HELLMAN, LILLIAN (June 20, 1905- ), American dramatist, writes: "I was born in New Orleans. My mother's name had been Julia I Newhouse until she I married my father, whose name is Max B. Hellman. They were both Southerners: my mother came from Alabama, my father from New Orleans. I moved to New York when I was five years old, returned to New Orleans for long visits each year, went to public schools in both places. I went to New York University did not graduate. Immediately upon leaving college I worked for Horace Liveright, the publisher. I have been writing since I was a child. I wrote many short stories, had few accepted— understandably. In 1931, I wrote an unproduced play [Dear Queen] with Louis Kronenberger. In 1934 I wrote The Children's Hour, in 1936 Days To Come, in 1939 The Little Foxes, in 1940 Watch on the Rhine. I have-adapted plays for pictures: The Dark Angel, These Three [screen version of The Children's Hour], Dead End.

"Politically, I am a liberal: I choose to think that means that I believe more in the rights of the working man than I believe in any other rights. I like to read Henry James, Dreiser, Dostoievsky, Mark Twain, melodrama, poetry. I was married to Arthur Kober; we were divorced in 1932. I live at Hardscrabble Farm, Pleasantville, N.Y."

Miss Hellman is of medium height, slim with light reddish-blonde hair but dark eyebrows and eyes. She left New York University at the end of her third year, but later went to Columbia for one semester, when she studied chiefly Dante. She was at one time promotion and subscription manager for a stock company in Rochester, N.Y., and was for several years a play reader: Vicki Baum's Grand Hotel was one of her "discoveries." In 1936-37 she made a long trip to Europe, spending much time in Soviet Russia and in Spain, where she was under bombardment by the Franco forces.

The Children's Hour, a powerful play hinting at sexual abnormality, created a furor and ran for 691 performances. Its screen version was much milder. When the play opened on Broadway, Miss Hellman's bank account was down to $55. Since then aside from Days To Come, which ran only a week, she has won for herself the appellation, "Number One Woman Playwright," with The Little Foxes, a vivid study of avarice against a Southern background, and Watch on the Rhine, the American stage's first successful anti-Nazi play, which received (1941) the annual award of the New York Drama Critics Circle.

"I am a writer," she has said. "I am also a Jew. I want to be quite sure that I can continue to be a writer and that if I want to say that greed is bad or persecution is worse, I can do so without being branded by the malice of people who make a living by that malice."

PRINCIPAL WORKS: The Children's Hour, 1934 Days To Come, 1936, The Little Foxes, 1939 Watch on The Rhine, 1941; Four Plays, 1942.

ABOUT: Current Biography 1941, Literary Digest May 4 and September 14, 1935, New York Times Magazine May 4, 1941; New Yorker November 8, 1941; Wilson Library Bulletin May 1939.

Source: Twentieth Century Authors by Kunitz & Haycraft 1942

Back to: The Helman Family Home Page