The Children’s Hour 02

Childrens hour

Lillian Hellman:

author of The Children’s Hour, a tragedy of colossal proportions.  Having had spent a large portion of her childhood in a boarding home run by her aunts she understood the intricacies of how gossip travels through such an organization.  This childhood is no doubt leading her to eventually write The Children’s Hour.

She led a very controversial life, from writing about homosexuality to having it illegally performed on stage in New York.  She then proclaimed herself as a communist in a time when it would become very dangerous to do so.

It is no surprise that open homosexuality in theater is relatively new.  At the time of The Children’s Hour release people were not so accepting.  Perhaps for the fear that talking about homosexuality or referring to it may cause members of the audience or their children to “catch it”.  This play being such a success however was the true surprise.  Such a surprise in fact, that the illegal nature of it was overlooked.

She went on to produce other works, but none as popular or successful as The Children’s Hour.  After spending time in Germany, having seen some of the irrational views of the Nazi, she returned to the United States, despite her desire to see fruition of the socialist agenda.  The curious questions that the Nazi began to ask about her Jewish ties led her years later to write, “Then for the first time in my life I thought about being a Jew.”

Every aspect of her life had controversy seeping from the pores and that suited the liberal views that she adopted.  Always an activist she, with the help of Ernest Hemmingway, hosted a benefit for anti-Nazi activists imprisoned in France.  When some of the sponsors were suspected of having communist ties, some others backed out from the benefit.  She wrote, “…of the seven resignations out of 147 sponsors, five were Jews. Of all the peoples in the world, I think, we should be the last to hold back help, on any grounds, from those who fought for us.”

A life of controversy, she was never satisfied with the state of things.  A script like The Children’s Hour suggests a life filled with turmoil.  If that was the life she wanted, she delivered.  She is an encouragement to all who are never satisfied.

Jonathan Spies

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