lennart was born in Brooklyn, New York.[2] She worked in the MGM mail room in New York, a job she lost when she attempted to organize a union.[3]

She moved to Los Angeles in 1937,[3] where she was reported to be working as a secretary to Richard Schayer, then at Metro Studios.[4] She joined the Communist Party in 1938 but left in August 1939 because "of her opposition to the German-Soviet Nonaggression Treaty".[5] In 1941, she was promoted from "script-girl to contract writer" at 20th Century Studios.[6] She rejoined the Community Party in June 1941, as what she called "a passive member".[5]

Lennart's first script, The Affairs of Martha, an original comedy about the residents of a wealthy community who fear their secrets are about to be revealed in an exposé written by one of their maids, was filmed in 1942 with Spring Byington, Marjorie Main, and Richard Carlson. She was hired by MGM in a full-time position.[7] This was followed in quick succession by A Stranger in Town (1943), Anchors Aweigh (1945)[8] and It Happened in Brooklyn (1947).

Lennart left the Communist Party again in Spring 1945.[9] In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the motion picture industry. Although she was never blacklisted, Lennart, a former member of the Young Communist League, testified to HUAC in 1952 to avoid being blacklisted, and named 23 people.[10] In 1970, she said that she regretted this decision.[11]

Lennart's later screen credits include A Life of Her Own, Love Me or Leave Me for which she received an Academy Award nomination in 1955,[12] Merry Andrew, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Please Don't Eat the Daisies,[13] The Sundowners which also received an Academy Award nomination,[14] and Two for the Seesaw.

In 1964, Lennart wrote the book for the Broadway musical Funny Girl, based on the life and career of Fanny Brice and her tempestuous relationship with gambler Nick Arnstein. It catapulted Barbra Streisand to fame and earned her a Tony Award nomination. She stated "I wrote the story of Fanny Brice first as a screen play. Vincent J. Donehue, the director, read some pages at my home in Malibu one day and went wild about them. He called Mary Martin and later Ray Stark, and the thing just snowballed. Ray wanted me to do it as a play and I agreed just to please him. Well, not altogether. My vanity entered into it; I didn't want anyone else messing around with my idea."[8]

In 1966, she won the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America.[15] By 1967 she was "commanding $100,000 per picture".[16]

In 1968, Lennart wrote the screen adaptation of Funny Girl (film) which won her a Writers Guild of America award for Best Screenplay. It proved to be her last work. Three years later, aged 55, she was killed in an automobile crash in Hemet, California.[17]

Personal lifeEdit

Lennart's father was Edward M. Hochdorf, a dentist, and her mother was Victoria Lennart Livingston.[3] As a child, Lennart caught polio and spent 10 years in leg braces.[3] Lennart married actor/writer John Harding in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1945. They had two children, Joshua Lennart Harding (December 27, 1947 – August 4, 1971) and Sarah Elizabeth Harding (born November 24, 1951).

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Champlin, Charles (7 February 1971). "Isobel Lennart - In Memoriam". Los Angeles Times. pp. C30.
  2. ^ "Isobel Lennart Killed in Crash; Wrote the Book for 'Funny Girl'". The New York Times. 26 January 1971. p. 36.
  3. ^ a b c d Ceplair, Larry (2007-10-01). "Isobel Lennart and the Dynamics of Informing in Hollywood". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 27 (4): 516. doi:10.1080/01439680701552596. ISSN 0143-9685.
  4. ^ "Literati: Chatter". Variety. 22 December 1937. p. 52.
  5. ^ a b Ceplair, Larry (2007-10-01). "Isobel Lennart and the Dynamics of Informing in Hollywood". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 27 (4): 517. doi:10.1080/01439680701552596. ISSN 0143-9685.
  6. ^ "Studio Contracts". Variety. 17 September 1941. p. 6.
  7. ^ Ceplair, Larry (2007-10-01). "Isobel Lennart and the Dynamics of Informing in Hollywood". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 27 (4): 518. doi:10.1080/01439680701552596. ISSN 0143-9685.
  8. ^ a b Scheuer, Philip K (5 May 1964). "First Play a Smash for Screenwriter: Evolution of 'Funny Girl' Revealed by Isobel Lennart". Los Angeles Times. pp. D17.
  9. ^ Ceplair, Larry (2007-10-01). "Isobel Lennart and the Dynamics of Informing in Hollywood". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 27 (4): 520. doi:10.1080/01439680701552596. ISSN 0143-9685.
  10. ^ Ceplair, Larry (2007-10-01). "Isobel Lennart and the Dynamics of Informing in Hollywood". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 27 (4): 522. doi:10.1080/01439680701552596. ISSN 0143-9685.
  11. ^ Ceplair, Larry (2007-10-01). "Isobel Lennart and the Dynamics of Informing in Hollywood". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 27 (4): 526. doi:10.1080/01439680701552596. ISSN 0143-9685.
  12. ^ Certificate of nomination, Box 17, Isobel Lennart papers, Collection #3036, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming
  13. ^ Hopper, Hedda (1 July 1960). "Walters, Lennart Doing a Story for David Niven". Chicago Daily Tribune. pp. b14.
  14. ^ Certificate of nomination, Box 17, Isobel Lennart papers, Collection #3036, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming
  15. ^ "'66 Laurel Award Winner Isobel Lennart Enriches Screen with Imagination". Newsletter of the Writers Guild of America/west. April 1966. pp. 1, 5.
  16. ^ Ceplair, Larry (2007-10-01). "Isobel Lennart and the Dynamics of Informing in Hollywood". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 27 (4): 526. doi:10.1080/01439680701552596. ISSN 0143-9685.
  17. ^ "Writer Isobel Lennart, Author of 'Funny Girl'". The Washington Post. 27 January 1971. pp. C6.

External linksEdit