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Ernest Lehman Quiz



Why didn't Billy Wilder like Lehman? How did Minnesota students protest "The Sound of Music"? Which of Lehman's films was he fired from? Take this quiz and find out!




1) Lehman grew up in which town on Long Island?


A) East Hampton
B) Glen Cove
C) Woodmere
D) Massapequa


2) When Lehman met his first wife, the former Jacqueline ("Jackie") Shapiro, in New York about 1940, she was working at the perfume counter at Saks Fifth Avenue. How long were they married?


A) More than 20 years
B) More than 30 years
C) More than 40 years
D) More than 50 years


3) Before moving to Hollywood in 1952, Lehman worked for which influential Broadway figure?


A) Publicist Irving Hoffman
B) Columnist Walter Winchell
C) Impresario Billy Rose
D) Producer David Merrick


4) On "Sabrina," why didn't Billy Wilder get along with Lehman?


A) Because Lehman wouldn't let him have a sex scene between Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn
B) Because Lehman didn't like caviar
C) Because Lehman was a fan of the New York Yankees
D) All of the above


5) "The King And I" is based on the story of English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, who was a distant relative of Boris Karloff. But Leonowens would have nothing to do with Karloff's branch of the family. Why not?


A) Because she thought show-business people were morally dubious
B) Because a member of Karloff's branch of the family made a mixed-race marriage
C) Because most members of that branch of the family were in the U.S. and Leonowens disapproved of the American Revolution
D) Because they looked down on her for going to work for an Asian ruler


6) "Somebody Up There Likes Me" is the story of which professional boxer?


A) Rocky Marciano
B) Rocky Graziano
C) Rocky Balboa
D) Rocky the Flying Squirrel


7) How many Paul Newman films did Lehman adapt (bonus points if you can name it/them)?


A) 1
B) 2
C) 3
D) 4


8) What was Newman's nickname for Lehman?


A) The Razor-Blade Personality of Hollywood
B) The Schmuck with an Underwood
C) The Beast of Brentwood
D) The Nebbish That Roared


9) In "West Side Story," which changes did Lehman make to the "I Like To Be In America" sequence?


A) He moved when it appears in the story.
B) He moved where it appears, from an alleyway to a rooftop
C) He had Stephen Sondheim rework the lyrics
D) All of the above


10) Lehman adapted "The Prize," written by his friend Irving Wallace, about the drama behind the scenes of the Nobel Prizes, as a knock-off of which of his best films?


A) "North By Northwest"
B) "Sabrina"
C) "The King And I"
D) "Executive Suite"


11) What was Christopher Plummer's disparaging nickname for "The Sound of Music"?


A) "Julie Andrews and the Seven Dwarves"
B) "The Sound of Mucus"
C) "Nazi Nirvana"
D) "Alpine Asininity"


12) In 1966, college students in Moorhead, Minnesota, took what action to protest "The Sound of Music" having run in the town's only movie theater for more than a year?


A) They made a life-sized statue of Julie Andrews composed of cookies, candy bars, hard candies, treacle, and doughnuts to satirize the film's excessive sweetness
B) They picketed the theater
C) They engaged in civil disobedience, chaining themselves to the box office
D) They bombed the theater, an event later known as the Moorhead Massacre


13) Despite all of their differences, "The Sound of Music" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" have all of the following in common except for which?


A) Lehman was nominated for best adapted screenplay
B) Both had location shoots plagued by rain delays
C) On their location shoots, local dairy farmers complained that filming harmed the milk productivity of their cows
D) Both went over budget


14) During the filming of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Elizabeth Taylor suffered from which health problem?


A) Her nephew accidentally shot her in the eye with a toy rocket
B) She broke a crown on one of her teeth.
C) She suffered from an intestinal disorder
D) All of the above


15) Which two actresses did Philip Roth suggest for the role of Mary Jane Reid, AKA "The Monkey," Alexander Portnoy's shikse sex goddess in "Portnoy's Complaint"?


A) Karen Black and Katharine Ross
B) Paula Prentiss and Faye Dunaway
C) Barbra Streisand and Madeline Kahn
D) Eileen Harris and Barbara Hershey


16) Which was the only one of Lehman's films he was fired from?


A) "Executive Suite"
B) "The King And I"
C) "Black Sunday"
D) "Hello, Dolly!"


17) Lehman's second wife, the former Laurie Sherman, was younger than he. How much younger?


A) More than 20 years
B) More than 30 years
C) More than 40 years
D) More than 50 years


18) Which of his films did Lehman say was his favorite?


A) "North By Northwest"
B) "Somebody Up There Likes Me"
C) "West Side Story"
D) "The Sound of Music"


19) Who was Lehman's favorite director?


A) Mike Nichols
B) Alfred Hitchcock
C) Robert Wise
D) Billy Wilder


20) Lehman was nominated for six competitive Oscars, four for best screenplay and two as producer of the best-picture nominee. How many did he win?


