Irwin Gilbert Shaw was the son of William Shamoroff, a Russian Jewish immigrant, and Rose Tompkins Shamoroff, an American-born daughter of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. In 1923 his father, having begun an initially successful career as a real estate developer, changed the family name to Shaw. The Great Depression destroyed William Shaw’s business; after 1932 he was unable to support his family.
Irwin Shaw attended tuition-free Brooklyn College, graduating with a B.A. in 1934, while holding various temporary positions. The most profitable of these was writing dialogue for the Dick Tracy and The Gumps radio serials, an activity permitting him to provide for his parents and younger brother while learning techniques he would put to effective use in his plays and short stories. In 1935 Shaw heard of a playwrighting contest sponsored by the New Theater League; although he did not win the prize, the group staged his play. The one-act Bury the Dead opened for two performances, March 14-15, 1936, before moving to another theater for an extended run. The experimental antiwar drama won almost universal praise, and the twenty-three-year-old author became an overnight celebrity, hailed as a major new American playwright.
Success brought Shaw a contract to write film scripts for Hollywood, the first of many occasions when he would use lucrative earnings from film work to support his serious writing and to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. In Hollywood, during the summer of 1936, Shaw met and fell in love with a young starlet, Marian Edwards. After living together for several years, they married on October 13, 1939. Their son Adam was born on March 27, 1950.
While working on his radio serials, Shaw began writing short stories. Appearing in The New Yorker, Esquire, and other magazines in the late 1930’s and 1940’s, they established his reputation as a master of short fiction. In 1939 he published the first of a dozen collections of short stories, winning praise from critics....
(The entire section is 835 words.)