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“The Skin of Our Teeth” Starring Vivien Leigh

Posted in - cinema archive, tv appearances on May 6th 2010 11 Comments

In 1959, Vivien Leigh gave her only full-length television performance in a filmed version of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth.  She plays Lily-Sabina Fairweather (often just called Sabina in the play), a character she had made famous nearly 15 years earlier on the London stage.  This adaptation was televised live by Granada Television and today is virtually non-existent.  We weren’t sure if it was still out there, or if it had been locked away in some vault, or worse yet, lost or destroyed.  So imagine my surprise and utter delight when I received an email from a visitor saying she had an archive copy and wanted to send it over!

Though there are three acts in Wilder’s play, only the first two are shown in this broadcast.  We aren’t sure if Act 3 was even filmed.  Vivien is a delight to watch.  In her original run back in 1945-46, critic James Agate described her as “half dabchick, half dragonfly.”  She brings the same flirtatiousness and comedic timing to this performance, and never misses a beat.  I really like how this TV production was staged, substituting the cameras for the audience.  I also think it’s funny how Vivien plays two characters:  Sebina, and Ms. Sommerset (the actress playing Sebina within the play).  Her accent swiftly changes from a Scarlett-Blanche hybrid to her normal posh British at the drop of a hat. George Devine provides good comedic support as Mr. Antrobus.

This program is truly a lost treasure (you can see it in 2 parts below), and I am very proud to be presenting it here at!

Submitted to by Marina.

Part 1

Part 2

As of now (11) people have had something to say...

  • Anthony Uzarowski - Reply

    May 6, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    This is so amazing, i wondered many times what happened to this recording. thank you so very much for putting it on here

  • amy alexander - Reply

    May 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Oh my, this is fantastic.

    Really, very special, for so many reasons…..

    Thornton Wilder of course wrote the quintessential All American play of the mid-20th Century, “Our Town.”

    But “The Skin of Our Teeth” was his stab at the avant garde, and it was popular in its time, if not widely embraced by the masses.

    Read or viewed these many years later, it IS a most strange offering by a “mainstream” American playwright…..and it is hard to imagine that Tallulah Bankhead opened it in its original Broadway run, playing the part that VLO plays in this version.

    Finally, yes, VLO is sublime in this. I honestly think she was an intellectual genius. Seriously, quite brilliant in the way of many from her era — British Girls born in to Colonialist families abroad — who were immersed in a highly intense degree of education from a very early age. I suspect you know — VLO spoke 5 or 6 languages fluently, and had a rich, far-ranging cultural radar and curiosity. It is tragic to consider that even more than acting, her intellectual pursuits may have been curtailed by the bipolar illness she had…..

    Anyhoo, wow. Thanks so much for putting this up; I am sending it around in my network, and touting your wonderful site throughout……


  • Cali - Reply

    May 15, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you so so much for posting this! I really enjoyed Vivien in both of the roles. Such a pleasure to watch :D

  • Kevin Stolz - Reply

    June 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you so much for posting “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Vivien Leigh was one of the most versatile and accomplished actresses of the 20th Century. Her performances linger in the mind and heart long after being seen. It is so sad that her ill health prevented her from leaving behind more treasures to be enjoyed. That is why it is so wonderful to suddenly have her performance as Lily/Sabina. Is there any chance that Act III exists and that with some prompting Granada Televiosion would release it on DVD?

    Thank you, Kevin

    • admin - Reply

      June 14, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Kevin,

      Good question! The person who sent this to me got it from the production company archive, so this might be all that still exists. However, Granada might very well have more. It might be worthwhile trying to contact them!

  • sylwia - Reply

    August 26, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I love it! love it! love it! Thank you so much for posting this!

  • David - Reply

    March 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    This was a fantastic watch. Vivien was really good and funny. A great hidden jem. Thank you.

  • Jo-Dee - Reply

    July 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Thanks so much for posting. Anyway that you can upload it to youtube?

  • Antony - Reply

    November 2, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Wonderful to see this. Great play . This and P.G. Wodehouse influenced later generations of absurdist playwrights. One commentator noted the influence of Skin of Our Teeth on Firesign Theater’s Don’t Crush That Dwarf Hand Me the Pliers. At one point the announcer in Dwarf reports: “Big light slated to appear in East.” Another related venue is surely Rocky and Bullwinkle (related in the sense that Wilder’s humor may have influenced Rocky and Bullwinkle’s sensibility, though these influences are always hard to pin down.

  • Leo - Reply

    April 18, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    I played George Antrobus in high school many millenia ago. What a joy and revelation to see it again. “I’ll be scalded and tarred if a man can’t get a little welcome when he comes home!” What a brilliant, forever timely piece of absurdist reality. Thanks for finding this and sharing. Would love to see Part three…

  • Andy - Reply

    May 6, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I’ve just watched this on YouTube. A treat to watch and Vivien is a delight. I too would love to see a possible third act, has anybody approached Granada about it?

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