John Osborne

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  • Topic: John Osborne, Tony Award, Royal Court Theatre
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  • Published : December 17, 2012
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The Oscar-winning screenwriter John Osborne, better known as one of the most important British playwrights of the 1950s generation that revolutionized English-speaking theater, was born on December 12, 1929 in London, England. His father, Thomas Godfrey Osborne, a native of Newport, Monmouthshire, was a copywriter, and his mother, Nellie, was a Cockney barmaid. John's father died in 1941 when he was 11 years old. The insurance settlement allowed him to go to Belmont College, Devon.

After completing school, Osborne did not go on to university but returned to London to live with his mother, where he tried to make it as a journalist. He was introduced to the theater through a job tutoring a touring company of junior actors. Smitten by the theater, he became a stage manager and actor, eventually becoming a member of Anthony Creighton's provincial touring company. Osborne wrote his second play, "Personal Enemy", in collaboration with Anthony Creighton (their "Epitaph for George Dillon" would be staged at the Royal Court in 1958, after Osborne had broken through as a solo artist with the watershed production of "Look Back in Anger", also at the Royal Court).

Mirando hacia atrás con ira (1959), which opened on May 8, 1956 at the Royal Court, the 11th anniversary of V-E Day (the surrender of Germany and the cessation of hostilities in the European theater of World War II), was revolutionary, as it gave voice to the working class. A press agent came up with the phrase "Angry Young Man" that would stick to Osborne and his compatriots, who created a new type of theater rooted in Bertolt Brecht and class consciousness. Though it initially received mix reviews, the play was a smash in London,and it made the transfer to Broadway, where it ran for a year. "Look Back in Anger" was nominated for a 1958 Tony Award for Best Play (Osborne and producerDavid Merrick, Best Actress in a Play (Mary Ure, whom Osborne made his second wife), and Best Costume Design (The Motley). It eventually was made into a movie starring Richard Burton and directed by Tony Richardson.

Laurence Olivier had taken Arthur Miller and his wife Marilyn Monroe to see the play when Olivier was shooting El príncipe y la corista (1957) in London with MM. Olivier was abashed by the play, but Miller convinced him of its greatness as a theatrical work. Olivier, sensing a sea-change in culture that could make actors of his ilk obsolete, engaged Osborne to write a play for him, and the playwright followed up "Anger" with another brilliant work, El animador (1960). Olivier reinvented himself as well as realigned himself with the new youth movement shaking the theater, giving a tour de force performance as Archie Rice, a down-at-the-heels, third-rate music hall entertainer facing emigration to Canada or oblivion. Osborne used the decline of the music hall, once the premier venue of British entertainment, as a metaphor for the post-war decline of the British Empire in light of the recent debacle in Suez, when the U.K., France and Israel were rebuffed by Egypt and the U.S. when the three countries invaded Egypt to seize the recently nationalized Suez Canal.

Osbrone's carer continued strong in the 1960s. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Tony Richarson's movie version ofHenry Fielding's Tom Jones (1963), which won Richardson an Oscar as Best Director and was named Best Picture of 1963. He followed this success up with his last great play Luther (1974), in which the cinematic Tom Jones, Albert Finney, won raves playing Osborne's take on Martin Luther, the man who revolutionized Christianity 1,500 years after The Christ. Fitting, that the rebel, the protester Osborne would take on the father of Protestantism. The play, first performed in England in 1961 and transferred to Broadway in 1963, won Osborne a 1964 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as a Tony Award nomination for Albert Finney. (Laurence Olivier had received his sole Tony nomination for "The...
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