About the Author - Lillian Hellman

Lillian Florence Hellman (June 20, 1905 – June 30, 1984) was an American playwright, author, and screenwriter known for her success on Broadway, as well as her communist sympathies and political activism. She was blacklisted after her appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) at the height of the anti-communist campaigns of 1947–1952. Although she continued to work on Broadway in the 1950s, her blacklisting by the American film industry caused a drop in her income. M...

Lillian Florence Hellman (June 20, 1905 – June 30, 1984) was an American playwright, author, and screenwriter known for her success on Broadway, as well as her communist sympathies and political activism. She was blacklisted after her appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) at the height of the anti-communist campaigns of 1947–1952. Although she continued to work on Broadway in the 1950s, her blacklisting by the American film industry caused a drop in her income. Many praised Hellman for refusing to answer questions by HUAC, but others believed, despite her denial, that she had belonged to the Communist Party.As a playwright, Hellman had many successes on Broadway, including Watch on the Rhine, The Autumn Garden, Toys in the Attic, Another Part of the Forest, The Children's Hour and The Little Foxes. She adapted her semi-autobiographical play The Little Foxes into a screenplay, which starred Bette Davis. Hellman became the first female screenwriter to receive an individual Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1941. Three years prior, Joan Harrison had been nominated alongside Charles Bennett. Hellman was romantically involved with fellow writer and political activist Dashiell Hammett, author of the classic detective novels The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, who also was blacklisted for 10 years. The couple never married. Beginning in the late 1960s, and continuing through to her death, Hellman turned to writing a series of popular memoirs of her colorful life and acquaintances. Hellman's accuracy was challenged in 1979 on The Dick Cavett Show, when Mary McCarthy said of her memoirs that "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." Hellman brought a defamation suit against McCarthy and Cavett, and during the suit, investigators found errors in Hellman's Pentimento. They said that the "Julia" section of Pentimento, which had been the basis for the Oscar-winning 1977 movie of the same name, was actually based on the life of Muriel Gardiner. Martha Gellhorn, one of the most prominent war correspondents of the twentieth century, as well as Ernest Hemingway's third wife, said that Hellman's remembrances of Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War were wrong. McCarthy, Gellhorn and others accused Hellman of lying about her membership in the Communist Party and of being a committed Stalinist.The defamation suit was unresolved at the time of Hellman's death in 1984; her executors eventually withdrew the complaint. Hellman's modern-day literary reputation rests largely on the plays and screenplays from the first three decades of her career, and not on the memoirs published later in her life.

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