56 Facts About Lillian Hellman


Lillian Florence Hellman was an American playwright, prose writer, memoirist and screenwriter known for her success on Broadway, as well as her communist sympathies and political activism.


Many praised Hellman for refusing to answer questions by HUAC, but others believed, despite her denial, that she had belonged to the Communist Party.


Lillian Hellman adapted her semi-autobiographical play The Little Foxes into a screenplay, which starred Bette Davis.


Lillian Hellman was romantically involved with fellow writer and political activist Dashiell Hammett, who was blacklisted for 10 years; the couple never married.


McCarthy, Gellhorn and others accused Lillian Hellman of lying about her membership in the Communist Party and of being a committed Stalinist.


Lillian Florence Hellman was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, into a Jewish family.


Lillian Hellman's mother was Julia Newhouse of Demopolis, Alabama, and her father was Max Hellman, a New Orleans shoe salesman.


Lillian Hellman studied for two years at New York University and then took several courses at Columbia University.


On December 31,1925, Lillian Hellman married Arthur Kober, a playwright and press agent, although they often lived apart.


Lillian Hellman felt an initial attraction to a Nazi student group that advocated "a kind of socialism" until their questioning about her Jewish ties made their antisemitism clear, and she returned immediately to the United States.


Lillian Hellman divorced Kober and returned to New York City in 1932.


Lillian Hellman first collaborated on a screenplay for The Dark Angel, an earlier play and silent film.


Lillian Hellman rewrote the play to conform to the standards of the Motion Picture Production Code, under which any mention of lesbianism was impossible.


Lillian Hellman next wrote the screenplay for Dead End, which featured the first appearance of the Dead End Kids and premiered in 1937.


Also in 1935, Lillian Hellman joined the struggling Screen Writers Guild, devoted herself to recruiting new members, and proved one of its most aggressive advocates.


In March 1937, Lillian Hellman joined a group of 88 US public figures in signing "An Open Letter to American Liberals" that protested an effort headed by John Dewey to examine Leon Trotsky's defense against his 1936 condemnation by the Soviet Union.


In October 1937, Lillian Hellman spent a few weeks in Spain to lend her support, as other writers had, to the International Brigades of non-Spaniards who had joined the anti-Franco side in the Spanish Civil War.


Bankhead and the cast suspected that Lillian Hellman's refusal was motivated by her fanatical devotion to the Stalinist regime in Soviet Russia.


Lillian Hellman had aggravated the matter further by claiming that the real reason for turning down the benefit was because when the Spanish Republican government fell to Franco's fascists, Lillian Hellman and Shumlin requested that Bankhead put on a benefit for the Spanish loyalists fleeing to neighboring France, and the actress and company refused.


Miss Lillian Hellman responded by slamming her purse against the actress's jaw.


Lillian Hellman's play Watch on the Rhine opened on Broadway on April 1,1941, and ran for 378 performances.


Lillian Hellman wrote the play in 1940, when its call for a united international alliance against Hitler directly contradicted the Communist position at the time, following the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939.


Early in 1942, Lillian Hellman accompanied the production to Washington, DC, for a benefit performance where she spoke with President Roosevelt.


In 1942, Lillian Hellman received an Academy Award nomination for her screenplay for the film version of The Little Foxes.


Lillian Hellman objected to the film's production numbers that, she said, turned a village festival into "an extended opera bouffe peopled by musical comedy characters", but still told the New York Times that it was "a valuable and true picture which tells a good deal of the truth about fascism".


Lillian Hellman wrote the screenplay for the film version that appeared two years later.


Melby and Lillian Hellman corresponded regularly in the years following World War II while he held State Department assignments overseas.


In 1952, Lillian Hellman was called to testify before House Un-American Activities Committee, which had heard testimony that she had attended Communist Party meetings in 1937.


Lillian Hellman initially drafted a statement that said her two-year membership in the Communist Party had ended in 1940, but she did not condemn the party nor express regret for her participation in it.


Lillian Hellman warned that the committee and the public would expect her to take a strong anti-communist stand to atone for her political past, but she refused to apologize or denounce the party.


In public testimony before HUAC on Tuesday, May 21,1952, Lillian Hellman answered preliminary questions about her background.


Lillian Hellman answered only one additional question: she denied she had ever belonged to the Communist Party.


Lillian Hellman cited the Fifth Amendment in response to several more questions and the committee dismissed her.


Committee members, unprepared for close questioning about Lillian Hellman's stance, offered only offhand comments.


Lillian Hellman said he had no plans to renew their friendship, but never promised to avoid contact with her.


Lillian Hellman offered to answer questions about her political views and associations, but the board only allowed her to describe her relationship with Melby.


Lillian Hellman testified that she had many longstanding friendships with people of different political views and that political sympathy was not a part of those relationships.


In 1954, Lillian Hellman declined when asked to adapt Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl for the stage.


Lillian Hellman made an English-language adaption of Jean Anouilh's play, L'Alouette, based on the trial of Joan of Arc, called The Lark.


Lillian Hellman edited a collection of Chekhov's correspondence that appeared in 1955 as The Selected Letters of Anton Chekhov.


Lillian Hellman wrote the spoken dialogue, which many others then worked on, and wrote some lyrics as well for what became the often-revived, Candide.


Lillian Hellman had no hand in the screenplay, which altered the drama's tone and exaggerated the characterizations, and the resulting film received bad reviews.


Lillian Hellman wrote another screenplay in 1965 for The Chase, starring Marlon Brando, based on a play and novel by Horton Foote.


Lillian Hellman wrote a reminiscence of gulag-survivor Lev Kopelev, husband of her translator in Russia during 1944, to serve as the introduction to his anti-Stalinist memoirs, To Be Preserved Forever, which appeared in 1976.


Lillian Hellman was a long-time friend of author Dorothy Parker and served as her literary executor after her death in 1967.


Lillian Hellman published her first volume of memoirs that touched upon her political, artistic, and social life, An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir, in 1969, for which she received the US National Book Award in category Arts and Letters, which was an award category from 1964 to 1976.


Lillian Hellman published her third volume of memoirs, Scoundrel Time, in 1976.


Lillian Hellman presented the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film at a ceremony on March 28,1977.


On June 30,1976, as the film was going into production, Lillian Hellman wrote about the screenplay to its producer:.


McCarthy in turn produced evidence she said proved that Lillian Hellman had lied in some accounts of her life.


At the time of her death, Lillian Hellman was still in litigation with McCarthy; her executors dropped the suit.


In 1980, Lillian Hellman published a short novel, Maybe: A Story.


Lillian Hellman's editor wrote to the New York Times to question a reviewer's attempt to check the facts in the novel.


Lillian Hellman described it as a work of fiction whose characters misremember and dissemble.


Lillian Hellman's papers are held by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.


Lillian Hellman's archive includes an extensive collection of manuscript drafts, contracts, correspondence, scrapbooks, speeches, teaching notes, awards, legal documents, appointment books, and honorary degrees.