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DEMOPOLIS: LILLIAN HELLMAN

Lillian Hellman
                Lillian Hellman

I belonged, on my mother's side, to a banking, storekeeping family from Alabama and Sunday dinners were large, with highspirited talk and laughter from the older people of who did what to whom... Lillian Hellman

Hellman's Alabama family settled in Demopolis where her great grandfather Isaac Marx, a European immigrant arriving in 1844, built a business dynasty for his sons. The Marxes remained gracious contributors to the Demopolis community well into the 20th Century. But after Hellman based her famous plays The Little Foxes and Another Part of the Forest on them, they reacted uncharitably to any mention of the prodigal playwright.

Hellman was a childhood visitor to the scenic town cradled in the fork of two rivers. She remembered local landmarks for her dramatic settings in both Foxes and Forest. Mansions Lyon Hall and Bluff Hall inspired the play's Lionnet. Still occupying a major corner of downtown Demopolis, her great grandfather's Marx Bank is the actual setting for the greedy family machinations within Foxes.

  

Director William Wyler's film version of The Little Foxes starring Bette Davis as Regina Hubbard Giddens, a role influenced by Hellman's grandmother Sophie Marx, received nine Oscar nominations in 1941. Tallulah Bankhead successfully portrayed Regina, a post war Scarlett O'Hara, during the play's first Broadway run in 1939. Depicting the young Regina in Hellman's Another Part of the Forest, actress Patricia Neal earned Broadway's first Tony Award in 1947 for her performance in the Demopolis based play.

  Hellman's mother Julia Newhouse of Demopolis.

Demopolis descendant Margaret Tallichet Wyler, wife of the famed "Foxes" director and a Southern Literature devotee.

Tallulah Bankhead, Broadway's Regina in "The Little Foxes".

Bette Davis, Hollywood's Regina in "Foxes" (courtesey MGM).

 

Hellman's mother Julia Newhouse
of Demopolis

Demopolis descendant Margaret
Tallichet Wyler, wife of the famed
"Foxes" director and a Southern
Literature devotee
(courtesy Wyler Family)

Tallulah Bankhead, Broadway's
Regina in "The Little Foxes"

Bette Davis, Hollywood's Regina in
"Foxes" (courtesy MGM)

Margaret Tallichet, the descendant of another enterprising immigrant family of early Demopolis, married William Wyler. Lillian Hellman and the Wylers were lifelong friends and colleagues in Hollywood. Demopolis celebrated its connections to Hellman and the Wylers with the Hellman Wyler Festival in 2007. A primary sponsor of the Southern Literary Trail, the Marengo County Historical Society (334.289.0282) and its dedicated members preserve history with projects and activities that keep the region's rich heritage vibrant and contemporary for historians and the public alike. The Society has preserved Lyon Hall, as it was left by its last occupants and descendants of the Lyon Family. It has also restored Bluff Hall to reflect its storied antebellum origins. Both mansions are opened for tours and serve as hosts for memorable cultural programs. See Travel Info for complete information.

  Bluff Hall, an inspiration for Lionnet in "Foxes". Marx Bank built by Hellman's family on a corner of downtown Demopolis.
    Lyon Hall, another inspiration for Lionnet.
 
 

Bluff Hall, an inspiration for Lionnet in "Foxes"

Marx Bank built by Hellman's family on a corner
of downtown Demopolis

Lyon Hall, another inspiration for Lionnet

 

 

  Gaineswood, completed in 1860 Hellman and "Foxes" film director William Wyler Historical Marker in the Public Square  
 

Gaineswood, completed in 1860

Hellman and "Foxes" film director
William Wyler
(courtesy Wyler Family)

Historical Marker in the Public Square

 


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