MovieChat Forums > Julia (1977) Discussion > Julia a work of total fiction

Julia a work of total fiction


If you don't mind a long read, here's a 1984 article from Commentary that pretty well demolishes Hellman and exposes all the lies in "Julia" and the story on which it was based, "Pentimento."

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/julia-other-fictions-by-lillian-hellman/

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That's true. Lillian Hellman's best plays The Children's Hour and The Little Foxes where about greed and mendacity, characteristics she exhibited to an extreme. She not only fabricated her involvement with "Julia" she made errors that a good writer would have avoided just by doing a little background research. For example, trains bound for Berlin from Paris pass through Belgium, so the scene at the Franco-Germany border was obviously fabricated. Nazi Germany had very stringent controls on taking money out of the country, but none on bringing it into Germany. Thus, the mission in which she smuggled dollars to the underground (in a fur hat, yet) would have been completely superfluous.

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I am a railway employee (in Britain)and know that there are usually more than one route to anywhere by trains.
It is true that some of the route maps show trains Paris-Berlin going through Belgium (and Luxembourg)but others show a route to the south of Belgium,so there could have been a French-German border crossing.
I am sure there was more than one route from Paris-Berlin.

If you don't know how railways work they are not usually routed in straight lines,they are planned to go through as many cities as possible,international trains would be formed by parts of trains joining up,this still happens today,so a journey from Paris to Berlin could use various routes.


You might have done a lot of research on train routes in europe in the 1930s but even if you had you have to say that for the sake of drama a French/German border crossing makes sense.

As for the money issue,several people on here have said that nazi Germany did not have laws against people bringing money on the country,I doubt this,do we really think that the German government was happy if COMINTERN agents brought in Soviet funds to be used against the government?

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Why do you supposed Germany invaded France twice through Belgium? It's the most direct route. In the 1930s there was less transnational travel between countries, particularly between traditional adversaries, such as Germany and France. In Paris there are several large rail stations (Gare de Est, Gare de Austerlitz, etc) and if someone bought a train ticket to Berlin the Paris-Berlin train travels there via Belgium. In order to go some other route would require pointless and inconvenient changes of train (which Hellman never mentioned in her account).

It's a matter of record that Nazi Germany welcome foreign currency while imposing severe restrictions on taking money out. If you choose to ignore that in order to exonerate Lillian Hellman, that's your business. Your entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.

There's also the small matter of the fact that the character of Julia was eerily similar to Muriel Gardiner, who shared an attorney with Hellman, but who never actually met her. The likelihood that there were two American women involved in the anti-fascist underground in Germany and Austria in the late 1930s is infinitesimally small.

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Germany invaded France twice through Belgium but they did not do so by train.
Europe was and is covered by train lines and as I said there are different ways to get somewhere.

Most trains Paris-Berlin would have gone direct but there would be other routes.
In any case for dramatic reasons the film makers might have chosen a France/German border crossing

Germany and France were traditional enemies no doubt but there was a lot of travel between the 2 nations and prior to the 1950s or even 1960s the majority of that travel would have been by train.


I am not saying that Hellman's story is true but was trying to say that people like Julia did exist (anti fascist activists,Comintern couriers,front organisations such as International Red Aid).


You can't prove that the train they are on went via Belgium,there would be other routes which might have been cheaper and less obvious to use if you thought that the German authorities were watching you.

You say that the currency situation is a matter of record,it may be but you don't give a source.
It may be that the German government was happy to have people bring money into Germany,but don't you mean legally for legal uses?
They would not doubt monitor what people did with the money they deposited and so the Comintern or the GRU were not going to put money in a bank if the money was being used to support illegal activity.

You might be right and I might be wrong,I don't claim to be an expert on the period or on international train routes between the wars,but I have studied european history of this period and I make a living on the railway and have travelled all over europe (for free).

I am not a railfan or a railway historian(although I do know a bit about railway operations and railway history and have a history degree).

I am not sure you know much about the situation in Europe in the 1930s,the economic depression,the way democratic politics seemed not to offer solutions so some people turned to extreme solutions (communism,fascism).
Nazis in power in Germany from 1933
The Spanish Civil war(1936-1939) attracted many people to communism.
The threat of cummunism made some people turn to the right.


The Soviet Union sponsored foreign communists movements ,some underground,there was an organisation called the COMINTERN which did employ people like Julia to smuggle money,valuable items such as jewels.
There was a front organisation called INTERNATIONAL RED AID which raised money for pro communists who had been imprisoned.
The USSR also had intelligence agencies working in europe,using both professional spies and sympathetic local communists.

All of the above is a matter of historical record,it seems that Hellman did not actually know someone like JULIA,but such people did exist.

Many films are not historically accurate ,partly due to bad research or because the people who make the film don't care about accuracy or I think most often that the dramatic telling of the story is more than satisfying pedants like you and me.

I am not soft on communism and I have no great love for Hellman or her kind but I do like the film because it covers my favorite period of history.

