Lillian Hellman

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Related to Lillian Hellman: Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett, Mary McCarthy

Hellman, Lillian,

1905–84, American dramatist, b. New Orleans. Her plays, although often melodramatic, are marked by intelligence and craftsmanship. The Children's Hour (1934), her first drama, concerns the devastating effects of a child's malicious charge of lesbianism against two of her teachers. The Little Foxes (1939) and Another Part of the Forest (1946) constitute a chilling study of a wealthy and rapacious Southern family. Several of Hellman's dramas—notably Watch on the Rhine (1941) and The Searching Wind (1944)—treat international political themes such as isolationism and the rise of fascism. In 1952 she was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee because she had attended Communist party meetings in the late 1930s. She made several English adaptations of French plays and, with Richard WilburWilbur, Richard,
1921–2017, American poet and translator, b. New York City, B.A. Amherst, 1942, M.A. Harvard, 1947. A virtuoso craftsman who wrote with grace and precision in traditional verse forms, Wilbur was always original and generally affirmative in his view of the
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, wrote a libretto for a musical version of Voltaire's Candide (1955). Her other plays include Days to Come (1936), The Autumn Garden (1951), and Toys in the Attic (1960). In 1931 she met the writer Dashiell HammettHammett, Dashiell
, 1894–1961, American writer, b. St. Mary's co., Maryland. After a variety of jobs, including several years working as a detective for the Pinkerton agency, beginning in the early 1920s he found success as a writer, largely originating the hard-boiled
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, who remained her constant companion until his death in 1961.


See her autobiographical works, An Unfinished Woman (1969), Pentimento (1973), and Scoundrel Time (1976); biographies by W. Wright (1986), C. Rollyson (1988), and A. Kessler-Harris (2012); P. Feibleman, Lilly: Reminiscences of Lillian Hellman (1988); J. Mellen, Hellman and Hammett (1996).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hellman, Lillian


Born June 20, 1905, in New Orleans, La. American writer and dramatist.

Hellman studied at New York University and Columbia University. Her realistic, socially significant work is filled with profound interest in man’s inner life, exemplified in such plays as The Children’s Hour (1934) and The Days to Come (1936). A bourgeois family’s history of predatory accumulation of wealth is unfolded in The Little Foxes (1939; Russian translation, 1944) and Another Part of the Forest (1947; presented on the Soviet stage as Ladies and Gentlemen).

During World War II, Hellman created the bold antifascist plays Watch on the Rhine (1941) and The Searching Wind (1944) and a screenplay, The North Star (1943), about the heroic struggle of Soviet guerrillas. The themes of her postwar plays reflect the destiny, mood, and spiritual confusion of a segment of the American intelligentsia; these plays include The Autumn Garden (1951) and Toys in the Attic (1960; Russian translation, 1967). Hellman has also published autobiographical works—An Unfinished Woman (1969), Pentimento: A Book of Portraits (1973), and Scoundrel Time (1976).

For several decades, Hellman has taken part in the antifascist democratic movement in the USA. She visited the USSR in 1944 and again in 1967. Her plays have been presented in many Soviet theaters.


My Mother, My Father and Me. New York, 1963.
Collected Plays. Boston, 1971.
In Russian translation:
P’esy. Moscow, 1958.
Pogonia: Kinostsenarii. Moscow, 1971.


Golysheva, E. “Vozvrashchenie L. Khellman.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1975, no. 4.
Moody, R. Lillian Hellman: Playwright. New York, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Hellman, Lillian

(1905–84) playwright; born in New Orleans. After studying at New York and Columbia Universities, she worked in publishing and as a book reviewer and play-reader before attaining her first success with the play, The Children's Hour (1934). Concerned with social, political, and moral issues along with more personal ones, she wrote a number of successful plays including The Little Foxes (1939) and Toys in the Attic (1960). She also wrote many film scripts and adapted the works of others for film and the stage. She published several memoirs, including Scoundrel Time (1976), and she wrote the book for Leonard Bernstein's musical, Candide (1956). For some 30 years she lived with Dashiell Hammett and shared his commitment to radical political causes; her appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (1952) resulted in her being blacklisted in Hollywood. Her last years were tainted by a feud with Mary McCarthy and allegations that she had often lied in her memoirs.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Jane Greenwood, "Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes"
Justice: A Reading beyond Good and Evil in Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour.
MEMORIES OF LILLIAN HELLMAN have faded, but the controversy over her continues.
Lillian Hellman was born in 1905 in New Orleans to parents of German Jewish descent and died in 1984 in the midst of a lawsuit about truth.
"Unless you are a pathological escapist, there must be some sort of propaganda in everything you write," Lillian Hellman told an interviewer.
Lillian Hellman was a writer, a Jew, a southerner, a Communist and fellow-traveler, and an economically self-sufficient and sexually liberated woman.
Lillian Hellman, who was such a case, sat prominently at the head of the table, trying to fill inside straights and betting into hands that even a neophyte would recognize as unbeatable.
In addition to her Academy Award winning work in "Butterfield 8" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", Taylor also starred in the Broadway revival of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes", where she was nominated for a Tony award and in Noel Coward's "Private Lives", where she starred alongside former husband Richard Burton.
Lillian Hellman, the American who wrote the play in the 1930s, heard about the Scottish case from her lover, Dashiell Hammett, author of 'The Maltese Falcon'.
Friday, Lillian Hellman Room, Hilton Eugene; "Education Funding Mythbusters" to be discussed by Kent Hunsaker, executive director of Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and attorney Christy Monson; guest/gallery admission is $5, free for City Club members; meeting will be broadcast Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Not unlike Lillian Hellman, who wrote the original book with '50s McCarthyism in mind, Zimmerman sees Voltaire's tale as an apt critique of contemporary times.
Montserrat, which Lillian Hellman adapted for the stage and which is personal to me because I played in it when I was 14 years old ...