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Lillian Hellman Quotes

Lillian Hellman
  • Mini Bio
  • Name: Lillian Florence Hellman
  • Born: 20th June 1905, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
  • Died: 30th June 1984, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, U.S.
  • Alma mater: New York University and Columbia University
  • Occupation: Playwright and screenwriter
  • Sport: Her favourite pastime was fishing
  • Famous for: Penning the play The Little Foxes which debuted in 1939 and being an unrepentant sympathizer for left wing politics during the McCarthyism years of terror post WWII
  • Books: Apart from her plays and screenplays she wrote 3 memoirs and a novel; An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir (1969 memoir), Pentimento: A Book of Portraits (1973 memoir), Scoundrel Time (1976 memoir) and Maybe: A Story (1980 novel)
  • Controversy: In 1952 she was forced to testify at the HUAC where she fended off questions about Communist tendencies
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"People change and forget to tell each other"

Lillian Hellman

"They frighten mighty easy, and they talk mighty bad. ... I suggest the rest of us don't frighten so easy. It's still not un-American to fight the enemies of one's country. Let's fight"

Lillian Hellman

"I do regret that I have spent much of my life trying to find what I called 'sense.' I never knew what I meant by truth, never made the sense I hoped for"

Lillian Hellman

"Nobody outside of a baby carriage or a judge's chamber believes in an unprejudiced point of view"

Lillian Hellman

"The past, with its pleasures, its rewards, its foolishness, its punishments, is there for each of us forever, and it should be"

Lillian Hellman

"Wearing or not wearing a bra is terribly unimportant. It's being able to buy that bra yourself - that's important"

Lillian Hellman

"It's a sad day when you find out that it's not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you"

Lillian Hellman

"People often say other people are tough when they do not know how to cheat them"

Lillian Hellman

"Belief is a moral act for which the believer is to be held responsible"

Lillian Hellman

"You can't recover from what you do not understand"

Lillian Hellman

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions"

Lillian Hellman

"For every man who lives without freedom, the rest of us must face the guilt"

Lillian Hellman

"Nothing, of course, begins at the time you think it did"

Lillian Hellman

"I like people who refuse to speak until they are ready to speak"

Lillian Hellman

"It is best to act with confidence, no matter how little right you have to it"

Lillian Hellman

"Things start out as hopes and end up as habits"

Lillian Hellman

"Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth"

Lillian Hellman
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Lillian Hellman Biography

Lillian Hellman was the talented but headstrong writer who stayed true to her views on free speech and politics throughout her successful but somewhat rocky career. She started out writing summaries of books to gauge their potential to be turned into big screen movies for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

She eventually upped sticks from Hollywood to try her luck as a playwright in New York and it wasn't long until the shining light of success was illuminating her literary prowess for a drama. Her first Broadway hit was The Children's Hour in 1934 that ran for 691 performances. Samuel Goldwyn purchased the rights for this play and Lillian soon found herself back in Hollywood working as a screenwriter for Goldwyn Pictures earning a colossal (at the time) $2,500 usd a week.

After rewriting many screenplays for Goldwyn she returned to the bright lights of Broadway where the play "The Little Foxes" became an epic success.

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After WWII the U.S. was entering a different era and the cold war saw a sea change of mood towards left wingers and communists in particular. Hellman was threatened with blacklists and IRS investigations but all through these turbulent years she held firm her belief for freedom of speech and although she admitted to dallying in communism she denied ever being an ardent red.

After all the investigations Lillian Hellman was quoted as saying: "I wasn't as shocked by McCarthy as by all the people who took no stand at all....I don't remember one large figure coming to anybody's aid", she went on to say: "I suppose I've come out frightened, thoroughly frightened of liberals. Most radicals of the time were comic but the liberals were frightening".

Never one to back down in a controversial moment, Hellman and the actress Tallulah Bankhead who was the star of the play The Little Foxes had a public tiff which resulted in Lillian slamming her handbag in the stars face. They never spoke for 25 years after this incident

She penned books in later years and toured the country giving speeches upon invitation. Great minds often create great one liners and their famed status gives these words extra meaning, so here is my compilation of 17 of the best Lillian Hellman quotes

Quotes About Lillian Hellman

The actress Tallulah Bankhead speaking about their rift: "Great as is my admiration for Lillian Hellman as a playwright, I could never again rejoice in her company"

J. Edgar Hoover wrote in a 1943 FBI memo: "You are reminded that this subject has a national reputation through her writings in which she has opposed Nazism and fascism. Under no circumstances should it be known that this bureau is conducting an investigation of her"

The critic Mary McCarthy was unrepentant: "If someone had told me, don't say anything about Lillian Hellman because she'll sue you, it wouldn't have stopped me. It might have spurred me on"

Lillian Hellman image quote