Lillian Hellman moved an audience of over 400 today as she recalled some of be fear which the post-war atmosphere stilled in American artists. "Being lightened," she observed wryly, "is not good for writing."
The playwright filled her final talk at Loeb with personal reminiscence rather than abstractions about art or politics. "Most of us had never lived in a period of reaction before," she recalled. "There was a vast and nasty comedy going on... if only so many lives hadn't been ruined...."
Miss Hellman described how in 1947 she had challenged a Hollywood producer to explain the "morals clause" in a contract which he had offered her. "Do you really mean I can't have these people over for dinner?" she had asked.
"Well, that's not a nice way of looking at it," the film official had replied, as the playwright laughed in his face.
Thirteen years later, Miss Hellman encountered the same producer on a Hollywood street. "Lillian," he said, embracing her hypocritically, "I've missed you so deeply." And she laughed at him once more.
Although "those years took their toll" by making creativity a dangerous venture, there were other factors that made the playwright's lot no easier. Describing her reactions to critics, she said. "I'm not sure you can ever learn from them... they are frequently very puzzling people."
Somehow Miss Hellman's tone was anything but bitter, and frequent smiles punctuated her narrative. She concluded by reading a scene from Autumn Garden, her "most painful failure," but stressed a speech in which Benjamin Briggs realizes that a man is nothing more or less than what he accomplishes