Segments in this Video

Beckett's Self in Writing (03:35)


Samuel Beckett believed his writing spoke best for him. He wrote "Krapp's Last Tape" with inspiration from his love of tape recorders and other autobiographical elements.

Youth (03:35)

Beckett was born in a Dublin suburb on April 13, 1906. Beckett's cousin offers anecdotes from their youth, calling Beckett "gentle" and "easily hurt." An excerpt from "Krapp's Last Tape" punctuates this segment.

Sports (02:55)

Beckett loved sports in his youth. He and his father often walked together. An excerpt from "Texts for Nothing" draws on this experience.

Education & First Journey to Paris (03:40)

Beckett was a brilliant student of modern language. He was 22 when he left Dublin for Paris, mirroring James Joyce's journey.

Career in Academia (04:11)

Beckett returned to Dublin in 1930 and was appointed Lecturer in French at Trinity College. He abruptly resigned from teaching in 1932, writing a poem (read here) as an indictment of scholarly life.

First Love (06:18)

Beckett's first love was his cousin Peggy Sinclair. He wrote about a river he frequented with Peggy in "Krapp's Last Tape." Their relationship was frowned upon by the family, and Sinclair died in 1933.

Father's Death (04:08)

Beckett traveled around Europe before returning jobless to his home near Dublin. His father died shortly after his arrival, which profoundly affected him and his writing.

Writing "Murphy" in London (02:28)

Beckett traveled to London, where he spent two miserable years and embarked upon writing his first novel, "Murphy."

Relationship with Family (04:24)

Beckett worried about his talent and sanity, and his family didn't always understand him. He had an especially strained relationship with his mother, which kept him away from home.

Departure from Dublin (03:08)

Beckett's participation in a banned book hearing in Dublin disgusted him and provoked his return to Paris.

Meeting Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil (02:50)

When Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil read about Beckett being stabbed in the paper, she paid him a visit and began a lifelong relationship.

World War II (03:24)

At the start of WWII, Beckett joined the resistance movement in France and then retreated to a remote part of the country to hide from the war.

Inspiration for "Waiting for Godot" (02:27)

Beckett wrote during WWII, gaining inspiration for "Waiting for Godot." He didn't discuss his efforts with the resistance.

Writing Epiphany in 1945 (04:04)

After WWII, Beckett cared for his mother in Ireland and experienced a "revelation." He began writing in French to escape from learned literary traditions.

WWII Landscape in Beckett's Writing (02:01)

Beckett joined the Irish Red Cross to travel back to Paris and worked in a hospital at Normandy. That landscape of desolation became a recurring setting in his work.

Post-War Paris & Writing (03:21)

Beckett and Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil returned to Paris when it was safe after the war, but life there had changed. He started writing more furiously than ever.

Mother's Death (01:48)

Beckett stayed with his mother through her final days, an experience that is reflected in "Krapp's Last Tape."

Publishing "Trilogy" & Pursuing Theatre (01:44)

Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil took Beckett's writing to publishers, eventually succeeding in publishing Beckett's "Trilogy." However, he felt more at home writing for the theatre, making his private world public on a stage.

Premiere of "Waiting for Godot" (04:32)

"Waiting for Godot" premiered at the Théâtre de Babylone and was directed by Roger Blin. One actor recalls his experience.

Fame from "Waiting for Godot" (01:47)

"Waiting for Godot" made its way across the world and struck a chord with Americans. It established Beckett's reputation and place in history, though he remained admittedly accustomed to failure.

Writing After "Waiting for Godot" (04:23)

Beckett was generous with his wealth earned from "Waiting for Godot," and life became easier. He sought solitude so he could write.

Spending Time with Family (02:08)

Beckett's niece recalls memories of her uncle and the lily pond he helped build in 1954.

BBC Radio Plays & "Krapp's Last Tape" (02:45)

Beckett's first post-war work in English was a radio play broadcast in 1957. It marked the beginning of a long creative relationship with the BBC. One of his one-act plays eventually became "Krapp's Last Tape."

Artist's Impression of Beckett (00:52)

One artist discusses the impact of Beckett's work on his own life.

Paris Home Circa 1960 (02:04)

In 1960, Samuel Beckett and Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil moved to a new flat in Paris. Beckett kept an uncluttered studio with windows that looked out on a prison.

Marriage to Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil (03:12)

Samuel Beckett and Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil quietly married. Those who knew Suzanne describe her personality and her role in Beckett's public life.

Writing & Producing "Film" (03:14)

Beckett made his only visit to America in 1964 to supervise "Film," a movie he wrote starring Buster Keaton. A passage from "Krapp's Last Tape" punctuates this segment.

Nobel Prize & Discomfort with Publicity (01:55)

In 1969, Beckett won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He avoided publicity by traveling to North Africa, always believing that his success was an accident.

Life in Paris & Genesis of "Not I" (02:42)

A stage designer who worked with Beckett remembers his fun, mischievous side. She recalls a particular night in Paris when Beckett expressed a wish to write a play with no action.

Producing "Not I" & "Happy Days" (05:03)

Actress Billie Whitelaw and other theatre professionals describe the process of collaborating with Beckett on the plays "Not I" and "Happy Days."

Portrait Artist on Drawing Beckett (01:25)

One artist describes his project of drawing portraits of Samuel Beckett and his fascination with Beckett's face.

Lifelong Pleasures & Pastimes (02:33)

Beckett remained a passionate sports and music fan throughout his life. His memories stayed with him through old age.

Writing in Later Years (01:32)

Most of Beckett's writing from 1970 on had the feeling of being his last work. Beckett described his own trajectory as a series of trials and failures.

Death (02:21)

Beckett grew depressed as his mobility grew limited. His wife, Suzanne, died, in the summer of 1989, and Beckett died 6 months later.

Credits: Samuel Beckett: As the Story Was Told (01:58)

Credits: Samuel Beckett: As the Story Was Told

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Samuel Beckett: As the Story Was Told

DVD Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



The life of Irish novelist, poet, and playwright Samuel Beckett is profiled in this two-part documentary: from his Dublin childhood, to his days in Paris, associating with Picasso and Chagall, to old age. Excerpts from a performance of the semiautobiographical Krapp’s Last Tape and previously unpublished letters tell the story, along with the remembrances of Beckett’s lifelong friend and publisher, Jerome Lindon, relatives, and others who knew him. This is a rare glimpse into the reclusive world of this literary giant, whose most famous work, Waiting for Godot, evokes with unnerving precision the cosmic despair and isolation of modern humankind. A BBC Production. (1 hour 46 minutes)

Length: 106 minutes

Item#: BVL7318

Copyright date: ©1996

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Recommended by Booklist and MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship.

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.