Lillian Hellman – The plays of Lillian Hellman – The Little Foxes, Watch on the Rhine, The Autumn Garden, Toys in the Attic, and all the others – speak eloquently for themselves and for Miss Hellman’s life in the Theatre. AH UNFINISHED WOMAN speaks for her life in the World outside. It is in no sense a predictable theatrical memoir. Instead, she offers a detailed, unsparing self-scrutiny and a passionate, sometimes comic, always candid account of her experience, whether in New York, New Orleans and Hollywood, in Spain during the Civil War, or in Moscow and Leningrad during the Second World War and twenty years later.
As this book makes clear, since childhood she has hated hypocrisy and refused to settle for soft answers, least of all from herself. The qualities she values most – that, in effect, she has been in search of – are courage, loyalty, and integrity, and she has found them in some of her closest relationships. Writing of herself as she was in her mid-twenties, aimless, discontented, and in want of occupation, Miss Hellman remarks “I needed a Teacher, a cool Teacher, who would not be impressed or disturbed by a strange and difficult girl. I was to meet him, but not for another four or five years.” That man was to be Dashiell Hammett; and their extraordinary relationship, which continued for almost thirty years until his death in 1961, was central in her life, as it is in this deeply felt and personal memoir. In its later pages Miss Hellman includes a warm but unsentimental portrait of her old friend Dorothy Parker; a revealing chapter on her childhood nurse and her recently deceased housekeeper — two black women who profoundly influenced her life; and a moving description of Hammett in his later years and how their lives evolved as he wasted away from emphysema and cancer.
Miss Hellman is an artist whose horizons have always extended beyond the stage and its gossip; as an artist and individual her need has been for someplace else to go. Her life has led her through many of the great events of our times and involved her intimately with countless persons, some famous, others unknown, caught up like herself in history. The alternation of public and private concerns forms the basis of a book that calls upon all Miss Hellman’s formidable powers of intellect, imagination and style. Only incidentally a memoir of the playwright, it is chiefly and unforgettably a memoir of the woman who wrote plays.
BY LILLIAN HELLMAN — PLAYS
The Children’s Hour – Days to Come – The Little Foxes – Watch On The Rhine
The Searching Wind – Another Part Of The Forest – Montserrat (An Adaptation) –
The Autumn Garden – The Lark (An Adaptation) – Candide (An Operetta) –
Toys In The Attic – My Mother, My Father And Me (An Adaptation)
MEMOIR – An Unfinished Woman
The Selected Letters Of Anton Chekhov – The Big Knockover; Selected Stories And Short Novels By Dashiell Hammett
Lillian Hellman has always fascinated me since I first saw the film based on her play “The Children’s Hour” which starred the beautiful Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Maclaine, a remarkable piece of writing.
The copy of her book “An Unfinished Woman” that I have is a First Edition 1969 and was Dedicated “For Rod McKuen with warm regards Lillian Hellman Sept 1969” in her own writing. I acquired it from The Estate of The Late Rod McKuen, Poet. His Personal Library.