2 MONTROSE VOICE / JANUARY 16, 1987
Authors' Rights to be
Tested in 'Bell Jar' Trial
BOSTON (UPI)—Jury selection continued Thursday in a suit against the
makers of a 1979 film based on Sylvia
Plath's novel about suicide, The Bell
Jar. that pits the right of authors to
.express themselves against the individual's right to privacy.
The defamation suit is against the television movie, not the book, but the case
could have long-range implications for
writers of fiction who create characters
based on real people, a defense lawyer
said Wednesday, Jan. 14.
Jane Anderson, 55, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard
University Medical School, filed suit in
U.S. District Court. Jury selection,
expected to last several days, began
Anderson charged defamation of
character, invasion of privacy and
intentional infliction of emotional harm
as a result of the movie, in which a character Anderson alleges is based on her is
depicted as a lesbian.
The suit names Ted Hughes, the poet
laureate of England and the widower of
Plath, who killed herself in 196.'t.
Hughes, executor of Plath's estate, sold
motion picture rights to the book to a
number of parties.
Plath, in her bestselling 1961 book,
told the story of Esther Greenwood and
her long battle with mental illness,
which drove her to the brink of suicide.
A key character in the semi-
autobiographical book was named Joan
Gilling. Gilling developed a close relationship with the Greenwood character.
Harry Manion, Anderson's lawyer,
said Anderson, who was a friend of
Plath's, was identified by name as the
model for Joan Gilling in two biographies of Plath published in the 1970s.
Anderson objected in the suit to the
movie, portions of which she claimed
were "careless" and contained elements
not included in the book. She claimed no
objection to the book.
She specifically objected to portions
of the movie that depicted homosexual
advances on the part ofthe Gilling character toward the Greenwood character.
"The defendants knew or should have
known they were dealing with autobiographical material. Then they made up
a scene in the movie that defamed my
client. Their behavior was careless,"
Defense lawyers responded that,
although the movie was autobiographical, the Gilling character was entirely
"Our position is that this case is based
on fiction and that no one is identified,
no one is harmed," said Hughes' lawyer,
Victor Kovnor. "(The suit) is a very troublesome intrusion on the rights of free
expression by authors to create characters based in part on their life's experience."
He said Hughes had never heard of
Anderson until the suit was filed in
Alexander Pratt, lawyer for the other
defendants, said, "The movie is a fic-
tionalization of a fictional novel. There
are two layers of fiction."
Where Your Friends Live
3 pools, free
paid and new
Only 20 Units Left
Another Fine linger Property
Judge Robert Keeton said he expected
the trial to last three weeks.
The suit, which names AVCO
Embassy Pictures and the television
movie's director and screenwriter
among the 14 defendants, asks $6 million in damages and an end to the
broadcasting and distribution of the
Call 529-8490 and
You will be in Next
Week's Newspaper of
I American Heart
Total lawn maintenance
• Trash Remoual
• Chimney Sweep
• Tree Ser.ice
• Stumps Removed
• Complete Sprinkler Systems
TOM II VI BU* I IJJHAN
E___UE CREENWt. H
Thurs.-Sun., January 8-25
Student Rush 1/2 hr. before curtain-