Birth, Parentage, and Schooling
The son of Thomas Godfrey Osborne, a commercial artist, and Nellie Beatrice, a bar-maid, John Osborne was born in 1929 in a London suburb. Thomas Godfrey Osborne died when the boy John was hardly twelve and when World War II was gaining still greater momentum. The boy spent the remaining years of the war with his mother in London and was thereafter sent to boarding school in the west of England where he was far from happy. He left school in 1949, and that was the end of his education.
As Actor and Playwright
Having got interested in the theatre, John Osborne tried his talent for acting, making his debut at the Empire Theatre in Sheffield in a play called No Room at the Inn. Soon he became an actor-cum-manager-cum-playwright. He first wrote two plays in collaboration with others—The Devil Inside Him in collaboration with Stella Linden, and Personal Enemy in collaboration with Anthony Creighton. The first of these plays was produced in 1950, and the second in 1955. With Anthony Creighton, he afterwards collaborated again in the writing of Epitaph for George Dillon, a play which has been quite popular on the stage ever since.
It was with the play Look Back in Anger that Osborne made his reputation as a dramatist. Osborne was twenty-six when he wrote this play and submitted it to the English Stage Company which had newly been set up at the Royal Court Theatre and which decided to stage the play as its first by a new author. It was a happy decision by the English Stage Company. Surely, the play did not immediately establish itself as a hit, but soon its author was recognized as a promising dramatist.
Osborne continued his career as an actor-cum-dramatist. He appeared as an actor in Don Juan, in The Death of Satan, Cards of Identity, and in The Good Woman of Setznan. 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.
The Angry Young Man
Osborne thereafter produced more work which received approbation and applause, and he gained considerable popularity as a playwright. Because of Look Back in Anger and some other plays, he became widely known as an "angry young man". In fact, the first night of Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court Theatre on the 8th May, 1956 was regarded by many as a turning-point in the English theatre. And it is recognized by most that Osborne made a profound impact on his own generation and that his own success made possible the production of work by other young dramatists. Osborne has been the recipient of a number of awards and distinctions. He has also made his mark as a writer of film scripts, some of his own plays having been made into films too.
John Osborne is a much-married man. His first marriage, to actress Pamela Elizabeth, in 1951 was dissolved in 1957, and he married, in the same year, another actress, Mary Ure. His second marriage was dissolved in 1963, and in the same year he married Penelope Gilliatt, who was a journalist. The third marriage ended in 1967, and in 1968 he married for the fourth time, the bride this time being a girl called Jill Bennett.
II. PLAYS BY JOHN OSBORNE
(Including Adaptations and Plays for Television)
The Devil Inside Him (1950), in collaboration with Stella Linden.
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.
The Blood of the Bamberges (1963).
Under Plain Cover (1963).
Tom Jones (1964), an adaptation of Fielding's novel for a film.
Inadmissible Evidence (1964).
A Bond Honoured (1966), an adaptation of a play by Lope de Vega.
A Patriot for Me (1966).
The Hotel in
Time Present (1968).
The Right Prospectus (1968), a play for Television.
Very Like a Whale (1970), a play for Television.
Hedda 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
The End of Me Old Cigar (1975).
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1976), an adaptation of the story by Oscar Wilde.
The following plays by Osborne were made into cinema films:
Look Back in Anger