A Limey at birth and a Yankee at heart is what probably best describes Lionel Chetwynd, a successful screen writer, TV and movie director and producer. He was born on 29 January 1940 in London, England , but at the tender age of eight his family migrated to Canada. He grew up in Toronto and Montreal and upon reaching enlistment age, he joined the army and served with the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada. After his discharge from military service, he enrolled in Sir George Williams University in Montreal. Graduating as valedictorian, Lionel Chetwynd earned a scholarship to McGill University Law School and subsequently, pursued graduate studies in Law at Trinity College, Oxford.
After his studies, he joined the Columbia Pictures distribution branch in London in 1968 and worked there for four years rising to assistant managing director. His career took a turn after he met Canadian film director Ted Kotcheff and tried his hand in scriptwriting. In 1971, Chetwynd’s first work “Maybe That’s Your Problem,” was played in London’s West End as well as “Bleeding Great Orchids,” which he also wrote that same year. After co-writing the film script for “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,” Lionel Chetwynd moved to New York City where he settled for good. In 1974, he received an Academy Award nomination and won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Feature Comedy for “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” giving his career a big boost. Soon, he was hired to write scripts for the PBS and CBS TV networks, then moved on to directing his own screenplays garnering recognition in his 1978 film, “Two Solitudes.”
Lionel Chetwynd, who is a member of the National Sponsoring Committee of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, wrote and directed “The Hanoi Hilton,” a 1987 drama that portrayed the harsh treatment of American prisoners of war in Hoa Lo prison in Vietnam. The following year, he penned the TV mini series, “To Heal a Nation,” that showed the treatment for returning Vietnam War veterans. During the Constitutional Bicentennial celebration, Chetwynd was contracted to write a special tribute to the United States Congress. He would then go on to write, produce and direct many event or issue-based films in the United States that would earn numerous citations and awards.
A supporter of Ronald Reagan, Lionel Chetwynd became identified with the political right for his endorsement of conservative ideologies, patriotic work and pronouncements. He was appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.