Manuscripts and Special Collections

On this day in the archives…

March 26th, 2011 at 12:03

March 26th marks the hundreth anniversary of the birth of the American playwright Tennessee Williams. Born Thomas Lanier Williams, he changed his name to Tennessee in 1939 after the state in which his father was born.

Williams is justifiably best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning plays, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire. One of his earliest short plays You Touched Me (1945), was based on a D.H. Lawrence short story of the same name and tells of a drunken naval captain, his adopted son and his daughter. The son attempts to free the girl from her trapped existence within the household of the naval captain in order to prevent her from growing up akin to her aunt. First performed the year after The Glass Menagerie, which had received enthusiastic reviews from the critics, You Touched Me was not a great success. The New York Times described it as ‘verbose and filled with lofty and long speeches; it needs editing as well as cohesion’, believing that ‘every playwright is entitled to a slight fall from grace occasionally. “You Touched Me!” is Mr. Williams’s’.

The D.H. Lawrence collection is one of the Designated Collections held by The University of Nottingham and amongst the correspondence of Freida Lawrence we find mentions of her excitement at the rehearsals and first performance of You Touched Me. In La Mc 2/2/1/10-11 she discusses the commencement of rehearsals and in December 1945 she remarks how rich she felt receiving $300 a week in royalties from the performances of You Touched Me. However, this was small fry compared to the $10000 she had been offered for the worldwide film rights to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as she notes in the same letter.

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