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 years for attacking the headmaster. He received a certificate of completion for his 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 theater. He began working with Anthony Creighton's provincial touring company where he was a stage hand, 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 theater critics, however, and Osborne was soon pronounced to be one of the most promising young playwright's in British theater.
In the late 1950's, 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 1960's. 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 1970's and 80's. 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.
Study Guides on Works by John Osborne
John Osborne’s Inadmissible Evidence was performed for the very time on the night of September 9, 1964 at London’s Royal Court Theatre as a production of the English Stage Company. With esteemed actor Nicol Williamson heading up the cast, the play...
Look Back in Anger is considered one of the most important plays in the modern British theater. It was the first well-known example of "Kitchen Sink drama," a style of theater that explored the emotion and drama beneath the surface of ordinary...