John James Osborne was born in London on 12 December 1929 and died in
Shropshire on 24th December 1994. He was married five times. His first wife was
actress Pamela Lane. Pamela was the basis for the character of Alison in LOOK
BACK IN ANGER, outlived John and all his subsequent wives and died in October
2010. Pamela kept all John’s letters to her and they were acquired by the British
Library. The letters will be published by Oberon Books in 2018 and they reveal that
John and Pamela maintained a close friendship throughout John’s life interrupted only
during his marriage to Jill Bennett a friend of hers whom she advised John against
marrying. A physical relationship existed between John and Pamela during two
of John’s subsequent marriages, his third and fifth.
John’s second wife was actress Mary Ure who created the role of Alison in
LOOK BACK IN ANGER. His third wife was novelist and critic Penelope Gilliat
with whom he had a daughter, Nolan. His fourth wife was actress Jill Bennett for
whom he wrote several plays. His fifth wife was journalist Helen Dawson. This
was his happiest and longest marriage. Helen outlived him by ten years.
In later life John observed that no man should be encouraged to marry an actress and
playwrights should be actively prevented from such self slaughter.
Osborne started writing plays whilst working as an actor in repertory in the 1950s.
He first gained international fame in 1956 when LOOK BACK IN ANGER was
presented at the Royal Court Theatre, London, where many of his plays were
produced, including THE ENTERTAINER (1957); EPITAPH FOR GEORGE
DILLON (1958); LUTHER (1961); PLAYS FOR ENGLAND : THE BLOOD OF
THE BAMBURGS and UNDER PLAIN COVER (1962); INADMISSIBLE
EVIDENCE (1964); A PATRIOT FOR ME (1965); TIME PRESENT (1968); THE
HOTEL IN AMSTERDAM (1968); WEST OF SUEZ (1971) and A SENSE OF
His other plays include THE DEVIL INSIDE HIM/CRY FOR LOVE (Huddersfield 1950 & Cardiff 2010); PERSONAL ENEMY (Harrogate 1955 & London & New York 2010); the musical THE WORLD OF PAUL SLICKEY (Palace Theatre, 1959); THE END OF ME OLD CIGAR (Greenwich, 1975); WATCH IT COME DOWN (National, 1975) and DEJA VU (Comedy Theatre, 1992) and he adapted Lope de Vega’s A BOND HONOURED (National, 1966); HEDDA GABLER (Royal Court, 1972); A PLACE CALLING ITSELF ROME (a reworking of CORIOLANUS); Oscar Wilde’s THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (Greenwich, 1975) and Strindberg’s THE FATHER (National, 1988)
His work for television includes A SUBJECT OF SCANDAL AND CONCERN;
THE RIGHT PROSPECTUS; JACK AND JILL; THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP;
ALMOST A VISION; TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS; YOU’RE NOT WATCHING ME MUMMY; VERY LIKE A WHALE; GOD ROT TUNBRIDGE WELLS and his autobiographical play A BETTER CLASS OF PERSON.
He Won an Oscar for his screenplay for TOM JONES and collaborated on the screenplays for LOOK BACK IN ANGER, THE ENTERTAINER, INADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE and THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.
His film and television performances included THE PARACHUTE, FIRST LOVE, GET CARTER, TOMORROW NEVER COMES and FLASH GORDON.
He wrote two volumes of autobiography, A BETTER CLASS OF PERSON and ALMOST A GENTLEMAN which were subsequently published together as LOOKING BACK, NEVER EXPLAIN, NEVER APOLOGIES and published a volume of essays, DAMN YOU ENGLAND
John Osborne received the Evening Standard Drama Award for Most Promising Playwright of the Year for LOOK BACK IN ANGER and Best Play of the Year Award for A PATRIOT FOR ME and THE HOTEL IN AMSTERDAM. He also received the “Tony” Award in New York for Best Play for LUTHER. The Writer’s Guild of Great Britain presented him with a Life Time Achievement Award in 1992.
Two important biographies have been written about John Osborne since he died the first by John Heilpern in 2006 (published by Chatto & Windus) and the second by Peter Whitebrook in 2015 which is published by Oberon Books. Whitebrook had access to Pamela Lane’s letters which revealed the extraordinary relationship that continued between John and his first wife Pamela for whom he had a lasting regard indeed obsession.
Oberon Books also plan to publish a collection of monologues and audition pieces drawn from the wide range of Osborne’s work including his journalism, other freelance writings and the text of Osborne’s television monologue about George Frederick Handel, GOD ROT TUNBRIDGE WELLS. Oberon Books will also publish the aforementioned love letters written between John Osborne and Pamela Lane under the title DEAREST SQUIRREL.