The School For Scandal: Gossip From Some Modern Productions
Probably the most famous modern production of The School For Scandal was the Old Vic version of the 1940s, if only because it was the first play that Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh did together in London. He played Sir Peter Teazle to her Lady Teazle.
They were the most glamorous theatrical couple in the world when they took The School For Scandal on a tour of Australia in 1948 in repertory with Richard III and Thorton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. Though Olivier and Leigh were treated like royalty, the tour was grueling and took a personal toll. “Somehow, somewhere on this tour I knew that Vivien was lost to me,” Olivier wrote many years later. While in Australia, Olivier also learned that he and Ralph Richardson had been deposed as directors of the Old Vic. To top even that, while doing a dance in The School For Scandal, Olivier’s knee gave out, and it required immediate surgery. A crane had to lift him in a stretcher to get him aboard the ship that took him home to England.
Probably the greatest modern triumph for The School For Scandal was with Olivier’s friend, Ralph Richardson, in the role of Teazle. His 1962 production at the London Haymarket was a long-running success. Towards the end of the run, John Gielgud joined the cast, playing Joseph Surface. The production toured the U.S., ending with a seven week run in New York. By then, Richardson and Gielgud had perfected the “screen scene” as a masterpiece of comic timing. Though they would act together many times through the years, this was one of their most brilliant successes.