John Osborne Biography
Life and Literature of John Osborne
John Osborne was born in London, England in 1929 to Thomas Osborne, an advertisement writer, and Nellie Beatrice, a working-class barmaid. His father died in 1941. Osborne used the proceeds from a life insurance settlement to send himself to Belmont College, a private boarding school. Osborne was expelled after only a few for attacking the headmaster.
He received a certificate of completion for his years upper school work, but never attended a college or university. After returning home, Osborne worked several odd jobs before he found a niche in the theatre. He began working with Anthony Creighton’s provincial touring company where he was a stagehand, actor, and writer. Osborne co-wrote two plays – The Devil Inside Him and Personal Enemy before writing and submitting Look Back in Anger for production.
The play, written in a short period of only a few weeks, was summarily rejected by the agents and production companies to whom Osborne first submitted the play. It was eventually picked up by George Devine for production with his failing Royal Court Theater. Both Osborne and the Royal Court Theater were struggling to survive financially and both saw the production of Look Back in Anger as a risk. After opening night, the play received mixed reviews.
It did receive a handful of glowing reviews from several influential theatre critics, however, and Osborne was soon pronounced to be one of the most promising young playwrights in British theatre. In the late 1950s, Osborne was approached by Lawrence Olivier, the famous actor, about writing and producing a play for him. Osborne wrote The Entertainer, a play that metaphorically explores the decline of the British empire through the lens of a failing music hall. Olivier played the lead role in the production and the play received critical acclaim.
Osborne would continue to write for the stage through the 1960s. He produced a number of critical and commercially successful works including Luther, a play based on the life of Martin Luther. In 1963, Osborne won an Academy Award for his screen adaptation of Tom Jones. Osborne continued to work in the artistic and entertainment worlds through the 1970s and ’80s. He wrote plays but also ventured into writing screenplays, television adaptations, and autobiography.
Osborne made several appearances as an actor during this period. He starred in several popular Hollywood films including Get Carter and Flash Gordon. Later in life, he received numerous awards for his work including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writer’s Guild in Britain. Osborne died at the age of 65 from complications related to diabetes on 24 December 1994.
Some Notable Works of Osborne
John James Osborne was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and critic of The Establishment. The stunning success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theatre. In a productive life of more than 40 years, Osborne explored many themes and genres, writing for stage, film and TV. His personal life was extravagant and iconoclastic.
He was notorious for the ornate violence of his language, not only on behalf of the political causes he supported but also against his own family, including his wives and children though they often gave as good as they got. He came onto the theatrical scene at a time when British acting was enjoying a golden age, but most great plays came from the United States and France.
British plays remained blind to the complexities of the postwar period. Osborne was one of the first writers to address Britain’s purpose in the post-imperial age. He was the first to question the point of the monarchy on a prominent public stage. During his peak (1956-1966), he helped make contempt an acceptable and now even cliched onstage emotion, argued for the cleansing wisdom of bad behaviour and bad taste, and combined unsparing truthfulness with devastating wit.
John Osborne (1929 – 1994), an English dramatist who first came into prominence when his play, Look Back in Anger, was produced at the Royal Court Theatre by the English Stage Company. It was their first outstanding success, and the date of the first night, 8 May 1956, is something of a landmark in the modern theatre.
Osborne, who was for some years an actor, making his first appearance in 1948, and remaining a member of the Royal Court company until 1957, wrote a number of plays, including The Entertainer (1957) in which Laurence Olivier gave an outstanding performance as the seedy music-hall artiste Archie Rice.
Epitaph for George Dillon (1958) and The World of Luther (1959) were less successful, but Luther (1961), which had its first production by the English Stage Company at the Theatre des Nations in Paris, with Albert Finney in the name-part, again caused something of a stiff.
In 1962 Osborne was responsible for a double bill at the Royal Court, but none of these plays reached the standard of his first two, which have been translated and acted in cities all over the world. In 1964 Inadmissible Evidence, in which Nicol Williamson gave a fine performance, was a success. A year later, A Patriot for Me was refused a license by the Lord Chamberlain and was, therefore, staged privately (by Tony Richardson) for members of the English Stage Society Club. The chief part was played by a famous Swiss actor, Maximilian Schell, making his first appearance in England. Osborne won an Oscar for his screenplay of Tom Jones.