Andy Lewis, Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter of 'Klute,' Dies at 92

Courtesy France Menk
Andy Lewis

He teamed with his older brother on the classic 1971 crime thriller and wrote episodes of 'Dr. Kildare,' '12 O'Clock High' and 'The Virginian.'

Andy Lewis, who shared an Oscar nomination with his brother for their original screenplay for Klute, which gave Jane Fonda her first Academy Award, has died. He was 92.

Lewis died Feb. 28 of natural causes at his home in Walpole, New Hampshire, his partner, France Menk, told The Hollywood Reporter.

In the 1950s and '60s, Lewis wrote for such TV shows as Hudson's Bay, Dr. Kildare, The Nurses, 12 O'Clock High, The Virginian and The F.B.I. and the historical anthology series Profiles in Courage.

Klute (1971), which he co-wrote with his older brother, David E. Lewis, was the first installment in a trilogy by director Alan J. Pakula (followed by The Parallax View and All the President's Men) that focused on the growing paranoia within America.

It told the story of small-town detective John Klute (Donald Sutherland), who is investigating the disappearance of a businessman and the connection he had with New York call girl Bree Daniels (Fonda).

"I like to write smart, individualistic women, and I like to think I was good at it," Lewis said in a 2013 interview. 

He said Klute was an amalgamation of a conversation he had with producer Jules V. Levy (of Levy-Gardner-Laven fame) when they were working on the 1970 Robert Goulet war film Underground; elements of a female character Lewis had created for a 1969 episode of the CBS Western Lancer; and a serialized story he once read in The Saturday Evening Post.

"I did most of the actual scripting, but in the early stages there was a whole lot of back-and-forth between Dave and me of opinions, events, particulars of character and scene and everything else," Lewis said.

"This went on mostly by letter and via phone — a prodigious amount as Dave was located in California and I in Massachusetts," he continued. "I'd have trouble attributing any part of the original script to one or the other of us solely."

Andrew Kittredge Lewis was born in Lexington, Massachusetts, on Aug. 5, 1925. His father was Clarence Irving Lewis, a noted Harvard philosopher, and Andy graduated from the college in 1949 after returning from war service.

He began working as a writer for Robert Saudek, creator of the acclaimed educational variety TV series Omnibus.

Andy's older brother, confined to a wheelchair after contracting encephalitis during World War II, became his writing partner. "It wasn't his natural talent, but Dave had a keen and skillful mind," he said. "We'd swap story ideas and pieces. We both listened and adopted. We didn't fight."

On Oscar night in 1972, Andy watched the telecast from home, but Dave was on hand at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. They lost to Paddy Chayefsky's The Hospital, and after the ceremony, Dave's wheelchair was taken, without his permission, to transport an aging Charlie Chaplin, who had just received an honorary award.

It was during filming for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) that Fonda first received the Lewis brothers' script for Klute.

Fonda was unsure if she should portray a call girl on the screen. "'Would a real feminist do that?' I asked myself. A real feminist wouldn't have to ask herself such a question," she wrote in her 2005 biography, My Life So Far.   

The actress showed the script to her friend, singer and fellow activist Barbara Dane, who told her: "Jane, if you think you have room in this script to create a complex, multifaceted character, you should do it. It doesn't matter that she's a call girl, as long as she's real."

Lewis retired from writing in 1985 (he wrote just one thing after Klute that made it to the screen, a 1974 telefilm starring Shelley Winters) and devoted the remainder of his life to architecture. In 1959, he and noted American architect Carl Koch had written At Home With Tomorrow, a book about prefabricated housing. Koch later created and designed Techbuilt Homes.

In addition to Menk, his survivors include his six children. Lewis wrote something for them to be read after his death:

"To be sure, I feel a little timid about dying. It's something I haven't done before…And you know, as a matter of reason, that you have to let me go.

"I've had long lucky years. I don't feel many shames or regrets. I've done most of my chores. I'm ready to rest.

"But at this goodbye, know these things. You have filled my life. You are my pride. Know my love."

Donations in his memory can be made to the New Hampshire Food Bank, 700 E. Industrial Park Drive, Manchester, NH 03109