writer, playwright, screenwriter
February 27, 1913 - May 16, 1984
Irwin Shaw (Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff ) was one of the most prolific American authors, with more than 14 million copies of novels and short stories, as well as a playwright, screenwriter, a political activist and, later in his life, a de-facto political refugee.
Irwin Shaw - The Short Stories Powerhouse
Shaw was born Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff in the South Bronx, New York City, to a family of Russian Jewish immigrants, Rose and Will Shamforoff. He had a younger brother, David Shaw, who later would become a noted Hollywood producer and screenwriter.
Because of the ethnic prejudice of the time, Irwin, when entering the Brooklyn College, changed his Jewish surname to the more palatable for the American ear "Shaw".
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934 and began screenwriting for several radio shows, Dick Tracy, The Gumps and Studio One among them. That period was sacrastically and vividly described by the writer in his later semi-autobiographical short story "Main Currents of American Thought", in which a writer is pumping out dull texts by the thousands of words, calculating the price of his purchases in words to be written...
In 1936 Shaw published his first play Bury the Dead, a drama about a group of soldiers killed in a battle who refuse to be buried. Is was a modest success, but his later plays never really as popular as his stories. Dicouraged by his initial experience with plays, in 1940 Shaw began writing for Hollywood films, including The Talk of the Town , The Commandos Strike at Dawn, and Easy Living.
With the breakout of World War II, Shaw enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a warrant officer in the European war theater. His wartime experiences served as the basis for his first novel, The Young Lions, which was published in 1948. The novel was a huge success and was later adapted into a film, but the edits and the realization made Shaw unhappy with the result.
Shaw married Marian Edwards (daughter of well-known actor Snitz Edwards). Their only child, Adam Shaw (born in 1950) would become a renown writer of magazine articles and non-fiction.
In 1951 Shaw published His second novel, The Troubled Air, chronicling the rise of McCarthyism - the writer was one of the activists who fought against the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities. He was accused of being a communist and placed on the Hollywood blacklist. The same year he decided to leave for Europe, settling in France and then in Switzerland. There he wrote several of his greatest bestsellers, including Lucy Crown (1956), Two Weeks in Another Town (1960), Rich Man, Poor Man (1970) and Evening in Byzantium (1978).
Rich Man, Poor Man was later adapted into a popular ABC television miniseries in 1976.
In the early 80s Shaw was diagnosed with prostate cancer and on May 16 1984, aged 71, died in a Davos (Switzerland) hospital after undergoing unsuccessful course o ftreatment.
Images of America, Trumbull Historical Society, 1997
Brooklyn College Library & Academic IT. Archives and special collections
<< back <<