Leonard Spigelgass (November 26, 1908 – February 15, 1985) was an American film producer and screenwriter.[1]

During his career, Spigelgass wrote the scripts for 11 Academy Award-winning films. He himself was nominated in 1950 for the story for Mystery Street and garnered three Writers Guild of America nominations over the course of his career.



Born to a Jewish family[2] in Brooklyn, New York, Spigelgass graduated from New York University in 1929. He was a literary and drama critic for The Brooklyn Eagle and the Saturday Review of Literature before moving to Hollywood.[3]


Spigelglass got his start collaborating on the script for Erich von Stroheim's Walking Down Broadway at Fox Films. After the film was shot, studio executives ordered the film to be re-edited and re-shot; it was released under the new title Hello, Sister! (1933). Spigelglass worked as assistant to Julian Josephson, head of story at Fox.[4][5]

Spigelglass was also credited as writer on Stingaree (1934) and Escape to Paradise at RKO.[6]


In December 1933, Spigelglass accepted a contract at Universal to work as scenario and story editor.[6] While there, his story I'll Fix It (1934) was bought for Columbia.[7]

In June 1934, Spigelglass was promoted to producer. His first film in that capacity was Princess O'Hara (1935), based on a story by Damon Runyon, which he helped write.[8]

He became story editor for Major Pictures and wrote a film of the life of Madame Curie for Universal.[9]

At Universal, he wrote for Letter of Introduction (1938), Service de Luxe (1938), Unexpected Father (1940), Private Affairs (1940), and The Boys from Syracuse (1940).[10]

He produced the musical One Night in the Tropics (1940), the film debut of Abbott and Costello. He wrote Tight Shoes (1941) and Butch Minds the Baby (1942), based on a story by Runyon.[11]

Warner Bros.

He wrote some films at Warner Bros., including Million Dollar Baby (1941) and All Through the Night (1942).[12] He also wrote The Man They Couldn't Kill for Edward G. Robinson, but it was not made.[13]

At RKO, Spigelglass wrote The Big Street (1942), based on a Runyon story, and They Got Me Covered (1942) for Bob Hope. He did The Youngest Profession (1943) at MGM. He also sold an original script to Fox titled No Place Like Home, but it appears to have not been made.[14]

World War II

Spigelgass served as a lieutenant colonel in World War II and, with Frank Capra, planned and produced Army and Navy Screen Magazine, a bi-weekly, filmed news update for American troops abroad.[15]


He wrote For Her to See for Hal Wallis, which became So Evil My Love (1948).[16] Also for Wallis, he wrote The Perfect Marriage (1947) and The Accused (1949), and he did I Was a Male War Bride (1949) for Fox.[17]

In 1948, he was part of the Writers Guild fight against the blacklist.[18] He sold Murder at Harvard to MGM, but it was not made.[19]


Spigelglass signed a long-term contract at MGM where she wrote on Mystery Street (1950), which earned him an Oscar nomination. He followed it withNight into Morning (1951), The Law and the Lady (1951), Because You're Mine (1952), Scandal at Scourie (1953), Athena (1954), and Deep in My Heart (1954). He produced a documentary series titled MGM Parade, and wrote the musicals Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957) and Silk Stockings (1957).[20] He wrote International Review, meant to be an all-star musical, but it was not made.[21] He left MGM when his boss Dore Schary was fired.[22]

"When I left Hollywood in 1957, I was in the glue factory", he later said. "That I had written movies for many years meant nothing."[23]


Spigelglass moved to New York where he wrote for TV shows such as Playhouse 90 and Climax!, including a story of the life of Helen Morgan.[24]

He wrote the play A Majority of One (1959), directed by Dore Schary. Starring Gertrude Berg, it was a hit and ran for 556 performances.[25]

This reignited Hollywood's interest in Spigelglass. He returned to Hollywood and found himself treated with far more respect as the writer of a hit play than he had during his entire time there before.[23]

"At the age of 50, I am an author and not a hack", he said.[22]

He wrote the film adaptation of Majority of One and the big screen version of Gypsy (1962) both directed by Mervyn Le Roy. The film rights for Majority went for $500,000.[26][27]

He returned to Broadway and wrote a series of plays, but none had the success of his first. A musical adaptation of Cafe Crown was not produced.[28] The Free Thinkers was announced for 1961 but not made.[29] Dear Me, The Sky Is Falling (1963) (originally titled Libby) had a short run despite starring Gertrude Berg. Remedy for Winter (1965) (known as Upper Case), Scuttle Under the Bonnet (1965) and The Playgirls (1966) did not make it to Broadway.[30] The Wrong Way Light Bulb (1969) only had a short run. He wrote the book The Scuttle Under the Bonnet (1962).[31]

He also wrote the book to the musical We've Done a Whole New Thing[32] but it was not produced.

