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Bad John

Alan Bennett: John Osborne, 3 December 1981

A Better Class of Person 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 285 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 571 11785 6
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... One of John Osborne’s Thoughts for 1954: ‘The urge to please above all. I don’t have it and can’t achieve it. A small thing but more or less mine own.’ This book does please and has pleased. It is immensely enjoyable, is written with great gusto and Osborne has had better notices for it than for any of his plays since Inadmissible Evidence ...

Looking back in anger

Hilary Mantel, 21 November 1991

Almost a Gentleman. An Autobiography: Vol. II 1955-66 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 273 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 571 16261 4
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... One of the more extraordinary revelations in A Better Class of Person, the first volume of John Osborne’s memoirs, was the fact that the author was proposed as the leading man in the 1948 film The Blue Lagoon. The teenage Osborne by his own account had a hollow chest and acne, and a loin cloth would not have shown these off to advantage; the opportunity to loll among the palms with Jean Simmons went to the Welsh actor Donald Houston ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly, 9 August 2001

... Bloomsbury have sent out the first publicity pack for Kenneth Tynan’s diaries, edited by John Lahr, which are to be published in October. Among the slogans (‘Think Alan Clark meets Alan Bennett’ – no, don’t) and the paraphernalia (a padlock and key) is a pamphlet of highlights. A good many of the selected entries concern spanking, and a good many others are anecdotes about Hemingway, Dietrich, Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Miles Davis, Gregory Peck, but it’s not all like that ...
... comfort, but a lot of it very attractive. I came to the reviews with no expert knowledge of what John Sutherland calls ‘the fiction industry’ and ‘the reviewing establishment’. His two excellent books, Fiction and the Fiction Industry (1978) and the recently published Best-Sellers *, have helped me greatly.Other People was published on 5 ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John OsborneA Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... From within a few weeks of its opening in May 1956, it’s been accepted that John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger ushered in a theatrical revolution. Launching both the Angry Young Man and kitchen-sink drama, the play is held to have had a devastating and irreversible impact on a postwar theatre scene dominated by winsome drawing-room comedies and witless country-house whodunnits ...

Snarling

Frank Kermode: Angry Young Men, 28 November 2002

The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen Lane, 244 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 7139 9532 7
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... when the whole company of Angry Young Men was assembled. Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and John Wain knew one another at Oxford, but had little to do with autodidacts like Colin Wilson, John Osborne and Alan Sillitoe – this last name less often mentioned in this context than might have been expected, doubtless ...
Martha Jane and Me: A Girlhood in Wales 
by Mavis Nicholson.
Chatto, 243 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 7011 3356 2
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Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography 
Hutchinson, 300 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 09 174593 4Show More
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... Stores dividend slips, the club cards, her spare hair nets, small gold safety pins, and a St John’s Ambulance First Aid book.’ Or maybe in the couple of old, badly-mended lustre jugs hanging above? ‘In each you would find something interesting: a small roll of bandage, a coin, a hair clip, a bus ticket or a stub of pencil with a rubber in its end ...

Misbehavin’

Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... she finds Mrs Taylor taking photographs of snails copulating, and Alan Taylor – who since John Betjeman’s death has styled himself ‘the nation’s Parkinsonist’ – lying on the floor recovering from delirium. The diarist comments: ‘Cynthia just did not know what to say: snail sexuality in the garden, delirious dreams – and from outside, the ...

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen, 4 June 2020

Tastes of Honey: The Making of Shelagh Delaney and a Cultural Revolution 
by Selina Todd.
Chatto, 304 pp., £18.99, August 2019, 978 1 78474 082 5
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A Taste of Honey 
by Shelagh Delaney.
Methuen, 112 pp., £14.44, November 2019, 978 1 350 13495 9
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... able legally to control her own money (which the Littlewoods managed), she sold the film rights to John Osborne and Tony Richardson’s production company for the very substantial sum of £20,000 (the equivalent of around half a million pounds today).In September 1960 Richardson directed a production of A Taste of Honey in Los Angeles; in October it ...

