Log In

Lillian Florence Hellman

writer

Lillian Hellman was an American playwright, scriptwirter and author of memoirs, who was also active on the political stage. In her works she attacked injustice and exploitation.Recipient Gold medal for drama National Institute and Academy Arts and Letters, 1964. Fellow American Academy Arts and Sciences; member American Academy Arts and Letters, Dramatists Guild.

Background

Lillian Hellman was born on June 20, 1907 in New Orleans, Louisiana into a Jewish family. Her father was Max Hellman, a New Orleans shoe salesman, and her mother was Julia Newhouse of Demopolis, Alabama. Julia Newhouse's parents were Leonard Newhouse, a Demopolis liquor dealer, and Sophie Marx, of a successful banking family.

Education

Little D, New York University, 1974. Educated, Columbia University. Master of Arts, Tufts U., 1940.

Doctor of Letters, Wheaton College, 1961, Rutgers University, 1963, Brandeis U., 1965, Smith College, 1974, Yale, 1974, Franklin and Marshall College, 1975, Columbia University, 1976.

Career

With Horace Liveright, Inc., New York City, 1924-1925. Book reviewer for Herald Tribune, 1925-1928. Theatrical play-reader, 1927-1930, writer, 1926-1984, scenario writer, 1935-1984.

Author: The Children’s Hour, 1934, Days to Come, 1936, The Little Foxes, 1939, Watch on the Rhine, 1941, The Searching Wind, 1944, Another Part of the Forest, 1946. Adapted: Roble’s Montserrat, 1949, The Autumn Garden, 1951. Dramatized: for movies The Dark Angel, 1935, These Three, 1935-1936, Dead End, 1937, The Little Foxes, 1940, The North Star, 1943, The Searching Wind, 1945.

Author: a memoir An Unfinished Woman, 1969, Pentimento: A Book of Portraits, 1973, Scoundrel Time, 1976, Maybe, 1980. Editor: The Letters of Anton Chekhov, Farrar, Straus, 1955. Musical version of Voltaire’s Candide, 1955.

Adaptation of Anouilh’s play. The Lark, 1955, Toys in the Attic, 1960. Adaptation My Mother, My Father and Me, from Burt Blechman’s How Much, 1963.

Author: motion picture The Chase. Editor: motion picture The Big Knockover (Dashiell Hammett), 1966, The Collected Plays, 1972. Contributor to mags.

Views

Quotations: LILLIAN HELLMAN TO THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES, MAY, 1952.

I am not willing, now or in the future, to bring bad trouble to people who, in my past association with them, were completely innocent of any talk or any action that was disloyal or subversive. I do not like subversion or disloyalty in any form and if I had ever seen any I would have considered it my duty to have reported it to the proper authorities. But to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself, is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions....

Personality

Her gifts included a talent for dialogue and for stage technique, and an ability to handle powerful themes.

Heilman was a woman of strong personal opinions who was blacklisted for leftist sympathies throughout the 1950s.

Interests

  • Other Interests

    Politics

Connections

Her rocky personal life reflected her strong character, and after a first unsuccessful marriage, she intermittently carried on a relationship with the detective story writer. Married Arthur Kober.

father:
Max B. Hellman

mother:
Julia (Newhouse) Hellman

Husband:
Arthur Kober - playwright and press agent

partner:
Dashiell Hammett - writer

Having divorced Kober and returned to New York City in 1932, Lillian Hellman met Hammett (she was 24 and he was 36). They maintained their relationship off and on for 30 years until his

death in January 1961.

Politics

From the mid-1930s, Hellman became involved with left-wing politics. While never a "card-carrying" Communist Party member, she remained an ardent supporter even as events in the Soviet Union became increasingly repressive.

In 1936-1937 Hellman traveled in Europe where she met other American expatriate writers of the so-called Lost Generation, including Ernest Hemingway. She saw the Spanish Civil War first-hand and also visited the Soviet Union as well. To this period Hellman returned in her first memoir, An Unfinished Woman (1969).