Lillian Hellman’s plays sizzle in edgy familial dysfunction, and swelter in Southern heat. In The Little Foxes, the carnivorous, sly, comic-evil Hubbards came from her Alabama family. When Hellman was asked if she purposely put family history into the play, Hellman replied: “oh yes. Part of my family threatened to sue when they saw the play.”
But she indicts us all. Hellman wrote: “I had meant the audience to recognize some part of themselves in the money-dominated Hubbards; I had not meant people to think of them as villains to whom they had no connection.” The Dámaso Rodriguez production lets the audience know that we are implicated. Hellman’s theme is clear in the action and the precise dialogue: “a dark devilish piece about a Dixie Hedda Gabler, grabbing its audiences by the scruffs of their necks and giving them a look at the predatory human animal” (NYT, 1939). Hellman made no apologies for Foxes’ melodramatic character. As Billy Wilder said, “oh melodrama—that’s what you call it when you care what happens next.” And watching a Hellman play, the audience cares.
I’ve seen six or seven productions of Foxes, counting the excellent Wyler film. The play’s script is nearly full proof. Hellman wrote at least ten drafts, and Dashiell Hammett excised any fluff with what Hellman called his editorial “paring knife.” She loved The Little Foxes the best of all her plays; it signified her success as a powerful story teller and the most “relentless” of women playwrights.
Early critics complained that Hellman was an “inquisitor” with characters and themes “too relentless for real life.” I say, The Little Foxes’ characters live in the headlines of the twenty-first century.
-Deborah Martinson, PhD. Author of Lillian Hellman: A Life with Foxes and Scoundrels.
DON'T MISS OUT! Deborah will be at the talk-back discussion following the screening of the 1941 film, The Little Foxes at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
Monday, June 15th @ 7:30p.m.
Tickets $10 - Playhouse patrons receive an extra $2.00 off!
Call (323) 461-2020 x 112 to redeem discount. Ask about special group rates. www.americancinematheque.com