Notes on Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman has always been one of my favorites (and one of my idols.) She was truly brilliant.

(Travalanche)

Like many of my other posts on major American playwrights (most recently Tennessee Williams), this is adapted from my personal notebooks. I don’t deal much with biography here. It’s mostly critical ruminations inspired by Hellman’s writing. 

Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) is one of my (guilty) favorite American playwrights, combining intelligent dialogue with big, memorable characters and juicy, melodramatic villainy. Hellman always dares to go into scary, risky territory…it seems to be her principle delight, dragging us into the horror. She is the heir apparent of all those writers of 19th century melodramas…no expressionistic tricks with form and structure for this dame. And yet for her sheer theatricality and her straightforward storytelling she is yet another playwright I vastly prefer to the supposed lion Arthur Miller.

Hellman’s paramour Dashiell Hammett was Hellman’s well-known editor and muse, but it seems pretty clear (to me) that he was more than just an…

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