Hellman, Lillian

Hellman, Lillian

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. She has made several English adaptations of French plays and, with Richard Wilbur, wrote the 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 Hammett, who remained her constant companion until his death in 1961.

See her autobiographical works, An Unfinished Woman (1969) and Pentimento (1973); J. Mellen, Hellman and Hammett (1996).

(born June 20, 1905, New Orleans, La., U.S.—died June 30, 1984, Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, Mass.) U.S. playwright. After working as a book reviewer, press agent, and play reader, she began writing plays in the 1930s. Her first major success, The Children's Hour (1934), concerned two schoolteachers falsely accused of lesbianism. She examined family infighting in her hit The Little Foxes (1939) and political injustice in Watch on the Rhine (1941). All were made into successful films. Called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, she refused to testify. She wrote several memoirs and edited the works of her longtime companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett.

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