> Skip to content
  • Published: 15 June 2007
  • ISBN: 9780099275862
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 560
  • RRP: $34.99

John Osborne

A Patriot for Us



Compelling, groundbreaking and full of startling revelations, a dazzling, definitive biography of the man who changed the face of British theatre

John Osborne (1929-1994), unapologetic rebel and original Angry Young Man, defined England in many controversial ways. As iconoclastic as Shaw or Wilde, he 'blow-torched his way into our lives', changing the face of modern British theatre in 1956 with Look Back in Anger. An actor turned playwright, there was about him the public showmanship of his own tragic invention, Archie Rice in The Entertainer. But Osborne hid his anguished nature and immobilizing depressions from the outside world in his secret notebooks. This startlingly candid, authorized but intimate and informal biography is the first to have access to these sensational notebooks and private letters.
Osborne was born in rented rooms in Fulham, in 1929, to a tubercular father and a barmaid mother. An ailing child, he learned to box and was expelled from school for hitting his headmaster. At fifteen, he began as a lowly journalist for Gas World and fled to join a repertory theatre company where he learned not only the craft that would change his life and revolutionize British theatre, but also how to reinvent himself. Five times married, to actresses Pamela Lane, Mary Ure and Jill Bennett, and critics Penelope Gilliatt and Helen Dawson (he was supposed to have hated critics), his private life generated its own tumult and drama, farce and pathos. This impeccably researched biography includes personal interviews with scores of friends and enemies, among them a bombshell of a confession from Osborne's alleged male lover, and the first public comments from Osborne's estranged daughter, treated by her father with Lear-like madness.

  • Published: 15 June 2007
  • ISBN: 9780099275862
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 560
  • RRP: $34.99

About the author

John Heilpern

Born in Manchester and educated at Oxford, John Heilpern wrote award-winning interviews for the Observer before becoming a Times columnist in New York. He has worked with Peter Hall at the National Theatre and with Michael Bennett on Broadway. He is the author of a classic book about the theatre, Conference of the Birds: The Story of Peter Brook in Africa, and of How Good Is David Mamet, Anyway - Writings on Theatre and Why it Matters.

Praise for John Osborne

[Heilpern] writes with infectious verve, championing the plays against carpers and cavillers, and showing how close they were to their creator's raw experience. Above all he celebrates Osborne's cross-grained vitality. His book brings a flesh-and-blood human being back from the shades, shouting, like Jimmy Porter "Hallelujah! I'm alive!

John Carey, Sunday Times

His biography is surely a model of its kind: tightly written, vivid, witty, knowledgeable and with a seamless, and often moving, interweaving of the past and present

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

An enjoyable, exhaustive, well-researched and highly readable biography

Michael Arditti, Independent

Heilpern has produced a riveting biography - Heilpern orchestrates his complex narrative with flair and contrives to invoke affection in the face of bad behaviour....judicious and dependable

Valerie Grove, The Times

A sensationally enjoyable piece of work

Duncan Fallowell, Daily Telegraph

He creates an unforgettable portrait

Joyce McMillan, Scotsman

Engrossing...entertaining and deeply affecting, a remembrance of a time when theatre in Britain actually mattered

Alan Taylor, Sunday Herald

Heilpern is sharp, gossipy and good fun, and he honours the best of Osborne without disguising the worst

Blake Morrison, Guardian

A rip-roaring account of early struggles, huge triumphs, fraught marriages, friends and lovers abused, money wasted and, finally, health and talent evaporated

Jane Edwardes, Time Out

Both revelatory and disturbing. It paints a portrait of an English writer who is as complex and tormented as Evelyn Waugh

William Boyd, Guardian

Related titles