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

During his career, Spigelgass wrote the scripts for eleven 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 Hello, Sister! (1933) at Fox Films. At that studio he was 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, a story of his 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 also 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) which was 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, 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 called No Place Like Home but it appears to have not been made.[14]

World War Two

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, MGM Parade, and wrote some musicals, Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957) and Silk Stockings (1957).[20] He wrote International Review which was 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 a play, A Majority of One (1959) which was directed by his former boss at MGM, 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 of them had the success of his first. A musical adaptation of Cafe Crown was not producer.[28] The Free Thinkers was announced for 1961 but not made.[29] Dear Me, The Sky is Falling (1963) (originally called 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) did but only had a short run. He did write a book The Scuttle Under the Bonnet (1962).[31]

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

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 a 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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  2. ^ Cones, John. Motion Picture Biographies: The Hollywood Spin on Historical Figures. p. 58. ISBN 9781628941166.
  4. ^ FOX HONORS FILM AUTHORS: Building as Monument to Writers Los Angeles Times 10 Dec 1932: A2.
  5. ^ STROHEIM'S LAST 'LOST' FILM Koszarski, Richard; Everson, William K. Film Comment; New York Vol. 11, Iss. 3, (May/Jun 1975): 6-19.
  6. ^ a b Southland's Picturesque Spanish Days Perpetuated by Stained Glass Artists Los Angeles Times 17 Dec 1933: A3.
  7. ^ SCREEN NOTES. New York Times 26 Feb 1934: 20.
  8. ^ Universal Signs Playwright to Direct Picture Los Angeles Times 17 June 1934: 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 5 Feb 1938: 19.
  10. ^ COMEDY SHARES PROGRAMS WITH SEAGOING MELODRAMA Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 16 Nov 1938: 10.
  11. ^ 'SPOILERS' BRAWL SPECTACULAR Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 27 May 1942: A8.
  12. ^ Hepburn Contender for 'My Sister Eileen': Fonda, Scott Win Leads Ratoff Signs Jagger Cagney Subject Secured New Find in 'Obituary' Pascal Due Tomorrow Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 26 Mar 1941: 16.
  13. ^ Bruited 'Gesture' Test Evinces Swanson Spell: Murphy Adds to Luster Shirley, Craig Paired 20th Casts 'Discovery' Robinson Film Listed Robert Newton Assigned Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 5 June 1941: A10.
  14. ^ Paramount to Make Sequel to 'Our Hearts Were Young and Gay' New York Times 20 Mar 1944: 14.
  15. ^ HOLLYWOODBy, S. B. (1949, Feb 06). Plan for hollywood -- by schary. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/105779005?accountid=13902
  16. ^ MILLAND TO STAR IN PICTURE ABROAD: Actor Named for Lead in 'For Her to See,' First English Film by Hal Wallis Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times 2 Nov 1946: 23.
  17. ^ Paul Douglas Likely 'Four Wives' Opus Star Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 22 Apr 1948: 23.
  18. ^ Thirty Writers File Suit Against Movie Producers The Christian Science Monitor 2 June 1948: 19.
  19. ^ U-I SETTLES ITS ROW WITH MISS DURBIN: $87,083 Suit Against Actress Ended, Out of Court -- Star's Contract Also Revised By THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 15 Nov 1948: 21.
  20. ^ REVAMPING BEGUN ON 'M-G-M PARADE': New Format Being Sought for A.B.C.-TV Program-- Stars' Biographies Set By OSCAR GODBOUT Special to The New York Times. New York Times 14 Jan 1956: 37.
  21. ^ WYLER TO. DO FILM ON CIVIL WAR ERA: 'Friendly Persuasion' Opens New Allied Artists Pact -- Cooper May Take Lead By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times. 26 Oct 1954: 32.
  22. ^ a b 'Hack Into Author' Saga of Spigelgass: 'Majority of One' Creator Tells of Career in Reverse Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 24 Sep 1962: C13.
  23. ^ a b 'PRE-SOLD' WRITER NEW SCREEN ELITE: Leonard Spigelgass Weighs Status Symbol in Hollywood By MURRAY SCHUMACH New York Times 23 Aug 1962: 25.
  24. ^ N.B.C. IS CUTTING CREATIVE STAFF: At Least 5 Writer-Producers Reported Leaving--Trend to 'Outside' Ventures Seen New York Times 26 Apr 1957: 51.
  25. ^ MOLLY' IN JAPAN: Gertrude Berg in New Role of Hausfrau MOLLY GOLDBERG' PAYS A VISIT TO JAPAN By NAN ROBERTSON New York Times 15 Feb 1959: X1.
  26. ^ WARNERS SET TO BUY 'A MAJORITY OF ONE' New York Times 18 Jan 1960: 30.
  27. ^ Preston May Star With Piper Laurie: MacMurray in 'Professor' Sequel; Spigelgass Scripts 'Gypsy' Film Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 7 Oct 1961: B6.
  28. ^ NEWS AND GOSSIP OF THE RIALTO: Old Comedy Will Have A Second Life On Broadway -- Items By LEWIS FUNKE. New York Times 10 Jan 1960: X1.
  29. ^ Spigelglass Has Old Team for New Drama The Washington Post, Times Herald 6 Nov 1960: G4.
  30. ^ 'Wayward Stork' Will Detour to Broadway Little, Stuart W. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]17 June 1965: c15.
  31. ^ SPIGELGASS PLANS TO PRODUCE PLAY: Author of 'A Majority of One' Will Put on 'Freethinkers' By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times 2 Nov 1961: 44.
  32. ^ SYLVIA FINE PLANS BROADWAY SHOW: She is Writing Songs for a Leonard Spigelgass Book By LOUIS CALTA. New York Times 26 Apr 1967: 42.
  33. ^ Broadway ladies' day: Workable frame By Alan Bunce. The Christian Science Monitor 3 Apr 1970: 4.
  34. ^ Mack & Mabel' and Silent Film Era By CLIVE BARNES. New York Times 7 Oct 1974: 54.
  35. ^ Spigelgass on USC Cinema Faculty Los Angeles Times 12 Nov 1971: f15.
  36. ^ Spigelgass, Ludwig Named Writers for Oscar Show PLEIBEL, FRED. Los Angeles Times 24 Feb 1976: e10.
  37. ^ Writer, Art Director Set Los Angeles Times 28 Jan 1972: g9.
  38. ^ STAGE NEWS: MIME WHO CAME IN FROM CENTER FIELD MORE STAGE NEWS MORE STAGE NEWS Christion, Lawrence. Los Angeles Times 15 Oct 1978: m61.