Smoking big cigars

David Herd, 23 July 1992

Goodstone 
by Fred Voss.
Bloodaxe, 180 pp., £7.95, November 1991, 1 85224 198 5
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... has benefited greatly from the attentions of the Hull-based magazine Bête Noire. In the past year John Osborne, the magazine’s editor, has published a hundred of the poems now included in Goodstone, and it is very much thanks to this exposure that Voss has secured a mainstream British publisher. In Osborne’s ...

Looking for a Way Up

Rosemary Hill: Roy Strong’s Vanities, 25 April 2013

Self-Portrait as a Young Man 
by Roy Strong.
Bodleian, 286 pp., £25, March 2013, 978 1 85124 282 5
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... Elsie, Strong recalls without irony, was ‘a better class of person’, the same evocative phrase John Osborne used, with heavy irony, as the title of his autobiography. Osborne was six years older than Strong and from a strikingly similar background about which he was equally unforgiving, as was another close ...

Red Stars

John Sutherland, 6 December 1984

Wild Berries 
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Antonia Bovis.
Macmillan, 296 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 333 37559 9
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The Burn 
by Vassily Aksyonov, translated by Michael Glenny.
Hutchinson, 528 pp., £10.95, October 1984, 0 09 155580 9
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Fellow Travellers 
by T.C. Worsley.
Gay Men’s Press, 249 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 907040 51 9
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The Power of the Dog 
by Thomas Savage.
Chatto, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7011 3939 0
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The Fourth Protocol 
by Frederick Forsyth.
Hutchinson, 448 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 09 158630 5
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The Set-Up 
by Vladimir Volkoff, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Bodley Head, 397 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 370 30583 3
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... of Spender. As Worsley puts it, in his 1971 preface, Murray ‘was for us what someone like John Osborne was to the young of the Fifties’. But an Osborne without anger or malice. As Worsley presents him, the Spender character is the St Sebastian of his time: ‘what was most striking about Martin was his ...

Political Purposes

Frances Spalding: Art in postwar Britain, 15 April 1999

New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society 
by Margaret Garlake.
Yale, 279 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 300 07292 9
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Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art since 1945 
by John Walker.
Pluto, 304 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 7453 1321 3
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... and sculpture undermined art’s humanity. ‘Painting is made out of a love for the subject,’ John Minton repeatedly told his students at the Royal College of Art, in defiance of an abstract tradition that had resurfaced with Victor Pasmore’s 1948 abstracts. Pasmore became a leading member of the Constructionists: abstract artists who abandoned nature ...

Love among the Cheeses

Lidija Haas: Life with Amis and Ayer, 8 September 2011

The House in France: A Memoir 
by Gully Wells.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 1 4088 0809 2
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... Dee succeeded in her campaign to get Freddie, marrying the ‘pear-shaped Don Giovanni’, as John Osborne, a rare Freddie dissenter, called him. By then he was Wykeham Professor of Logic, leaving for New College on Tuesdays and coming home on Fridays. Dee moved from the Express to the leftier Daily Herald, which suited her ...

Be flippant

David Edgar: Noël Coward’s Return, 9 December 1999

1956 and All That 
by Dan Reballato.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 415 18938 1
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Collected Plays: Six 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 415 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Plays: Seven 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 381 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Revue Sketches and Parodies 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 282 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73390 4
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Noël Coward: A Life in Quotes 
edited by Barry Day.
Metro, 116 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 9781900512848
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Noël Coward: The Complete Lyrics 
Methuen, 352 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 413 73230 4Show More
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... of admission’ was pretty much Coward’s verdict on the playwrights who emerged in the wake of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (Wesker included), and largely their verdict on him. And despite a revival of interest in his early work during the Sixties (‘Dad’s renaissance’, he called it), Coward has been regarded since 1956 as being on the ...

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