John Osborne: Biography, Life & Literary Works

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His Parentage

      John Osborne, the dramatist was born in 1929 in a London suburb to Thomas Godfrey Osborne, a commercial artist and Nellie Beatice, a barmaid. His father died at the time when World War II was gaining momentum leaving behind his twelve years old son John. That was the period of uncertainty. After his father’s demise Osborne was sent to Belmont College, Demon in the west of England where he was far from happiness. He left school at the age of twenty in 1949 and thus ended his formal education.

His Aptitude for Writing Plays

      In 1948 Osborne worked as a tutor to juvenile actors in a touring stage group. Developing a keen interest in the theatre, John Osborne tried his talent in acting and made his debut at the Empire Theatre in Sheffield in a play called No Room at the Inn. He became an "actor cum manager cum play" weight. His first play The Devil Inside Him written in collaboration with Slella Liden was produced in 1950. His second play written in collaboration with Anthony Creighton was produced in 1955. He collaborated again with Anthony Aopkins to write Epitaph for George Dollar, a play which has been quite popular on the stage even since.

A Distinguished Dramatist and His Recognition

      With the play Look Back in Anger, Osborne carved a niche for himself as a dramatist in the world of theatre. He got the recognition as a dramatist of outstanding promise who was capable of writing with a searing passion. Osborne in his plays, demonstrates a remarkable capacity for dramatizing the dilemma and the sense of inadequacy felt by the British youth in the fifties. He presents a small group of young people of his contemporary society living in a sorry state of emotional and physical squalor. Because of its subject matter, it appealed to the audience and the youths identified themselves with the hero of the play.

His Marriages

      Osborne married an actress by the name of Pamela Elizabeth in the year 1952 which was dissolved in August 1957. He married Mary Ure another actress in the same year. His second marriage too did not last long. After his divorce in 1963, he married Penelope Gilliatt, a journalist. The third marriage too ended in 1967 and the next year he married Jill Bennett for the fourth time.

His Important Works

      Osborne continued his career as an actor-cum-dramatist. He acted in Don Juan, Death of Satan, Cards of Identity and The Good Woman of Steznan. The plays he wrote during the ten years following the first production of Look Back in Anger included The Entertainer, The world of Paul Slickey, Luther, and Inadmissible evidence, besides some for television.


(Including Adaptations and Plays for Television)

The Devil Inside Him (1950) in collaboration with Stella Linder

Personal Enemy (1955), in collaboration with Anthony Creighton.

Look Back In Anger (1956)

The Entertainer (1957)

Epitaph for George Dillon (1957) in collaboration with Anthony Creighton

The World of Paul Slickey (1959)

A Subject of Scandal and Concern, televised in 1960 and produced on the stage in 1962 Luther (1961)

The Blood of the Bamberges (1963)

Under Plain Cover (1963)

Tom Jones (1969), an adaptation of Fielding’s novel for a film Inadmissible Evidence (1969)

A Bond Honoured (1966), an adaptation of a play by Hope de Vega. A Patriot for Me (1966)

The Hold in Amsterdam (1968)

Time Present (1968)

The Right Prospectus (1968), a play for television very like a whole (1970), a play for television

West of Snez (1971)

Aedda Gabler (1972) an adaptation of the play by Ibsen.

The Gifts of Friendship (1972), a play for Television

A Sense of Detachment (1972)

A Place Calling itself Rome (1973)

The End of the Old Cigar (1975)

The Picture of Donian Gray (1976) an adaptation of the story by Oscar Wilde.

Look Back In Anger, The Entertainer and Inadmissible evidence have been made films.

His Awards and Honours

      In 1956, John Osborne was given the Evening Standard Award as the most promising playwright of the year for Look Back In Anger. In 1957 the same play was produced in New York and Osborne was given the Drama Critics Award for the best play of 1957. Luther was produced in New York in 1963 which received the Newark Drama Critics Award and the Tony Award for the best play. In 1969 he received the Film Academy Oscar Award for his screen play of Tom Jones.

Osborne as a Film Script Writer

      Apart from producing stage play John Osborne took a serious interest in the cinema. His script for Tom Jones earned him the prestigious Academy Awards and also roused expectations. The film version of some of his plays has been quite successful. He was not only a successful dramatist but also a recognized scriptwriter whose works have been appreciated by awards.

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