Lillian Hellman


Author, Playwright

About

Also Known As
Lillian Florence Hellman
Birth Place
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Born
June 20, 1905
Died
June 30, 1984
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

Leading American dramatist whose tough, socially conscious dramas achieved critical and commercial success in the 1930s and 40s. Hellman was blacklisted in 1952 for refusing to identify former leftist associates to the House Committee on Un-American Activities with the now-famous declaration that "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions." She was portrayed by...

Family & Companions

Arthur Kober
Husband
Writer, press agent. Married on December 30, 1925; he filed for divorce in 1930 after Hellman engaged in public affair with Dashiel Hammett; Hellman became pregnant with his child before they married and had first of seven abortions; divorced in 1932.
Dashiel Hammett
Companion
Novelist. Met in 1930; had on-again, off-again relationship until his death on January 10, 1961.
Ralph Ingersoll
Companion
Magazine publisher. Was married at time of their affair.
John Melby
Companion
Diplomat. Born c. 1913; became involved during WWII; was married at time of their relationship; later dismissed from US State Department reputedly because of his affair with Hellman and her pro-Soviet Union views.

Bibliography

"A Likely Story: One Summer With Lillian Hellman"
Rosemary Mahoney, Doubleday (1998)
"Scoundrel Time"
Lillian Hellman (1976)
"Pentimento"
Lillian Hellman (1973)
"An Unfinished Woman"
Lillian Hellman (1969)

Notes

In a televised interview, rival author Mary McCarthy made the now (in)famous statement, "Every word she [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." Hellman filed a million-dollar slander lawsuit against McCarthy.

One Muriel Gardner claimed that her life story was actually the basis for the story of Julia that Hellman included in "Pentimento" and that formed the basis of the 1977 book. Gardner also claimed that she had never met Lillian Hellman.

Biography

Leading American dramatist whose tough, socially conscious dramas achieved critical and commercial success in the 1930s and 40s. Hellman was blacklisted in 1952 for refusing to identify former leftist associates to the House Committee on Un-American Activities with the now-famous declaration that "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions." She was portrayed by Jane Fonda in the successful 1977 film "Julia," based on one of her short stories and by Judy Davis in the TV biography "Dash and Lilly" (A&E, 1999).

Life Events

1925

Was a book reviewer for the New York Herald Tribune

1929

Moved to Hollywood when then-husband was hired by Paramount

1930

Worked as a script reader

1932

With Louis Kronenberg, wrote unproduced comedy "The Dear Queen"

1934

Had Broadway success with "The Children's Hour"; Hammett had recounted a true story of two Scottish schoolteachers who lost their jobs amid rumors of a lesbian affair; Hellman reportedly later told people that Hammett wrote much of the play for which she took credit

1935

Feature debut, co-wrote screenplay with Mordaunt Shairp, "The Dark Angel"

1936

Solo screenwriting debut, "These Three", adapted from her play "The Children's Hour"; also first collaboration with William Wyler

1937

Traveled to Europe (including a visit to Moscow), also went to Spain with Ernest Hemingway

1939

Enjoyed Broadway hit with "The Little Foxes"

1941

Penned "Watch on the Rhine"

1941

Received first Academy Award nomination for adaptation of her play "The Little Foxes"

1943

Garnered second Oscar nomination for original script "The North Star"

1944

Wrote the antifascist themed play "The Searching Wind"

1948

Visited Yugoslavia and interviewed Marshall Tito

1949

Directed and adapted the French play "Montserrat"

1951

Had another Broadway success with "The Autumn Garden"

1952

Subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities; refused to name names and made now famous comment, "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions"

1954

Translated Jean Anouilh's play ("L'Allouete") about Joan of Arc as "The Lark"

1955

Debut as librettist, adapted with Richard Wilbur Voltaire's "Candide" as a stage musical with a score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by John Latouche

1960

Last original Broadway play, "Toys in the Attic", starring Jason Robards

1961

Final collaboration with Wyler, adapted another screen version of "The Children's Hour"

1966

Final screenplay credit, "The Chase"

1969

Issued first volume of memoirs, "An Unfinished Woman"

1972

Adapted "Another Part of the Forest" for PBS

1977

Portrayed by Jane Fonda in "Julia", a film based on parts of her book "Pentimento"; Jason Robards co-starred as Hammett

