The Skin Game (TLC)

   This flyer previewed for the second film, adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1931. This particular flyer shows Helen Haye, (Chloe) in the revival.

“When we began this fight, we had clean hands–are they clean’ now? What’s gentility worth if it can’t stand fire?” (Hillcrist)

The Skin Game is a play by written by John Galsworthy. It was first performed at the St Martins Theatre, in London in the year 1920. How do I know it was a good show? The Skin Game was included in Burns Mantle’s Best Plays of 1920-1921 list, it was made into a movie twice, and Galsworthy received a Nobel prize in literature in 1932; so we know the man had some skills. This was one of the first plays I was able to locate that took a darker approach to storytelling. Perhaps the world was in a darker state, as this play premiered just two years after WWI ended.

The Skin Game is a compelling story about extortion and secrets. When the rich threaten the poor’s property, the poor retaliate. In this case they unveil a dirty secret about the rich man’s (Mr.Hornblower) daughter Chloe. They discover she once supported herself as the “other party” in a divorce case. Throughout the play, she goes to different people begging them to keep the secret. She is pregnant and doesn’t want her husband to discover the scandalous news. In the end, her husband gets fed up with not knowing this secret and claims he’s going to leave Chloe. She responds by attempting to drown herself in a pond. Fortunately she is stopped and the play ends with her being brought inside. It is clear that she will live.

This play takes place directly after World War One. So when it was written, it was a current play. It exposed hardships societies were going through in real life. From 1919 to 1920 the Allied powers signed the treaties of Versailles, as well as several other documents bringing the war to an official end. The aftermath of World War I saw drastic political, cultural, and social change across Europe, Asia, Africa, and even in areas outside those that were directly involved. Old countries were abolished, new ones were formed, boundaries were redrawn, international organizations were established, and many new ideologies took a firm hold in people’s minds. Included in these ideologies were new views on art and theatre. Change brings about new plays and plots to dream up. John Galsworthy jumped on the opportunity and thus The Skin Game was born.

Dwyer, John J. “The United States and World War I.” LewRockwell. N.p., 26 Jan. 2004. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.

“The Skin Game (play).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.


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