A graduate of New York University and Harvard (where he got his master's degree).
Lewin joined MGM in 1924 as a writer: Bread (24, Victor Schertzinger); The Fate of a Flirt (25, Frank Strayer); Blarney (26, Marcel De Sano); Ladies of Leisure (26, Thomas Buckingham); Tin Hats (26, Edward Sedgwick); Quality Street (27, Sidney Franklin); Spring Fever (27, Sedgwick); and The Actress (28, Franklin), in which Norma Shearer played Rose Trelawney.
Lewin was a close associate of Irving Thalberg, who made him head ol the storv department and then the producer of most of his important projects. At MGM, and latterly at Paramount after Thalberg’s death, he produced The Kiss (29, Jacques Feeder); Cuban Love Song (31, W. S. Van Dyke); The Guardsman (31, Franklin); Bed-Headed Woman (32, Jack Conway); What Every Woman Knows (34, Gregory La Cava); China Seas (35, Tay Garnett); Mutiny on the Bounty (35, Frank Lloyd); The Good Earth (37, Franklin et ah); True Confession (37, Wesley Buggies); Spawn of the North (38, Henry Hathaway); Zaza (39, George Cukor); and So Ends Our Night (41. John Cromwell).
His own films lack exactly those assets a Thalberg henchman might have been expected to command—narrative directness and box-office accuracy (he was dropped from Madame Curie). On the contrary, arty aspiration showed like a teenage slip. His own scenarist, he cultivated a garish sophistication—in subject, setting, style, and actors—and sometimes achieved real vulgarity. But his first four films are all worth seeing: the first lor George Sanders; the second, his best, for Hurd Hatfield and an absorbing contrast of soft, burnished close-ups and huge, interior perspectives; the third for its inane pleasure in literariness; and the fourth because it is gaudily ridiculous, impressive in a romantic, thundery way. In such moments as Ava Gardner in her nightie on the edge of a cliff, romantic sensation comes inadvertently near the vision of Delvaux and Ernst.