Videos

Movie Clip

Children's Hour, The (1961) - I Killed All The Patients Doctor Joe (James Garner) has been tangling with Martha (Shirley MacLaine). the partner of his fiancee` Karen (Audrey Hepburn) in a boarding school, and is tired of delaying the wedding, early in The Children's Hour, 1963, directed by William Wyler from Lillian Hellman's play.
Children's Hour, The - Funny Secrets Spoiled student Mary (Karen Balkin) teases influential Grandmother Tilford (Fay Bainter) with lurid suggestions about her teachers in William Wyler's The Children's Hour, 1961, from Lillian Hellman's play.
Little Foxes, The (1941) - Not Even A Whole Violin Spectacular bit between Dan Duryea as shiftless Leo and Carl Benton Reid, his even more brazen father, discussing what might be done with their uncle and brother-in-law’s dormant assets, while they shave, in the circa 1900 South, William Wyler directing from Lillian Hellman’s script, in The Little Foxes, 1941.
Little Foxes, The (1941) - When We're Very Rich Having just charmed their Yankee investor, Regina (Bette Davis) begins her financial manipulation of brothers Ben (Charles Dingle) and Oscar (Carl Benton Reid), in William Wyler's The Little Foxes, 1941, from Lillian Hellman's play and screenplay.
Julia (1977) - I Am Paris In a flashback, young Lillian Hellman and friend Julia (Susan Jones and Lisa Pelikan) grow up (into Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave) and Hellman's reverie resumes, in Fred Zinnemann's Julia, 1977.
Julia (1977) - Be A Coal Miner Gruff boyfriend Dashiell Hammett (Jason Robards Jr.), impatient with troubled writer Lillian Hellman (Jane Fonda) at the beach house, early in Fred Zinnemann's Julia, 1977.
Julia (1977) - A Perfect Time Of Life Jane Fonda playing the author of the underlying novel, Lillian Hellman's Pentimento, recalling the departure of the title character (Vanessa Redgrave) for Europe, in Fred Zinnemann's Julia, 1977.
Dead End (1937) - Don't Call Me Ma! Lillian Hellman’s screenplay from Sidney Kingsley’s play, pouring on powerful scenes, as hunted gangster “Baby Face,” who’s had his face surgically altered and come home to his old neighborhood, finally finds his mother (Marjorie Main), not happy to see him, in William Wyler’s Dead End, 1937.
Dead End (1937) - Why Didn't You Starve First? Most of the performance of Claire Trevor, as Francey, girlfriend from the old neighborhood, finally found by “Baby Face,” (Humphrey Bogart), the most-wanted gangster, who’s had his face changed and come home, William Wyler directing from Sidney Kingsley’s play, in the Samuel Goldwyn production Dead End, 1937.
Dead End (1937) - The Mark Of The Squealer The gang (Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, Gabriel Dell) showing off for Baby Face (Humphrey Bogart), would-be architect Dave (Joel McCrea) panics as well-to-do Kay (Wendy Barrie) tries to visit, with director William Wyler’s famous cockroach shot, in Dead End, 1937.
Children's Hour, The - Opening, Recital Opening title sequence and first scene from William Wyler's The Children's Hour, 1961, introduces the Wright-Dobie School and a musical performance led by Aunt Lily (Miriam Hopkins).
Dead End (1937) - I'm Frightened Of Being Poor With “Dead End” kids (Billy Halop, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan) and gangster Baby Face (Humphrey Bogart) nearby, aspiring architect Dave (Joel McCrea) visits with his more affluent otherwise-committed girlfriend Kay (Wendy Barrie), in Samuel Goldwyn’s urban drama Dead End, 1937.

Trailer

Family

Max Hellman
Father
Traveling salesman, shoe factory owner. Owned Hellman Shoe Factory in New Orleans; moved family to NYC c. 1911 when business failed.
Julia Newhouse
Mother
Heiress; reportedly Hellman's father married her mother only for her money.

Companions

Arthur Kober
Husband
Writer, press agent. Married on December 30, 1925; he filed for divorce in 1930 after Hellman engaged in public affair with Dashiel Hammett; Hellman became pregnant with his child before they married and had first of seven abortions; divorced in 1932.
Dashiel Hammett
Companion
Novelist. Met in 1930; had on-again, off-again relationship until his death on January 10, 1961.
Ralph Ingersoll
Companion
Magazine publisher. Was married at time of their affair.
John Melby
Companion
Diplomat. Born c. 1913; became involved during WWII; was married at time of their relationship; later dismissed from US State Department reputedly because of his affair with Hellman and her pro-Soviet Union views.

Bibliography

"A Likely Story: One Summer With Lillian Hellman"
Rosemary Mahoney, Doubleday (1998)
"Scoundrel Time"
Lillian Hellman (1976)
"Pentimento"
Lillian Hellman (1973)
"An Unfinished Woman"
Lillian Hellman (1969)

Notes

In a televised interview, rival author Mary McCarthy made the now (in)famous statement, "Every word she [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." Hellman filed a million-dollar slander lawsuit against McCarthy.

One Muriel Gardner claimed that her life story was actually the basis for the story of Julia that Hellman included in "Pentimento" and that formed the basis of the 1977 book. Gardner also claimed that she had never met Lillian Hellman.

"Lillian was a celebrity hound." --Martha's Vineyard resident Carly Simon on her famous neighbor.

"When I first went out to Hollywood one heard talk from writers about whoring. But you are not tempted to whore unless you want to be a whore." --Lillian Hellman quoted in "Playwrights at Work: The Paris Review Interviews", edited by George Plimpton, (Modern Library, 2000).