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I think the big issue here is Hellman's mendacity, not her politics (even though I take exception to her politics, and it's hard sometimes to separate the two- so many of her lies involved misrepresenting her own politics, or those of her critics). I think there very little doubt that she patterned the character of "Julia"after Muriel Gardiner, whom she had never met. Secondly, while there was an anti-fascist underground in Germany and Austria in the 1930's, there were very few Americans involved in it, and it's fatuous to suggest that the another American woman so closely resembling Muriel Gardiner in the German underground (although Vanessa Redgrave was cast as Julia, Hellman herself identified "Julia" as an American). There were few American expatriates in Germany (most of them lived in Britain or France) and most of them were either representatives of the US government or American corporations (Ford, GM, IBM,Coca Cola) with operations in Nazi Germany. Sadly, most of these people were either sympathetic to the Nazis, or were accommodated to them.

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There's much to admire in her politics. She was anti-fascist and she was outspoken against HUAC. Yes she appropriated someone's life as her own for "Julia" and was fairly criticized for it, but it made for a good movie in the same way that "Papillion" did.

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She also tried very hard to keep Dorothy Parker's estate from going to the NAACP.

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Next people will be tryig to say Fargo by the Coen Brothers was not based on a "true story"

Don't hyperventilate, I am well aware it was fiction even though the opening says its based on a true story.




I don't know everything. Neither does anyone else

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What was really outrageous was her lawsuit against Mary McCarthy for libel. Strictly speaking McCarthy's comment on the Dick Cavett show that "Everything [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and ' and 'the'" was obviously untrue, but the figurative meaning (that Hellman was often dishonest and mendacious, and certainly prone to self aggrandizement) was dead on accurate. She knew that McCarthy did not have the funds to pursue a protracted legal battle (the case was still in litigation when Hellman died) and that her suit had a chilling effect on free speech.

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LOL @

Don't hyperventilate, I am well aware it was fiction even though the opening says its based on a true story.


It's based on a TRUE story. Julia is based on the real life of millionairess Muriel Gardiner.

There's 2 books based on the REAL LIFE of "Julia" & they are as follows:

Muriel's War: An American Heiress In The Austrian Resistance by Sheila Isenberg published by , Palgrave in 2010, and Code Name "Mary": Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground by Muriel Gardiner published by Yale University Press in 1983.

This is a funny quote simply because the likelihood of there being 2 American women, who just happen to be millionaires living in Vienna in the late 30's studying medicine is slim & none as follows:

Many people believe that Hellmann based her story on Gardiner's life. Gardiner's editor cited the unlikelihood that there were two millionaire American women who were medical students in Vienna in the late 1930s.[3]


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muriel_Gardiner

So true! 

I want to read those 2 books. I bet they're good. Muriel Gardiner's autobio is out-of-print, but the other book isn't. 



"It's a good thing!"--Martha Stewart

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When I said don't hyperventilate I was referring to Fargo which says at the opening that it is based on a true story.

If the book is out of print, try Ebay or your local library. If the library doesn't have it, they can borrow it through interlibrary loan from another library.


Of course, most libraries are "Resource learning centers" these days. They are inhabited by street people getting out of the weather, men trying to access porn through the filters on the internet, teenagers copying each other's homework and angling for a date,and people filling out online resumes. Checking out an actual book comes dead last.

I don't know everything. Neither does anyone else

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LOL

You make me laugh.

I like you. 

I agree with you too about libraries.

Yea, I used to use ILL ALL of the time when I was in grad school & fresh out of undergrad. 

Thanks, for your feedback. 



"It's a good thing!"--Martha Stewart

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"She also tried very hard to keep Dorothy Parker's estate from going to the NAACP."

I wasn't aware of that. What I had heard was that despite her left wing politics her racial and sexual attitudes were often anything but progressive. In private conversations she would freely use words like *n-word* and *anti-semitic slur-rhymes with like* and "fag", and she was the very model of a self-hating Jew. She also claimed that New Orleans (her hometown) had progressive racial attitudes. Compared to where- rural Mississippi?

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She was also a die-hard Stalinist long after other lefties like Mary McCarthy had disavowed Stalin as a genocidal monster. Hellman just couldn't admit she had ever been wrong.

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Exactly. You wouldn't have to be a fanatical right wing supporter of Joe McCarthy to see that Hellman was a habitual, pathological liar, and that she slavishly supported Stalinism. Her departure from the CPUSA was not occasioned by a change of heart but the realization that the American Communist Party was completely ineffectual. For someone to have drawn that conclusion in 1950 was not exactly a sign of astute political acumen. She also smeared various individuals (Tallulah Bankhead, the Trillings) whose politics conflicted with hers. In what sense does that elevate her above McCarthyism?

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I've taken many trains from Paris to Germany without going through Belgium. What a bizarre argument.

Germany and France have a fairly long border, and a trip to Belgium would require a small detour. If one were taking a train from Paris to Berlin via Frankfurt am Main (and why not?) Belgium would be avoided.

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She claims to have left France via Paris to Berlin. The direct train travels through Belgium. If you are so invested in believing an overrated and mendacious Stalinist, that's your problem.

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And as a work of fiction, I think it's an interesting tale.

It was a terrific movie, one of my favorites.

Certainly, it is a blemish on Lillian Hellman to try to posit a work of fiction as fact. Too bad she didn't just claim it as fiction. It's a good story of friendship between 2 women during the war years. Stories of female friendship are still scarce so it doesn't bother me that this one was not based on fact.

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Hellman did not have to lie. It still would have been compelling fiction.

I would guess that since the real woman was very much alive at the time and making it a personal story led her to lie.

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So was Inglorious Basterds

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