Millard Lampell Papers, 1936-1966


Writer Millard Lampell was born January 23, 1919, in Paterson, New Jersey. He was a teenager during the hard and bitter years of the Depression, and the consciousness of those years affected his later writing. Graduating from Eastside High School in Paterson in 1936, Lampell then attended the University of West Virginia. At the university, Lampell contributed to the school paper and wrote several plays; he received a B.S. degree in 1940.

Lampell did not pursue a writing career immediately, however. In 1940 he left West Virginia for New York, joining Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Lee Hayes in a folk-singing group, the Almanac Singers. The Almanacs were “children of the Depression,” Lampell wrote. “We had learned our songs from gaunt, unemployed Carolina cotton weavers and evicted Dust Bowl drifters.” Lampell toured the country with the group for nearly two years. During this time he also began to write magazine articles, especially for The New Republic.

In the early forties, Lampell entered a medium that was to prove very successful for him--radio. During 1942 and 1943 he wrote scripts for several programs: Green Valley, U.S.A.; It's the Navy; Men, Machines and Victory; The Prudential Family Hour; and On the Beam. From 1943 to 1946 the young writer served in the U.S. Army Air Force, where he was assigned to write and direct official AAF radio programs on all major networks. For this work he received many commendations.

In 1944 Lampell's “The Lonesome Train” was produced on Columbia Presents Corwin. The cantata about the journey of the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln has become a classic of its genre and has been performed countless numbers of times throughout the world. In the same year Lampell also wrote “The Liberation Cantata,” commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.

The late forties saw Lampell continuing his radio work and trying new kinds of writing as well. In 1946 The Long Way Home, a volume of his radio plays, was published. In 1947 he did some writing for Theatre Guild of the Air, and in 1948 he journeyed to Hollywood where he worked on the script of an unproduced motion picture, Miss O'Brien. In 1949 he published a novel, The Hero.

Lampell continued his prolific output into the early fifties. He did a number of radio scripts, including programs for United Nations Radio, United Jewish Appeal, and Mental Health Program. In 1951 he wrote the screenplay for Saturday's Hero, an adaptation of his own novel.

But the fifties were also the years of the blacklist, and for more than ten years Lampell was unable to find work because he had refused to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He continued to write, but under pseudonym. It was not until 1960 that the blacklist began to lift for Lampell, and even then it was in theater rather than in broadcasting. In 1960 Kermit Bloomgarden produced The Wall, Lampell's adaptation of John Hersey's novel. Lampell's second play, Hard Travelin', premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington in 1965. During the sixties Lampell also received credit for three screenplays: Chance Meeting (1960), Escape from East Berlin (1962), and The Idol (1966).

The blacklist in television was not lifted for Lampell until 1964. Then he wrote “No Hiding Place” for David Susskind's Eastside, Westside; the show won several major awards. In 1966 his original drama, “Eagle in a Cage” for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, won the year's Emmy Award.

Millard Lampell at this writing [1971] resides in Bloomsbury, New Jersey.