"THE STOLEN LEGACY OF ANNE FRANK: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Staging of the Diary" by Ralph Melnick

"THE STOLEN LEGACY OF ANNE FRANK: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Staging of the Diary"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A painstakingly detailed account of the long and bitter battle over the American stage adaptation of Anne Frank's famous diary. Melnick, a religion instructor at Williston Northampton School, has sifted through thousands of pages of correspondence and legal briefs to trace how novelist Meyer Levin shepherded the diary to an American publisher, gave it prominence with a New York Times review, first suggested it be adapted for Broadway in 1951, and wrote a faithful theatrical version. However, Otto Frank, Anne's assimilationist father, was persuaded to reject his version in favor of the husband-and-wife team Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and producer Kermit Bloomgarden. All three were close to Lillian Hellman, who helped with the last few of the eight drafts of the play. Although the production was a major success and earned a Pulitzer, Melnick convincingly demonstrates that Levin was fully justified in his charge that they de-Judaized Anne Frank's diary. For example, Anne's words, ""Perhaps through Jewish suffering, the world will learn good,"" were revised in the play to ""Jews were not the only ones who suffered from the Nazis."" Melnick also documents how unrelenting the playwrights and producer were in ""suppressing"" Levin's play, which first saw the light of day in the US in a 1972 student production. Melnick also recounts how the Levin-Hellman feud became entangled in the politics of McCarthyism. Finally, the reader is shown how Levin's three-decade-long crusade tyrannized his own life; at one point, Melnick reveals, Levin's long-suffering wife, Tereska, feeling she had lost her husband to his endless vendetta, tried to drown herself in the Hudson. Melnick's impressively documented work is a resounding refutation of Lawrence Graver's 1995 anti-Levin An Obsession with Anne Frank. But the author's almost blow-by-blow account of the long dispute will limit its accessibility to only the hardiest of Anne Frank, Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, or American theater aficionados.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.