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Why should you care about Ernest Lehman, who died Saturday at 89, when he seems most likely to be remembered as a screenwriter who adapted already great plays and musicals (West Side Story, The King and I, The Sound of Music, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) for the big screen? Two reasons. First, his bold adaptation of Virginia Woolf (1966), was the final nail in the coffin of Hollywood’s censorship regime, the Production Code, making movies for grownups possible at last. Second, dialogue in his screenplays — especially Sweet Smell of Success, based on his own experience as a publicist — frequently had a sharp, fast, New York ring of authenticity. Think of these memorable lines from his movies:

Go. Rent.

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