John Osborne

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Osborne, John

(John James Osborne), 1929–94, English dramatist. He began his theatrical career as an actor and playwright in provincial English repertory theaters. Osborne's plays usually focus on an individual character and the sheer force of his language rather than on action. His first commercial success was Look Back in Anger (1956), concerning a restless and vociferous young man of the working class who is at war with himself and society; it became the seminal work for the so-called angry young menangry young men,
term applied to a group of English writers of the 1950s whose heroes share certain rebellious and critical attitudes toward society. This phrase, which was originally taken from the title of Leslie Allen Paul's autobiography, Angry Young Man
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. His other plays depict the frustration of living without hope in a world filled with false values. Among Osborne's other plays are The Entertainer (1957), Luther (1961), Inadmissible Evidence (1964), A Patriot for Me (1965), The End of Me Old Cigar (1974), Watch It Come Down (1976), and Déjà vu (1991). He also wrote the screenplay for Tom Jones (1963).


See his autobiographies, A Better Class of Person (1981) and Almost a Gentleman (1994); biography by J. Heilpern (2007); studies by H. Goldstone (1982) and A. P. Hinchliffe (1984).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Osborne, John


Born Dec. 12, 1929, in London. British playwright.

Osborne was initially an actor. He began writing in the late 1940’s, collaborating with A. Creighton on The Devil Inside (1949) and other works. The premiere of Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger in 1956 (Russian translation, 1959) is considered the beginning of the literary movement of the “angry young men.” In the play, Osborne depicts postwar British youth, who reject traditional bourgeois values with bitterness and contempt but see no goals worth struggling for. In his subsequent plays (The Entertainer, 1957; Inadmissible Evidence, 1964; West of Suez, 1969; A Sense of Detachment, 1973), Osborne portrays with cutting irony and emotion the crisis of contemporary British intelligentsia and scathingly criticizes the sociopolitical system and social mores of Great Britain.

Osborne’s plays combine elements of naturalism with features reminiscent of B. Brecht; farcical devices are also used along with psychological characterization. The character of Martin Luther in Osborne’s historical tragedy Luther (1961) is also presented as an “angry young man.”


The World of Paul Slickey. London, 1959.
Plays for England. London, 1963.
A Patriot for Me. London, 1965.
In Russian translation:
“Nepodsudnoe delo.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1967, no. 7.


Palievskii, P. “Odinokie medvedi.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1958, no. 2.
Shestakov, D. Sovremennaia angliiskaia drama. Moscow, 1968.
Trussler, S. The Plays of John Osborne. London, 1969. (Bibliography.)
Carter, A. John Osborne. Edinburgh, 1969. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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BORN FRANK Sinatra, US singer/ actor, 1915 JOHN Osborne, playwright, 1929 NOBBY Solano, ex-NUFC star, 1974 above DIED IKE Turner, US soul singer, 2007, above DOUGLAS Fairbanks, US actor, 1939 BRAD Dexter, US actor, 2002