Sam Sklair

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Sam Sklair (b. 1926) is a musician, composer, conductor and arranger.


Sam Jules Sklair was born in Newcastle upon Tyne on 25/08/1926 to Isaac Leonard Sklair (originally Sklar) and his second wife, Hetty Levvey. His father had come to the United Kingdom from the village of Nikolaevka in north-east Bulgaria, settling first in Glasgow and then in Northumberland. In 1939 his profession was given as manufacturer’s agent (curtains and drapery). Sam attended Whitley High School in Tyne and Wear and graduated from Durham University in 1945. He served in the Royal Artillery (General Service Corps) in 1947.

Soon afterwards he came to South Africa and in 1949 he and his orchestra were playing at the Stork Club in Johannesburg. Following that he became musical director at The Colony and performed with visiting musicians such as Johnny Dankworth, Petula Clark and Anne Shelton. It was during this time that he began composing film music for features and documentaries, both in South Africa and in what was then Rhodesia. These included four films for Jamie Uys and a number of documentaries for J. Blake Dalrymple. During the 1970’s he was mostly based in England and became the resident composer for many of the wildlife documentaries for Anglia Television’s Survival series, including classics such as The Flight of the Snow Geese (1972) and The Family That Lives With Elephants (1973).

A talented musician, he played a range of instruments, but was especially admired as a clarinetist. He was a popular bandleader and for many years headed the Sam Sklair Trio and/or Quintet. He also brought out a series of record albums featuring westernized African jazz. For the theatre he contributed music to Adam Leslie’s Mr. Skinflint (1969). In 1994 he married actress/singer Annabel Linder and they often performed together in musical shows at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton, amongst them When Annie Met Sam (1995) and Play it Again(1999). They also presented a jazz programme on Radio Today. Two children from his first marriage to Lili Cohen also embarked on musical careers. At one stage his daughter Sue Sklair was a member of the Keith Blundell Singers and, before moving to the United States her brother, Josh Sklair, was a member of Four Jacks and a Jill.

Film Credits

South African Features

1960 – Die Jagters (Director: Gordon Vorster), 1961 – Hans en die Rooinek / Sidney and the Boer (Director: Jamie Uys), 1965 – Tokoloshe (Director: Peter Prowse), 1965 – Diamond Walkers (Director: Paul Martin), 1965 – King Hendrik (Director: Emil Nofal), 1966 – All the Way to Paris / After You, Comrade (Director : Jamie Uys), 1968 – Dr Kalie (Director: Ivan Hall), 1969 – Dirkie / Lost in the Desert (Director: Jamie Uys), 1969 – Staal Burger (Director: Daan Retief), 1970 – Jannie Totsiens (Director: Jans Rautenbach), 1972 – Makulu / Rogue Lion (Director: Sven Persson), 1983 – Funny People II (Director: Jamie Uys), 1988 – Trackers / Bush Shrink (Director: Ivan Hall), 1995 – Cyborg Cop III (Director: Yossi Wein).

Southern African Documentaries

1959 – City of Contrasts (Director: Robert Hartford-Davis), 1960 – Saturday Parade / Saterdag Parade (Director: Errol Hinds), 1960 – The Captive River (Director: J. Blake Dalrymple), 196* - Zimbabwe Holiday (Director: Tim Spring), 196* - Sing to Their Glory / Lank Sal Hul Lewe! (Director: Ivan Hall), 1962 – Winged Assegaais (Director: John Roulet), 1962 – Return to the Wild (Director: Anker Atkinson), 1962 – The West Wits Line (Director: J. Blake Dalrymple), 1964 – Land of the Four Rivers (Directors: John Roulet & Anker Atkinson), 1964 – The See-Saw Years (Director: Dick Rayner), 1964 – Friendly Touchdown (Director: Italo Bernicchi), 1965 – Mining Copper (Director: John Roulet), 1965 – Rhodesian Rendezvous (Director: Pete Collins), 1965 – Luapula Journey (Director: John Roulet), 1966 – Gift of Knowledge (Director: John Roulet), 1966 – The Castle / Die Kasteel (Director: J. Blake Dalrymple), 1966 – The Light Ahead / Die Lig Vorentoe (Director: Antony Thomas), 1966 – A Million Cities of Gold (Director: Sven Persson), 1967 – Sandefjord: her voyage around the world (Director: Barry Cullen), 1968 – Zambian Heritage (Director: John Roulet), 1968 – The Gold Miners / Die Gouddelwers (Director: J. Blake Dalrymple), 1968 – Close to the Wind (Director: Dick Reucassel).


Rand Daily Mail (various issues)

Catalogues of the Western Cape Provincial Library Service

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm (1982)

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