From a poverty stricken immigrant to one of Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriters, Levien’s life exemplifies the opportunities available to some women during the silent era of filmmaking. Born Sonya Opesken in 1888 in Panimunik, a small Jewish village within the Russian Empire, she emigrated with her family to the Lower East Side of New York, where her father had taken the name of Levien. Sonya grew up in a politically leftist household, which informed her early life, but which seems to have had little lasting influence on her screenwriting. However, the experience of poverty never totally left her; she wrote in an article published in 1918 in the Metropolitan: “A feather-duster factory swallowed up my teens at four dollars a week… If I would live I must escape from the East Side. If my body did not die, my mind and spirit would” (8).
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