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Inventory of the Sonya Levien Papers, 1908-1960
HM 55683 - HM 56785  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Cataloging Decisions
  • Biographical Note
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix I
  • Appendix II

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Sonya Levien Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1908-1960
    Collection number: HM 55683 - HM 56785
    Creator: Levien, Sonya, 1898-1960
    Extent: 1,180 items, plus ephemera and awards
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The largest part of the collection was given to the Huntington by Mr. and Mrs. Lee Gold in May, 1960, including awards, correspondence, manuscripts, and photographs. In February, 1980, the Golds donated an additional 33 pieces (accession number 730) that include clippings and xeroxed advertisements relating to screenplays written by Sonya Levien. In May, 1993, 3 pieces (accession number 1377) were donated that include motion picture film of Sonya Levien and friends, ca. 1935-1959. (There are now an unedited master, an edited copy and a VHS videotape copy).


    Collection is open to qualified researches by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL. 

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Sonya Levien Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Cataloging Decisions

    1. This collection was cataloged during a time of transition in cataloging procedures; therefore, some of the name forms on the folders may vary, reflecting the changes in these procedures. However, the names have been rendered consistently in this report according to standard authorize names.
    2. Screenplays -There are added entries for screenplays in which Sonya Levien is a joint author, i.e. not listed first as author.
    3. Manuscripts and Correspondence -Sonya Levien and Carl Hovey are not indexed as addressees.
    4. Manuscripts and Correspondence -Sonya Levien and Carl Hovey are indexed as joint authors.

    Biographical Note

    Sonya Levien was born in Russia, most likely around 1888, although her "official" birth date is usually given as 25 December 1898. Her family emigrated to the United States when she was eight years old, settling on the East Side of New York City. She worked her way through New York University Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1909. Finding that, temperamentally, she was unfit for the practice of law, she secured a position on the Woman's Journal, a magazine owned by Alice Stone Blackwell, primarily devoted to woman's suffrage. She joined the staff of Metropolitanmagazine, eventually becoming an assistant editor. She married the magazine's editor, Carl Hovey, in 1917; they had two children, and remained married until his death in 1956. Her short stories attracted the attention of Jesse L. Lasky, head of Famous Players-Lasky, who invited her to Hollywood in 1921. Hew first scenario, Cheated Love (1921), was adapted by Levien from one of her short stories. A long-term contract was offered, but not wanting to leave her family in New York City, she declined. Not long after, however, Carl Hovey accepted a position as story editor for Cecil B. DeMille, and Levien returned to California. The Fox Film Corporation signed her to a contract in 1929, where she remained until 1940. At Fox, she was entrusted with writing the screenplays of vehicles for the studio's most popular stars, Janet Gaynor (six films) and Will Rogers (five films). Among her most noteworthy screenplays of this period were Daddy Long Legs (1931), Cavalcade (1933), State Fair(1933), The Country Doctor (1936), In Old Chicago(1938), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). In 1941, she went to work for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her versatility was proven with such prestigious films as The Valley of Decision(1945), The Green Years (1946), Quo Vadis (1951), The Great Caruso (1951), Oklahoma! (1955), Interrupted Melody (1955), for which she and William Ludwig won the Academy Award for story and screenplay, and Bhowani Junction (1956). Undeniably one of the most beloved and prolific of screenwriters, she was credited with 70 screenplays and was the sole screenwriter for 32 films. Sonya Levien died of cancer on 19 March 1960.
    (This biography was compiled by Carolyn Powell, November 1994)


    American Jewish Biography. Vol II. ed. Jacob Rader Marcus (Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1994), p. 371.
    Ceplair, Larry. A Great Lady: A Life of the Screenwriter Sonya Levien, Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996.
    Contemporary Authors. Vol 113. ed. Hal May (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985), see: Hovey, Sonya.
    Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol 44. ed. Randall Clark (Detroit: Gale Research Company). "American Screenwriters" Second Series, pp. 171-178.

    Appendix I

    HM 56785 -Film
    The following information was supplied by Tamara Hovey Gold, May 1993.

    The following is clarification of some shots which may be obscure on the film:
    001,2 Tony Luhan --Pueblo Indian chief whom Mabel Dodge Luhan married.
    002,1 Tony Luhan.
    003,1 Mary Binney and Spud Johnson --Mabel Dodge Luhan's friends.
    033,4 Angelino --lived with Frieda Lawrence after D.H. (David Herbert) Lawrence's death.
    007,1 Tamara, Tissie Bok (sister of Derek Bok, President of Harvard), Sophie Huxley.
    077,5 Tamara and Richard Buhlig. Buhlig, concert pianist and teacher and friend of Schoenberg's; Andreis Deinum --documentary film-maker; Frank Waters --novelist, wrote many books on Indians, lives in Taos.
    009,1 Buhlig --Dr. Fischer (friend) --Schoenberg.
    011,2 Error in title -not Erika Mann but Elizabeth Meyers (friend). Erika Mann, correctly titled, is in next shot in the chaise lounge.
    011,5 Schoenberg and son Rudy.
    012,0 Daughter Nuria -became Mrs. Luigi Nono.
    012,4 Donan Jeffers.
    012,0 Garth Jeffers.
    015,1 Matthew Huxley.
    015,5 Angelino and group.
    (The Prague section shows students from other countries volunteering in rebuilding of Lidice which had been razed by the Nazis and its population murdered.)
    Dorothy Brett -daughter of Vicomte Esher -ran away from home to study art at Slade School...then followed D.H. (David Herbert) Lawrence to the U.S. where she typed his manuscripts and painted. Her portrait of Lawrence hangs in National Portrait Gallery in London.
    The Big House -is Mabel's in Taos.

    Appendix II

    Photograph of Sonya Levien in the Jack London Collection:
    Album 78-7 #10031 Sonya Levien on horseback, [c. 1915].