top of page

Helene Hanff

HH on Tape and TV


Helene on BBC Desert Island Discs

Saturday 19 December 1981

The Desert Island Discs show has been running on BBC Radio for decades. The premise is that you are stranded on a desert island - which 8 pieces of music would you want to have with you, plus one book, and one luxury item?

Helene's musical choices were:

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach/Stokowski - Toccata and Fugue In D Minor

  2. George Frideric Handel - Comfort ye my people from Messiah)

  3. Samuel Barber - Knoxville: Summer of 1915

  4. Ralph Vaughan Williams - Serenade To Music

  5. London Symphony Orchestra - Coronation March

  6. Stephen Sondheim - The Miller's Son

  7. Johann Sebastian Bach - St Matthew Passion - Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder

  8. Igor Stravinsky - The Firebird


Book - Memoirs by Louis De Rouvroy

Luxury item - Scrabble

Helene on the Dick Cavett Show, USA - 1981


Many people have emailed me to tell me that, having seen the film of '84' starring Anne Bancroft as Helene, they hear only Anne's voice in their heads when they read Helene's books. Many have said that they would love to know what Helene's actual voice sounded like. Well, to all those who wondered, your luck is in! :-)


In October 1981, Susan Sieffermann in Decatur, Illinois, turned on her tv one evening and heard Helene's name, and ran to grab a cassette tape and a tape recorder. Below are a few snippets from the half hour television interview which Susan saw - the Dick Cavett show.

Susan sent me a copy of this tape, and I captured some of it digitally so that others can hear Helene's voice and natural humour for themselves.

Sadly, Susan died in 2005 and, like Helene, she is very sadly missed by all who knew her, including her fellow Hanffians.


Some clips from Susan's recording:

Helene on success - 97 KB - 9 secs

How it came about that Helene finally

went to London - 321 KB - 30 secs

About Helene's radio show in the UK in

the early 1980s - part one - 439 KB - 41 secs

About Helene's radio show in the UK in

the early 1980s - part two - 517 KB - 48 secs

Typing in the middle of a heatwave without

air-conditioning- 465 KB - 43 secs

Helene's thoughts on what her neighbour

might have seen - 438 KB - 41 secs

Helene on the Terry Wogan Show, UK- 1980s


Helene appeared on two occasions on the "Wogan" show on BBC television in the 1980's.

I've managed to obtain copies of these on videotape, and hopefully one day I will be able to digitise them so that I can upload clips here.


Watch this space!

Helene Hanff on - Desert Island Discs
00:00 / 00:00
Heatwave -
00:00 / 00:00
Success -
00:00 / 00:00
London -
00:00 / 00:00
Radio - part 1
00:00 / 00:00
Radio - part 2
00:00 / 00:00
Neighbour -
00:00 / 00:00
bottom of page