Elizabeth Kendall Hailey achieved notoriety and prestige at an early age with the publication of her youthful diaries, entitled The Day I Became an Autodidact. The work, which offers an unusually insightful account of the maturation of a young woman, is characterized by witty detachment.
Hailey is the elder of the two daughters of the writers Oliver Hailey (1932-1994) and Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. Oliver Hailey was the respected author of such plays as Father’s Day (1970) and For the Use of the Hall (1976). Elizabeth Hailey wrote the novel A Woman of Independent Means (1979), which was the basis for both a successful play and a successful television film. Hailey grew up in a happy, extended family that included not only her parents and sister but also Oliver Hailey’s mother and brother. Living and traveling together, the family offered strong support for Hailey’s intellectual development. Upon graduating from high school in Los Angeles in 1983, Hailey became, in her words, “an unpaid apprentice” to both her parents. Typing manuscripts, answering phone calls and keeping household accounts, traveling on book tours with her mother and attending the rehearsals and openings of her father’s plays, Hailey learned the craft and the business of writing firsthand. She also learned about the practical side of life. In 1983 Thomas Hailey, Kendall’s uncle, who handled the family business, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, from which it took him nine years to recuperate. Kendall Hailey took over his responsibilities during his convalescence.
One of her first chances to write came when her father asked that she write the first draft of a script for a television film (which was never produced). The film spanned several decades, including the 1930’s and 1940’s, with which Hailey was acquainted through her love of contemporary films.
In interviews Hailey has referred to herself...
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