Screenwriter, Novelist, and Playwright Aleen Leslie Remembered
Oldest Living Writers Guild Member Passes Away at 101
LOS ANGELES -- Aleen Leslie - screenwriter, novelist, playwright, and vintage radio writer-producer – died of natural causes in her home in Beverly Hills on February 2, just three days short of her 102nd birthday.
A member since 1938, Leslie was the oldest living Writers Guild member at age 101. She was born on February 5, 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt was U.S. President.
As a 17-year old high school graduate, she was too young to attend college so, when her parents insisted she get out of the house, she wangled a position with the Pittsburg Press as an assistant to the “society editor.” Aleen’s private interview with Alexander Wolcott thrilled her more than any other.
After a three-year stint at Ohio State, interrupted by the Great Depression, she became secretary for the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. Not long after, she began a weekly column titled, “One Girl Chorus,” for the Pittsburg Press, filling Westbrook Pegler’s slot. While continuing to write it, she moved to Hollywood and quickly talked her way into Universal Studio to begin writing two-reelers for the Three Stooges.
Becoming one of perhaps only a dozen women screenwriters in the entertainment industry at the time, she ultimately worked at every studio in Hollywood and had 19 credited movies to her name. Leslie’s screenwriting credits include Father Was a Fullback (screenplay by Aleen Leslie and Casey Robinson and Mary Loos and Richard Sale, based on the play by Clifford Goldsmith) with Fred MacMurray, Maureen O’Hara, and young Natalie Wood, The Doctor Takes a Wife (screenplay by George Seaton and Ken Englund, story by Aleen Leslie) with Ray Milland and Loretta Young, and Father is a Bachelor (screenplay by Aleen Leslie and James Edward Grants, story by James Edward Grant) with William Holden.
Her other screenwriting credits include Rosie the Riveter (written by Jack Townley and Aleen Leslie), The Stork Pays Off (written by Fanya Lawrence & Aleen Leslie), and Henry Aldrich’s Little Secret (screenplay by Val Burton and Aleen Leslie, screen story by Aleen Leslie), just one in a popular series of films she co-wrote which included Henry Aldrich Swings It, Henry Aldrich Plays Cupid, and Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour.
Just before the Screen Writers Guild (SWG) became the Writers Guild of America (WGA), Ms. Leslie was its vice president for a six-month term.
Although she dated the Epstein brothers (Casablanca) and the Kanin brothers (Born Yesterday, The Philadelphia Story), she claimed that “marrying a Hollywoodian would be too chancy.” She instead imported a husband from her hometown: a lawyer from Pittsburgh who later became the distinguished entertainment attorney Jacques Leslie.
In the ‘40s, Leslie also created the radio show, “A Date with Judy,” for actress Helen Mack, who decided she was too old to play a teenager and so directed the broadcasts, while Leslie wrote and produced them. Leslie remained proud of the fact that during the Red Scare, she hired blacklisted writers. “A Date with Judy” had a run on television and also became a feature film with Elizabeth Taylor.
A very generous person, who made countless and ample charitable donations, Ms. Leslie gave grants to playwrights who hadn’t yet had plays produced – the only criterion being that she liked their first acts.
She also wrote two novels, The Scent of the Roses and The Windfall, plus a multitude of plays, some produced at The Pasadena Playhouse, as well as at theaters in New York and San Francisco. In addition, she was the “star” of her daughter/author Diane Leslie’s 1999 novel, Fleur De Leigh’s Life of Crime, which remained on the Los Angeles Times’ bestseller list for 28 weeks. Especially due to her radio work, she continued to receive fan mail until her death.
Aside from her daughter, she is survived by her brother, Robert Wetstein, her son, Jacques Leslie Jr., a non-fiction writer, three grandchildren, and three great grand children.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to Doctors without Borders.
In the place of a memorial service, a birthday party was held in accordance with Aleen’s perennial desire to have a good laugh.
For more information, please contact: Diane@DianeLeslie.net.