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
San Marino, California 91108
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
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
[Identification of item], Sonya Levien Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino,
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
4. Manuscripts and Correspondence -Sonya Levien and Carl Hovey are indexed as joint
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,
(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),
The Country Doctor (1936),
In Old Chicago(1938),
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), and
The Hunchback of
(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),
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.
A Great Lady: A Life of the Screenwriter Sonya Levien, Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press,
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.
HM 56785 -Film
The following information was supplied by Tamara Hovey Gold, May 1993.
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
The Big House -is Mabel's in Taos.
Photograph of Sonya Levien in the Jack London Collection:
Album 78-7 #10031 Sonya Levien on horseback, [c. 1915].