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Summary Article: Osborne, John James
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English dramatist. He became one of the first Angry Young Men (anti-establishment writers of the 1950s) of British theatre with his debut play, Look Back in Anger (1956). Other plays include The Entertainer (1957), Luther (1960), Inadmissible Evidence (1964), and A Patriot for Me (1965).

Early success Osborne was born in London. Look Back in Anger, which appeared when he was in his late 20s, quickly made him a celebrity, and brought a new energy and urgency into British drama. Its central character's self-pitying rages against the ‘system’ caught exactly the mood of a generation disillusioned by the gulf between their expectations and the drab reality of a post-war Britain in decline. The play paved the way for the fertile generation of playwrights that included Harold Pinter, John Arden, Robert Bolt, Edward Bond, and Arnold Wesker.

Osborne's plays are first and foremost character studies, although they also reflect broader social issues. Other works include Hotel in Amsterdam (1968), West of Suez (1971), Watch It Come Down (1976), and Too Young to Fight, Too Old to Forget (1985). With Déjà-Vu (1992) he returned unsuccessfully to Jimmy Porter, the hero of the epoch-making Look Back in Anger.

Cinema Osborne also had a successful career in films. Forming a film company with the director Tony Richardson, he made highly acclaimed versions of Look Back in Anger, starring Richard Burton, and The Entertainer, starring Laurence Olivier. His adaptations for cinema include Tom Jones (1963), which brought him an Academy Award for best screenplay, Hedda Gabler (1972), and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973).

Non-fiction In his two volumes of autobiography, A Better Class of Person (1981) and Almost a Gentleman (1991), his opinions about his mother and others to whom he took exception are uninhibitedly vitriolic. The same passion, scintillating intelligence and righteous indignation characterizes Damn you, England (1994), a collection of occasional writings.


Osborne, John James

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