Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
John Osborne grew up in Fulham, Ventnor, and Surrey, leading a suburban childhood in somewhat less dire circumstances than one’s preconception of Jimmy Porter’s alter ego would lead one to expect. In fact, every class subtlety between “upper-lower” and “lower-middle” was represented in his own extended family; Osborne’s autobiography traces, with a gusto bordering on the vengeful, the Welsh and Cockney sides of his family, and characterizes, in the spirit of English low comedy, their attempts to sustain outworn Edwardian amenities after having “come down in the world.” His father was an advertising copywriter who suffered long spells of illness, and his mother was a barmaid, but the family tree included many connections to the music hall and the theater. (Grandfather Grove, for example, would be revived in the form of Billy Rice in The Entertainer.)
Osborne was an only child, rather sickly and bookish. His most vivid memories of adolescence include listening in the air-raid shelter to German bombers and suffering the abuse of bullies at school. Eventually, he went to a boarding school, St. Michael’s, and after being expelled for striking back at the headmaster, turned toward journalism as a reporter for a trade journal, Gas World. After a failed engagement, he joined a struggling touring company, with which he gained his first experience in acting and playwriting, including an artistic and sexual collaboration with an...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
John James Osborne was born in Fulham, a grimy district of south London, England, on December 12, 1929, the only son of Thomas Godfrey Osborne, who worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency, and Nellie Beatrice Osborne, who worked as a barmaid. Osborne’s father died when Osborne was ten, and at least partially sentimental portraits of fathers and grandfathers figure prominently in Osborne’s plays, as do unflattering portraits of mother figures, as Osborne’s relationship with his mother was not very satisfactory. His unhappy middle-class childhood and adolescence are vividly portrayed in the first volume of his autobiography, A Better Class of Person: An Autobiography, 1929-1956 (1981). The second and last volume of his autobiography, Almost a Gentleman (1991), covers an additional decade.
At fifteen, Osborne was expelled from St. Michael’s, an undistinguished boarding school in Devon, for hitting a teacher. Three years later, while working as a journalist for trade magazines, Osborne drifted into his theater career, which began when he took a job as an assistant stage manager, actors’ understudy, and tutor of juvenile troop members. After working seven years touring English provincial theaters and writing plays in his spare time, Osborne became an overnight sensation at the age of twenty-six when his third play, Look Back in Anger (pr. 1956, pb. 1957), was accepted by the English Stage Company and performed at...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
John Osborne’s historical importance in modern British drama is seldom questioned. His play Look Back in Anger gave a name, “the angry young men,” to a whole generation of British writers. There is also no doubting the solid theatrical quality of his first big hit, since the compelling portrait of Jimmy Porter continues to command the stage wherever Osborne’s play is revived. His prolific output includes more than forty other stage, screen, and television plays.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Few dramatists have by virtue of one play defined the beginning of a new age. John James Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, first produced on May 8, 1956 (the year of Great Britain’s Suez debacle), at the Royal Court Theatre in London, enjoys the distinction of such a historical moment. His play gave name to a new kind of theater, “the angry theater,” and to a new dramatic era. The English stage, dominated by the well-made, middle-class drawing-room dramas and Noël Coward and Terence Rattigan, seemed to have changed overnight.
Dramatists of both older and younger generations, Rattigan on the one hand and Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard on the other, acknowledged being moved by the honest force of an angry Jimmy Porter, the main character, who as a graduate of a “redbrick” English university finds himself in a dead-end existence. His only means of livelihood is the operation of a sweets stall in a dreary Midlands town. Having no one or nothing on which to vent a lifetime of injuries endured, he unleashes his anger on those whom he loves and with whom he lives—his genteel wife, Alison, and his best friend, Cliff. His personal anger is aggravated by the loss of idealism; to Porter there are no more great causes, such as the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s. The effect of the play was to unleash a proliferation of dramatists in two successive waves of British drama. In the first wave, Pinter emerged as the leading innovative stylist. In the...
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Biography (Drama for Students)
John James Osborne was born December 12, 1929, in London, England, to Thomas Godfrey Osborne, a commercial artist and copywriter, and Nellie Grove Osborne, a barmaid. Much of his childhood was spent in ill health and in poverty, especially after his father died of tuberculosis in 1941. Osborne earned a General School Certificate from St. Michael’s, a boarding school in Devon, but never went further with his education, which made him feel like an outsider among the intellectual group of playwrights with whom he was grouped in the 1950s.
After graduating, he wrote for trade journals for a few years but left to take a position as a tutor for child actors in a touring company. He worked his way up in the troupe to assistant stage manager, and in 1948, he began acting in their productions. Osborne toured the country with the troupe for the next seven years, during which time he began writing plays, including The Devil Inside Him, with Stella Linden, first performed in 1950, and Personal Enemy, with Anthony Creighton, produced in 1955. Osborne, however, could get neither play published and ran into trouble with the Lord Chamberlain’s Office concerning the latter play, which deals with homosexuality, forcing Osborne to delete key scenes.
While his Look Back in Anger, which premiered on May 8, 1956, earned mixed reviews, the impact the play had on the theater became legendary due to its biting commentary on postwar England and...
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John James Osbome was born on December 12, 1929. in Fulham, South West London. His father, Thomas Godfry Osborne, was then a commercial artist and copywriter; his mother, Nellie Beatrice Grove Osbome, worked as a barmaid in pubs most of her life. Much of Osborne's childhood was spent in near poverty, and he suffered from frequent extended illnesses. He was deeply affected by his father's death from tuberculosis in 1941 and also remembered vividly the air raids and general excitement of war. Osborne attended state schools until the age of twelve when he was awarded a scholarship to attend a minor private school, St. Michael's College, in Barnstaple, Devon. He was expelled at the age of sixteen after the headmaster slapped Osborne's face and Osbome hit him back. After spending some time at home, he took a series of jobs writing copy for various trade journals. He became interested in theatre while working as a tutor for children touring with a repertory company. After an education inspector found him to be uncertified as a teacher, Osborne was relieved of those duties but invited to stay with the company as assistant stage manager and eventually as an actor. He made his stage debut in March, 1948, in Sheffield and for the next seven years made the rounds of provincial repertory theatres as an actor.
Osborne's playwriting career began while he was still an actor. He wrote five plays before the production of Look Back in Anger made him an overnight...
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Osborne was born December 12, 1929, in London, England. His childhood was marked by personal poor health and poverty, the latter a condition that worsened after his father’s death in 1941. Osborne attended day schools as well as St. Michael’s College until he was about eighteen, but that was the extent of his formal education.
Osborne briefly worked in journalism but soon drifted into the theater by accepting a job as a tutor for child actors who were touring with a company. While a failure as a tutor, Osborne did well at his next job with the theater company: assistant stage manager. He eventually began acting, making his on-stage debut in Sheffield in 1948.
Osborne’s first play was The Devil Inside Him, produced in 1950, which he wrote with his friend and mentor, Stella Lindon. Over the next few years, Osborne wrote several more plays, none of them successful. In 1956—the same year that he first appeared on London’s stage—Osborne’s Look Back in Anger was produced. Focusing on a young man frustrated by his economic chances in Britain, it helped give rise to the Angry Young Man school of literary writing. The play was an enormous success, winning Osborne the Evening Standard Drama Award for most promising young British playwright, propelling him to fame, and casting him as a voice of his generation’s attitudes toward modern society.
In the 1960s, Osborne turned from contemporary society to history as a...
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