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Irwin Gilbert Shaw (Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff)

Irwin Shaw was an American playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and short-story author whose written works have sold more than 14 million copies. He is best known for two of his novels: The Young Lions (1948), about the fate of three soldiers during World War II, made into a film of the same name starring Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, and Rich Man, Poor Man (1970).

Background

  • Ethnicity: Irwin Gilbert Shaw was the son of William Shamoroff, a Russian Jewish immigrant, and Rose Tompkins Shamoroff, an American-born daughter of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants.

  • Shaw was born Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff in the South Bronx, New York City, to Russian Jewish immigrants. His parents were Rose and Will. His younger brother, David Shaw, became a noted Hollywood producer and writer.

  • Education

    • Shortly after Irwin's birth, the Shamforoffs moved to Brooklyn. Irwin changed his surname upon entering college. He spent most of his youth in Brooklyn, where he graduated from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934. Shaw died in Davos, Switzerland on May 16, 1984, aged 71, after undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

    Career

    • Shaw began screenwriting in 1935 at the age of 21, and scripted for several radio shows, including Dick Tracy, The Gumps and Studio One. He recaptured this period of his life in his short story "Main Currents of American Thought," about a hack radio writer grinding out one script after another while calculating the number of words equal to the rent money:

      “ Furniture, and a hundred and thirty-seven dollars. His mother had always wanted a good dining-room table. She didn't have a maid, she said, so he ought to get her a dining room table. How many words for a dining-room table? ”

      Shaw's first play, Bury the Dead (1936) was an expressionist drama about a group of soldiers killed in a battle who refuse to be buried. His play Quiet City, directed by Elia Kazan and with incidental music by Aaron Copland, closed after two Sunday performances.

      During the 1940s, Shaw wrote for a number of films, including The Talk of the Town (a comedy about civil liberties), The Commandos Strike at Dawn (based on a C.S. Forester story about commandos in occupied Norway) and Easy Living (about a football player unable to enter the game due to a medical condition). Shaw married Marian Edwards (daughter of well-known screen actor Snitz Edwards). They had one son, Adam Shaw, born in 1950, himself a writer of magazine articles and non-fiction.

      Shaw summered at the Pine Brook Country Club, located in the countryside of Nichols, Connecticut, which became the 1936 summer home of the Group Theatre (New York), whose roster included Elia Kazan, Harold Clurman, Harry Morgan, John Garfield, Frances Farmer, Will Geer, Clifford Odets and Lee J. Cobb.

      Shaw enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a warrant officer during World War II. The Young Lions, Shaw's first novel, was published in 1948. Based on his experiences in Europe during the war, the novel was very successful and was adapted into a 1958 film. Shaw was not happy with the film.

      Shaw's second novel, The Troubled Air, chronicling the rise of McCarthyism, was published in 1951. He was among those who signed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo convictions for contempt of Congress, resulting from hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Accused of being a communist by the Red Channels publication, Shaw was placed on the Hollywood blacklist by the movie studio bosses. In 1951 he left the United States and went to Europe, where he lived for 25 years, mostly in Paris and Switzerland. He later claimed that the blacklist "only glancingly bruised" his career. During the 1950s he wrote several more screenplays, including Desire Under the Elms (based on Eugene O'Neill's play) and Fire Down Below (about a tramp boat in the Caribbean).

      While living in Europe, Shaw wrote more bestselling books, notably Lucy Crown (1956), Two Weeks in Another Town (1960), Rich Man, Poor Man (1970) (for which he would later write a less successful sequel entitled Beggarman, Thief) and Evening in Byzantium (made into a 1978 TV movie). Rich Man, Poor Man was adapted into a highly successful ABC television miniseries in 1976.

      His novel The Top of the Hill was made into a TV movie about the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in 1980, starring Wayne Rogers, Adrienne Barbeau, and Sonny Bono.

      Shaw was highly regarded as a short story author, contributing to Collier's, Esquire, The New Yorker, Playboy, The Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines; and 63 of his best stories were collected in Short Stories: Five Decades (Delacorte, 1978), reprinted in 2000 as a 784-page University of Chicago Press paperback. Among his noted short stories are: "Sailor Off The Bremen", "The Eighty-Yard Run", and "Tip On A Dead Jockey". Three of his stories ("The Girls in Their Summer Dresses", "The Monument", "The Man Who Married a French Wife") were dramatized for the PBS series Great Performances. Telecast on June 1, 1981. This production was released on DVD in 2002 by Kultur Video.

      In 1950, Shaw wrote a book on Israel with photos by Robert Capa named Report on Israel.

    Major achievements

    • During his lifetime Shaw won a number of awards, including two O. Henry Awards, a National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, and three Playboy Awards.

    Works

    • Short Stories: Five Decades (Phoenix Fiction)
    • Featuring sixty-three stories spanning five decades, this superb collection-including "Girls in Their Summer Dresses," "Sailor Off the Bremen," and "The Eighty-Yard Run"-clearly illustrates why Shaw is considered one of America's finest short-story writers.
    • The Young Lions
    • The Young Lions is a vivid and classic novel that portrays the experiences of ordinary soldiers fighting World War II.

    Views

    Quotations: I never show anything to anybody until I've finished it.

    Curiously, the United States is full of writers who have one big work in their life and that's all.

    Ernest Hemingway did a great deal toward making the writer an acceptable public figure; obviously, he was no sissy.

    There are too many books I haven't read, too many places I haven't seen, too many memories I haven't kept long enough.

    Personality

    Interests

    Writers: B. Brecht, F. Lorca, E. Hemingway, J. Cheever

    Sport & Clubs: tennis

    Connections

    • He married Marian Edwards and they had one son.
    • father: William Shamforoff - United States - salesman
    • mother: Rose Shamforoff - United States
      P.S.Оn the photo Irwin and David Shaw with their mother Rose, circa 1920.
    • brother: David - United States - producer, screenwriter
      David became a noted Hollywood producer and screenwriter.

      P.S. On the photo Irwin and his brother David working as summer camp counsellors.
    • Wife: Marian Edwards - United States - playwright, producer
      Marian Edwards was a daughter of well-known screen actor Snitz Edwards.She produced numerous plays in Europe.
    • Son: Adam - United States - scenarist, writer
      A writer and scenarist who lives in Madrid.

    References

    Irwin Shaw
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    • 1934
      Brooklyn College
      New York, United States
    • 1942 - 1945
      Warrant officer, United States Army
      United States
    • 1947 - 1948
      Drama critic, New Republic
      New York, United States
    • 1947 - 1948
      Instructor in creative writing, New York University
      New York, United States

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    • Resting place
    • Major Achievements
      • TALK OF THE TOWN (1942), for which Shaw wrote the screenplay with Sidney Buchman, received several Academy Award nominations, among them the best picture and the script. In 1946 Shaw's play THE ASSASSIN closed early due to negative critics and he abandoned playwriting for years. In the late 1930s Shaw wrote pieces for such magazines as The New Yorker and Esquire.
      • TALK OF THE TOWN (1942), for which Shaw wrote the screenplay with Sidney Buchman, received several Academy Award nominations, among them the best picture and the script. Shaw’s experience of the war laid the foundation for his best novel "The Young Lions" which became a bestseller.
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