The 30-year relationship between playwright Lillian Hellman and crime author Dashiell Hammett, hinted at in the 1977 film, "Julia," gets full exposure in the made-for-cable picture, "Dash and Lilly," making its world premiere 8 PM (ET) May 31 on A&E.
Kathy Bates, making her feature-length directorial debut, focuses her lens on Judy Davis and Sam Shepard as the sparring literary lovers who face personal and professional crises over the years, including scrutiny during the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunt of the late 1940 and early '50s.
It was Hellman who famously testified in that period that she would not cut her conscience to fit the fashion of the day, which was the naming of friends and colleagues who may have had leftist political affiliations.
Both chain-smokers and raucous drinkers who moved in literary circles that included Dorothy Parker (played in the picture by Bebe Neuwirth), Hellman penned such plays as The Little Foxes and Watch on the Rhine while Hammett was known for detective novels such as "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man."
Nick and Nora Charles, the high-living, hard-drinking married couple in "The Thin Man" (and in the Hollywood movies based on the story), were said to be inspired by the witty, bickersome Dash and Lilly. They were married to others when they met in 1930. The screenwriter is Jerry Ludwig, a former entertainment publicist who has penned scripts for "Columbo," "Hawaii Five-0" and "I Spy."
The movie also features David Paymer, Laurence Luckinbill, Zeljko Ivanek, Mark Zimmerman, Ned Eisenberg and Victor A. Young.
An encore presentation of the film will appear 9 PM (ET) June 5 on A&E.
Shepard is the actor-playwright who earned the Pulitzer Prize for Buried Child. His other works include True West, A Lie of the Mind, Fool for Love and more. His film acting credits include "The Right Stuff," "Frances," "Baby Boom," "Steel Magnolias" and more.
Neuwirth's stage appearances have included Lola in the revival of Damn Yankees and Velma in the revival of Chicago, both on Broadway.
Davis' film acting credits include "My Brilliant Career," "Celebrity," "Barton Fink" and "Husbands and Wives."
-- By Kenneth Jones