Look to the Lilies (1970) based on Lilies of the Field, but it only had a short run despite starring Shirley Booth.[33] So too did Mack & Mabel (1974) based on an idea of Spigelglass.[34]

Later career

In 1971, Spiegelgass joined the USC Cinema Department as an adjunct professor.[35]

In the 1970s, Spigelgass wrote an ABC Afterschool Special and several Academy Award ceremonies.[1][36][37]

He wrote the play Interview (1978), which had some productions.[38]


Spigelgass' sister, Beulah Roth, was a political speechwriter for Franklin Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson, and was married to photographer Sanford H. Roth, a close friend of James Dean. Spigelgass died in Los Angeles, California.

Selected filmography

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Theatre credits

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  1. ^ a b "LEONARD SPIGELGASS, A WRITER FOR BROADWAY AND HOLLYWOOD". New York Times. 16 Feb 1985. p. 1.28.
  2. ^ Cones, John (April 2015). Motion Picture Biographies: The Hollywood Spin on Historical Figures. p. 58. ISBN 9781628941166.
  3. ^ "PLAYWRIGHT, FILM WRITER LEONARD SPIGELGASS". Sun Sentinel. 17 Feb 1985. p. 7.B.
  4. ^ "FOX HONORS FILM AUTHORS: Building as Monument to Writers Los Angeles Times". Dec 10, 1932. p. A2.
  5. ^ Koszarski, Richard; Everson, William K. "STROHEIM'S LAST 'LOST' FILM". Film Comment. Vol. 11, no. 3, (May/Jun 1975). New York. pp. 6–19.
  6. ^ a b "Southland's Picturesque Spanish Days Perpetuated by Stained Glass Artists". Los Angeles Times. Dec 17, 1933. p. A3.
  7. ^ "SCREEN NOTES". New York Times. Feb 26, 1934. p. 20.
  8. ^ "Universal Signs Playwright to Direct Picture". Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1934. p. A4.
  9. ^ "BETTE DAVIS GETS NEW FEATURE ROLE: Selected by Warners for the Lead in 'We Are Not Alone'--Actors Seek 8-Hour Day MISS SULLAVAN IS SIGNED Receivess a Term Contract at Metro--Mae Busch Named for Part in 'Antoinette' Actors May Ask Eight-Hour Day Coast Scripts Of Local Origin MUSIC NOTES". New York Times. Feb 5, 1938. p. 19.
  10. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (Nov 16, 1938). "COMEDY SHARES PROGRAMS WITH SEAGOING MELODRAMA". Los Angeles Times. p. 10.
  11. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (May 27, 1942). "'SPOILERS' BRAWL SPECTACULAR". Los Angeles Times. p. A8.
  12. ^ Schallert, Edwin (Mar 26, 1941). "Hepburn Contender for 'My Sister Eileen': Fonda, Scott Win Leads Ratoff Signs Jagger Cagney Subject Secured New Find in 'Obituary' Pascal Due Tomorrow". Los Angeles Times. p. 16.
  13. ^ Schallert, Edwin (June 5, 1941). "Bruited 'Gesture' Test Evinces Swanson Spell: Murphy Adds to Luster Shirley, Craig Paired 20th Casts 'Discovery' Robinson Film Listed Robert Newton Assigned". Los Angeles Times. p. A10.
  14. ^ "Paramount to Make Sequel to 'Our Hearts Were Young and Gay'". New York Times. Mar 20, 1944. p. 14.
  15. ^ S. B. (Feb 6, 1949). "Plan for hollywood -- by schary". New York Times. ProQuest 105779005.
  16. ^ Hal Wallis (Nov 2, 1946). "MILLAND TO STAR IN PICTURE ABROAD: Actor Named for Lead in 'For Her to See,' First English Film". New York Times. p. 23.
