Autograph Letter Signed from Lillian Hellman to producer and director Herman Shumlin

N.p. N.p., Circa 1944. Three page Autograph Letter Signed from writer Lillian Hellman to producer and longtime friend Herman Shumlin. Letter written in Fairbanks, Alaska, circa 1944.

Shumlin first met Hellman, then an aspiring playwright working as a reader in Shumlin's office, in 1934. Sensing Hellman's talent after reading early drafts of "The Children's Hour," Shumlin agreed to produce and direct the play. The resultant production, Hellman's debut, would launch the playwright into the public eye, and nearly won her the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Shumlin would go on to produce and direct four other Hellman plays, including "The Little Foxes," "Watch on the Rhine," and "The Searching Wind."

Hellman received a passport to Russia in August, 1944, as part of a goodwill program managed by the Society of Cultural Relations with the Soviet Union. On the first leg of the journey Hellman flew from Hollywood to Seattle to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she was picked up by the Russians for the voyage to Moscow. The story of her trip later became the subject of her article "Metropole Hotel," published in the Spring 1969 issue of the "Partisan Review."

Hellman's letter to Shumlin begins with an entreaty to forget a previous dispute, and goes on to describe a recent visit to the Kobers in Los Angeles—presumably referring to her ex-husband Arthur Kober and his second wife, Margaret Frohnknecht. She also notes that "[Hal] Wallis and I worked quietly together [...] The conferences about the picture went well—he is a shrewd man, sometimes too slick about stories". Wallis was then in works with Hellman on a film adaptation of her 1944 play "The Searching Wind," which would be released in 1946.

Hellman then briefly discusses the difficulties of her time in Fairbanks, as well as her trepidation about the trip to come: "There is no sense not saying that I'm scared. I am. I will try to cable you when I reach where I hope I will reach." Her fears would ultimately be justified—Hellman later described the flight across Russia as one of the most physically demanding journeys of her life, the result of a rudimentary plane that made frequent stops due to bad weather and lack of heating in the passenger cabin. She would stay in Moscow from November 5, 1944, to January 18, 1945.

Altogether, an engaging and illuminating letter from a tumultuous time in the life of one of the foremost playwrights of the twentieth century.

6.25 x 10 inches. Three manuscript leaves, rectos only. Near Fine.

[Book #160051]