” I Cannot and Will Not Cut My Conscience to Suit This Year’s Fashions.”-Lillian Hellman in Her Letter to House Un-American Activities (HUAC)

As a teenager and adult, I read many works by Lillian Hellman and I was also fascinated with her life, her 30 year affair with the writer, Dashell Hammett, her ongoing feud with the writer,Mary McCarthy (The Group) that started in 1980 until Hellman’s death in 1984 and her forthrightness. In fact, tomorrow is Mary McCarthy’s birthday! In the end, Lillian Hellman died alone and her last few years were filled with poor health and bitterness, but her earlier years were full of feistiness. Lillian Hellman was a Jewish-American writer from New Orleans who broke ground with her play about two female teachers who were accused of being gay by a student. I remember seeing The Children’s Hour with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine when I was about 10 years old.

I enjoyed her books, memoirs, plays and seeing her being interviewed on TV, she really spoke her mind and I encourage anyone who isn’t familiar with Lillian Hellman and others who were brought before HUAC to read about these writers, directors, screenwriters, actors, musicians, thinkers who stood strong and didn’t name names and whose careers and lives were hurt, broken beyond repair, interrupted and/or fractured. Read about The Hollywood Ten, which included Ring Lardner, Jr. and Dalton Trumbo (Johnny Got His Gun, which I must’ve read a couple of times as a teenager). Back to Lillian Hellman: “She became a writer at a time when writers were celebrities and their recklessness was admirable. Like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Hammett, Lillian Hellman was a smoker, a drinker, a lover, and a fighter. Hellman maintained a social and political life as large and restless as her talent. While her plays were a constant challenge to injustice, her memoirs were personal accounts of the exciting and turbulent life behind the art.”-pbs.org

Lillian Hellman was born today, June 20th, in 1905.






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