Lillian Florence "Lilly" Hellman (1905 – 1984) was an American playwright and screenwriter. She achieved her greatest success writing dramatic plays for Broadway in the 1930s and 1940s.
Hellman was known for her strong left-wing views and activism. She was briefly a member of the Communist Party. During the Red Scare era, Hellman was targeted by The Hollywood Blacklist and refused to name names.
By the 1970s, Hellman was widely regarded as a hero for having taken a stand against the blacklist. During this time, she published her memoirs. One chapter of her 1973 memoir Pentimento formed the basis for the 1977 film Julia, starring Jane Fonda as a young Lillian Hellman.
In 1979, Mary McCarthy accused Hellman of being a Consummate Liar and Hellman sued for defamation. McCarthy produced evidence of Hellman's dishonesty. Most notably, evidence mounted that the "Julia" chapter in Pentimento was Based on a Great Big Lie. Hellman died before the issue could be settled in court.
Although Hellman's writing is still respected, the controversy over her dishonesty went a long way to overshadowing and tarnishing her prior reputation as an anti-McCarthyite heroine, leaving her with a mixed legacy.
Works by Lillian Hellman with their own trope pages include:
- The Children's Hour
- The Little Foxes
- Watch on the Rhine (from her play)
- Julia (from a chapter of Pentimento)