It’s hard to argue that one of the reasons why Hollywood’s American box office is sagging is that its writing has slipped remarkably over the years. One of its best writers, Ernest Lehman, passed away at age 89 on Saturday. The films that Lehman wrote include North by Northwest, The Sweet Smell of Success and The Sound of Music. Northwest is arguably both Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant’s best film, and both it and The Sound of the Music were huge box office hits.
Sweet Smell of Success didn’t have the same huge box office, but its dark, cynical look at both show business and the newspaper world, and its snarling dialogue (which Clifford Odets also contributed to) still hold up remarkably well today, as I discovered when I picked it up on DVD last year.
Update: Ian Hamet has much more on Lehman.