CONVERSATIONS WITH LILLIAN HELLMAN by Jackson R.--Ed. Bryer

CONVERSATIONS WITH LILLIAN HELLMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Brilliantly tough talk with Roundhouse Lil, whose tobacco croak comes off the page like a rap on the ears. This volume, the first to appear about Hellman since her death in 1984, gathers 26 conversations, from the openings of her first plays through major interviews in Paris Review, Esquire and Rolling Stone to more recent talks with Dan Rather, Bill Moyers and Marilyn Berger. The five-part Berger interview is the richest in the collection. Subjects covered include, in the earlier interviews, Hellman's ties to the theater and mounting her plays (she never felt ""at home"" in the theater or in Hollywood, where she was both a reader for MGM and later a scriptwriter), dealings with success and failure, her 30-year life with suspense writer Dashiell Hammett, their disastrous run-in with the McCarthy committee, his and her alcoholism, her feelings about modern theater and move into autobiography and reactions to seeing herself depicted by Jane Fonda in Julia, and her big blowup with Mary McCarthy and suit against her for defamation of character. Hellman reveals that she felt most at home during the act of writing, either plays or autobiographies, but not as a Broadway habituÉ or Hollywood writer. Her blacklisting after her appearance before HUAC cost her deeply and even drove her into taking a job as a department store salesclerk. Years later, she appeared draped in a mink in Blackglama ads: ""What Becomes a Legend Most?""--and had a good laugh at herself. Not so funny was a show like Candide (she wrote its book) slowly folding: ""I began intensely to dislike the talk about money and how one couldn't afford to rehearse another week or two and how much money had to be raised. . .and I began to feel for the first time in the theater the pressures that money could bring on work, and to resent the idea that three years of my life was going down the drain for money just because money couldn't be raised to practice more, hold out longer."" When her analyst told her she was an alcoholic, she denied it but then stopped drinking for six years--though one last drunken evening laid her up for two-and-a-half days (""[T] hat's the end of that. I'll never do this again. Age has descended!""). Charged on every page.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi