Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman was born in New Orleans on June 20, 1905. She moved to New York with her family in 1910, but spent half the year living in a boarding house with her aunts. After studying at both New York University and Columbia University, Hellman dropped out of school and worked as a book reviewer for the “New York Herald Tribune.” In 1930, she moved to Hollywood and became a script reader for MGM, where she became involved in the social and political scene. There, she met writer Dashiell Hammett and began a close relationship with him that lasted almost thirty years. Hammett urged her to write a play based on “The Great Drumsheugh Case,” in which a student at a boarding school accuses two teachers of being lesbians. The result, THE CHILDREN’S HOUR (1934), was a huge success on Broadway and ran for 691 performances. Her play The Little Foxes (1939) was another success, and she received an Academy Award nomination for her screenplay for the film adaptation. She published several plays throughout the 1940s and 1950s, including Another Part of the Forest (1946), The Autumn Garden (1951), and the anti-fascist plays Watch on the Rhine (1941) and The Searching Wind (1944). In 1952, Hellman was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted for her refusal to provide the names of friends with Communist associations. She returned to New York and continued to write. She wrote the libretto for Leonard Bernstein’s adaptation of Candide (1956), which won a Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as The Lark (1955), Toys In the Attic (1960), and My Mother, My Father and Me (1963). She taught at several colleges throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including Harvard and Yale. She was a member of the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1964, she was awarded the Gold Medal for Drama from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. She published three volumes of memoirs, “An Unfinished Woman (1969),” which received a National Book Award, “Pentimento” (1973), and “Scoundrel Time” (1976). She died in 1984 in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.