A) 0
B) 1
C) 2
D) 3







1) C: Woodmere


Although he was born on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Lehman was raised in Woodmere, one of Long Island's Five Towns.


2) D: More than 50 years


They were married for 52 years, from 1942 until Jackie's death in 1994.


3) A: Publicist Irving Hoffman


Lehman was a legman and assistant to the colorful Hoffman, who allowed him to use his column in The Hollywood Reporter to write the self-promotional piece that led Paramount to hire him as a contract writer.


4) D: All of the above


Regarding Lehman's Yankee fandom, Wilder called him a classic underdog who roots for the overdog.


5) B: Because a member of Karloff's branch of the family made a mixed-race marriage


The song "Getting To Know You" is about how enchanted Leonowens was to meet her Thai pupils. But in real life, she wouldn't want anyone to think she might be related to them.


6) B: Rocky Graziano


The film is based on the memoir of the same title, which Graziano co-authored with journalist Rowland Barber. Graziano was world middleweight champion in 1947-48.


7) C: Three


"Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), the film that made Newman a star; "From The Terrace" (1960) and "The Prize" (1963)


8) A: The Razor-Blade Personality of Hollywood


When Newman complained he was having trouble with some of Lehman's dialogue on "From The Terrace," Lehman came down to the set, easily read the dialogue and told Newman that if he could read it, he didn't see why Newman couldn't as well.


9) D: All of the above


Sondheim insisted that he wrote the lyrics that appear in the film for the Broadway version, but the documentary record does not bear him out on this.


10) A: "North By Northwest"


"North By Northwest." Lehman turned "The Prize" into an ersatz Cold War spy melodrama, with scenes that echo "North By Northwest"'s crop duster and auction scenes.

11) B: "The Sound of Mucus"


Plummer, trained as a Shakespearean actor, later made his peace with the film, saying that at least it didn't have any violence or car chases.


12) B: They picketed the theater



On September 22, 1966, students at what was then called Moorhead State College picket the town's only movie theater, which had been showing "The Sound of Music" for more than a year.

13) A: Lehman was nominated for best screenplay


Lehman did not receive a nomination for best screenplay on "The Sound of Music," although it was nominated for best picture, making "The Sound of Music" the only film between 1948 ("Hamlet") and 1997 ("Titanic") to be nominated for best picture without also receiving a best-screenplay nomination.


14) D: All of the above


Being a movie star is not always as easy as it looks. The lady was a real trouper.


15) B: Paula Prentiss and Faye Dunaway


In a letter to his agent Robert Lantz, Roth said "Paula Prentiss. Precisely the quality of craziness and voluptuosity and torment and need. If you want to go in an entirely other direction, Faye Dunaway." To his enduring regret, Richard Benjamin, Prentiss's husband, starred as Alexander Portnoy.


16) C: "Black Sunday"


Both producer Robert Evans and director John Frankenheimer owed Lehman favors, Evans because he had asked Lehman to talk him up with Barry Diller in order to improve his pay package as the film's producer and Frankenheimer because Lehman's "The Comedian," which aired on television's "Playhouse 90," was his career break and because Lehman provided him with notes for "Seven Days in May". But Hollywood is a cold and ungrateful place.


17) D: More than 50 years


When they married in 1997, Lehman was 81 and Laurie was 30.


18) B: "Somebody Up There Likes Me"


While it hasn't achieved the iconic status of some of Lehman's other films, he said on several occasions that it was his favorite.


19) C: Robert Wise


Lehman made four films with Wise: "Executive Suite," "Somebody Up There Likes Me," "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music." In 1986, they were going to collaborate on a musical version of "Zorba the Greek," but financing for the project fell apart. "My scripts were shot by Bob very much as they were written," Lehman said, "even including the camera angles. So I was very careful if it was a Bob Wise picture to make sure it's right."


20) A: Zero


In 2001, Lehman did receive an honorary Oscar for the body of his work, making him the first screenwriter so honored. But preceding that, his record at the Oscars was one of uninterrupted futility, with some of his losses causing film fans to scratch their heads in befuddlement.


Lehman, Billy Wilder and Samuel Taylor were nominated for the screenplay of "Sabrina;" they lost to "The Country Girl" (George Seaton). Lehman was nominated for the screenplay of "Nortb by Northwest;" he lost to the Doris Day-Rock Hudson flufforama "Pillow Talk" (Russell Rouse, Clarence Green, Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin).


Lehman's adaptation of "West Side Story" lost to "Judgment and Nuremberg" (Abby Mann). Lehman lost twice on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" both times to "A Man For All Seasons." As producer of the best-film nominee, he lost to Fred Zinnemann; as screenwriter, he lost to Robert Bolt. The last time Lehman was nominated for an Oscar, it was as the producer of best-picture nominee "Hello, Dolly!" which lost to more-in-tune-with-the-zeitgeist "Midnight Cowboy."