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American playwright, screenwriter and author. Born Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff in the Bronx, New York, in 1913. Died in Davos, Switzerland, 1984.

Born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in the Bronx, Shaw spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn. Shaw's parents changed the family name from Shamforoff to Shaw when they moved to Brooklyn. A graduate of Brooklyn College (Class of 1934), Shaw spent his college years writing for the school newspaper and writing radio scripts.

In 1936, Shaw's début play, Bury the Dead, earned him critical acclaim. A powerful but essentially flawed one-act play, dealing with six dead soldiers who refuse to remain dead, Bury the Dead was a strong anti-war statement.

Service in the U.S. Army during World War II gave Shaw valuable experiences to build upon in his writing. In 1948, his novel The Young Lions, dealing with the war, became an instant bestseller. It was later filmed, with Montgomery Clift, Dean Martin and Marlon Brando - although the screenplay was written by Edward Anhalt, and diverged significantly from the novel.

Despondent over the growing plague of McCarthyism, Shaw left America in 1951, to live abroad for several decades (in France, Italy and Switzerland). That same year, his novel The Troubled Air, which dealt with McCarthyism, was published.

Creating a strong but essentially commercial style of writing, Shaw continued to churn out bestsellers, such as Two Weeks in Another Town (1960) and Evening in Byzantium (1973). His greatest success, however, was the novel Rich Man, Poor Man (1970). A family saga dealing with the troubled relationship of two brothers, the novel was made into a TV series in 1975, starring Nick Nolte and Peter Strauss, and thus giving birth to the modern TV genre of the mini-series.

Throughout his life, Shaw received probably less credit from critics than he deserved. His commercial style of writing, while popular with the readers, was not designed to please the critics. Following his death in 1984, however, his work has been more favourably regarded by critics, and his style is sometimes compared to that of Hemingway.


Partial list of works:


Addendum: One may find two publicity stills from a 1936 production of Bury the Dead at http://www.system.missouri.edu/archives/erin.html.

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