  17. ^ Schallert, Edwin (Apr 22, 1948). "Paul Douglas Likely 'Four Wives' Opus Star". Los Angeles Times. p. 23.
  18. ^ The (June 2, 1948). "Thirty Writers File Suit Against Movie Producers". Christian Science Monitor. p. 19.
  19. ^ THOMAS F. BRADY (Nov 15, 1948). "U-I SETTLES ITS ROW WITH MISS DURBIN: $87,083 Suit Against Actress Ended, Out of Court -- Star's Contract Also Revised". New York Times. p. 21.
  20. ^ OSCAR GODBOUT Special to The (Jan 14, 1956). "REVAMPING BEGUN ON 'M-G-M PARADE': New Format Being Sought for A.B.C.-TV Program-- Stars' Biographies Set". New York Times. p. 37.
  21. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR (Oct 26, 1954). "WYLER TO. DO FILM ON CIVIL WAR ERA: 'Friendly Persuasion' Opens New Allied Artists Pact -- Cooper May Take Lead". The New York Times. p. 32.
  22. ^ a b Scheuer, Philip K. (Sep 24, 1962). "'Hack into Author' Saga of Spigelgass: 'Majority of One' Creator Tells of Career in Reverse". Los Angeles Times. p. C13.
  23. ^ a b MURRAY SCHUMACH (Aug 23, 1962). "'PRE-SOLD' WRITER NEW SCREEN ELITE: Leonard Spigelgass Weighs Status Symbol in Hollywood". New York Times. p. 25.
  24. ^ "N.B.C. IS CUTTING CREATIVE STAFF: At Least 5 Writer-Producers Reported Leaving--Trend to 'Outside' Ventures Seen New York Times". Apr 26, 1957. p. 51.
  25. ^ NAN ROBERTSON (Feb 15, 1959). "MOLLY' IN JAPAN: Gertrude Berg in New Role of Hausfrau MOLLY GOLDBERG' PAYS A VISIT TO JAPAN". New York Times. p. X1.
  26. ^ "WARNERS SET TO BUY 'A MAJORITY OF ONE'". New York Times. Jan 18, 1960. p. 30.
  27. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Oct 7, 1961). "Preston May Star With Piper Laurie: MacMurray in 'Professor' Sequel; Spigelgass Scripts 'Gypsy' Film". Los Angeles Times. p. B6.
  28. ^ LEWIS FUNKE (Jan 10, 1960). "NEWS AND GOSSIP OF THE RIALTO: Old Comedy Will Have A Second Life On Broadway". New York Times. p. X1.
  29. ^ "Spigelglass Has Old Team for New Drama". The Washington Post and Times-Herald. Nov 6, 1960. p. G4.
  30. ^ Little, Stuart W. (June 17, 1965). "'Wayward Stork' Will Detour to Broadway". Los Angeles Times. p. c15.
  31. ^ SAM ZOLOTOW (Nov 2, 1961). "SPIGELGASS PLANS TO PRODUCE PLAY: Author of 'A Majority of One' Will Put on 'Freethinkers'". New York Times. p. 44.
  32. ^ LOUIS CALTA (Apr 26, 1967). "SYLVIA FINE PLANS BROADWAY SHOW: She is Writing Songs for a Leonard Spigelgass Book". New York Times. p. 42.
  33. ^ Alan Bunce. The (Apr 3, 1970). "Broadway ladies' day: Workable frame". Christian Science Monitor. p. 4.
  34. ^ CLIVE BARNES (Oct 7, 1974). "Mack & Mabel' and Silent Film Era". New York Times. p. 54.
  35. ^ "Spigelgass on USC Cinema Faculty". Los Angeles Times. Nov 12, 1971. p. f15.
  36. ^ PLEIBEL, FRED. (Feb 24, 1976). "Spigelgass, Ludwig Named Writers for Oscar Show". Los Angeles Times. p. e10.
  37. ^ "Writer, Art Director Set". Los Angeles Times. Jan 28, 1972. p. g9.
  38. ^ Christion, Lawrence (Oct 15, 1978). "STAGE NEWS: MIME WHO CAME IN FROM CENTER FIELD MORE STAGE NEWS MORE STAGE NEWS". Los Angeles Times. p. m61.